One of the great things about writing a paranormal mystery is that I can justify researching ghosts. Reading about them, watching horror movies–it’s all good. I spent a lot of this weekend reading supposedly non-fiction accounts of hauntings–and fraudulent hauntings. (It boggles my mind that some people go to the trouble of creating their own poltergeists and moving out of their house in “terror”, but I guess if your story is good enough, it can garner you a lot of money and attention. Quite a gamble, but it’s worked for some.)
I did some Internet research on the best ghost movies of all time, and purchased quite a few of them.
The good news is that all of this “research” has actually given me some new ideas I can use to flesh out my novel in the upcoming rewrite. Several aspects of paranormal activity stood out as things all ghosts tend to do, and yet, my ghost doesn’t do them. If it’s at all possible to add realism to a tale of the paranormal, that’s what I’ll be doing.
The old adage is, of course, write what you know, but that’s difficult when you’re writing about something like ghosts or the Loch Ness Monster. Unless–of course–you have personal experience with such things. And even if you do, they might not be believable. In one of the original drafts of Lost, I included a version of a paranormal experience that actually happened to me, and every single one of my readers said I should remove it because it wasn’t believable. And it was the only part of that book that was non-fiction!
For the opening chapter of Dragonfly Summer, I used a scenario that is very closely based on something that happened while I was taking the local media around the museum on a “ghost tour”. This time, for whatever reason, the paranormal incident passed muster with everyone who read the early drafts. Maybe because the ghostly activity isn’t as in-your-face.
All this ghostly research had The Boy commenting that it was interesting (actually, I believe he said “cute”) that he was dating a girl who believes in ghosts. That comment gave me pause. Did I believe in ghosts before my paranormal experiences? (My protagonist starts her journey as an unbeliever.) While I was definitely open-minded to the possibility, I wouldn’t say I believed. When my best friend died in high school, I certainly hoped to somehow have contact with her again, if possible. But one thing I’ve learned–no matter how excited you are about the possibilities, or curious (either from a scientific or personal point of view), having a paranormal encounter is not fun. It’s terrifying. The Boy may not know this, but I actually like to know what causes each strange noise in my house. If I hear someone walking up behind me, it’s nice to turn around and see an actual person. I would never wish to encounter a ghost, but since it seems that I have, it’s easier for me to recall the fear that I experienced at the time and use that to make my protagonist’s reactions more realistic.
How about you, Dear Readers? Have you ever experienced something you couldn’t explain? Do you believe in ghosts? Why or why not? And if you have a scary story to share, please do! My research continues….