Friday, June 30, 2006

JP's Ghost Story

Link to Original Story: Ghost Story - JP

I’m not fond of this story—the first lesson in the fact that horror writing is hard. It’s an old-fashioned ghost story, but the scary parts are far too abbreviated. I really didn’t (don’t?) have the first idea how to build tension. Horror is a very visual and auditory medium, which is hard to convey in writing while still evoking the same responses. I always thought I’d be a great horror writer, but it turns out having horrific ideas and translating them to the page are two separate things. Hopefully, I’m getting better at that, and this is a story I’d like to approach from a different perspective later on. As for the meat of the story, I still think it’s pretty spooky, even if the writing doesn’t convey that. I frightened myself thinking about lying alone in a tent at night listening to the sound of chattering getting closer and closer.

The first time I read this story, I didn't really like it that much. But now I like it much more. I initially thought that the core idea, the ghostly chattering teeth was great, but I hated the way the story was told. I thought it was too campy, too cliche. Now I think that it went right over my head. See, campy is the point. The whole thing is supposed to sound like a campfire story from the last century. And JP nails that voice right on the head. That doesn't mean that I love the story in and of itself. The campfire genre is very constrained and more than a little predictable. But the point of this game is to stretch yourself, to let yourself inhabit genres and voices you might not normally explore. JP does that very well here. And he also manages to come up with an original spook to flesh it out. Even if you don't neccesarily enjoy a story, that kind of competence and professionalism has to be admired.


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