Saturday, 26 April 2014

A to Z Challenge 2014 - Ghosts - W is For Wrong, Edward Lucas White, Wittersham

A to Z Challenge 2014 - Ghosts
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W already, only four days of the A to Z left - where has it gone?! Today's haunted location is personal, because not only am I going to tell you about the ghosts that appear in the books, but my own personal ghost story too about the place I used to live, Wittersham in Kent :). Also, my author spot today features Edward Lucas White, and I'm talking about using wrongness in writing. Finally, there's part 23 of The Burning Web, where Tris discovers his confrontation with Berwick House is not over.



W is for Wrong
Wrong-footedness, wrongness, things going wrong - this is another way to ratchet up the pressure in a plot. As I've mentioned before, going straight from A to B in a plot is just plain boring :). There have to be divergences and hiccups along the way. An obvious way to introduce this is to have all those well-laid plans of your protagonists go wrong. Throw a spanner in the works.

In Sam Raimi's Evil Dead, it is the discovery of the necronomicon that signals the plans for a happy cabin holiday falling apart. In Stephen King's Rose Red, it is when the house uses one of the psychics to lock the place down and seal the investigators inside. There's a kind of inevitability about these things going wrong, we as the audience are expecting it, because, otherwise, there'd be no plot :). The Mummy (okay, not really a ghost story, but one of my fav horror/action adventure movies so I'm going to mention it anyway), is really all about one thing after another going wrong for the heroes, all linking back to reading from the Book of the Dead.

There are, also, of course, the surprise catastrophes, the ones we aren't expecting - these are a little bit more difficult to talk about, because, revealing the twist in a story someone hasn't seen will ruin the ending. Dr Malcolm Crowe has to deal with suddenly realising where things went wrong for him in The Sixth Sense, which ultimately lead to things going right again. This movie also comes with a sense of wrongness about what is happening to Cole and reaches back into Malcolm's previous case histories to find a parallel.

So, wrong, is a useful tool, whether a surprise, or an agreement with the reader/watcher. ;)
by Sophie Duncan


First Part | Previous PartNext Part | Last Part
Tris sat in the little side room they'd found for Xander when he'd been moved to a ward and watched his husband sleep. Xander's skin had a grey tinge to it, making him look much paler than his Jamaican heritage. Still, his expression was calm, despite the large bruise that was developing on his far temple, and Tris was finally calming down.

They hadn't said much more to each other, Xander seemed totally exhausted by the shock that had taken him over, and Tris had been content to sit by and hold Xander's hand while his husband drifted to sleep. Tris knew there would be a lot to talk about later, when Xander had had a chance to process what he'd seen, and he was feeling a lot more confident about it now. What he was seeing and feeling wasn't normal, Tris realised that, and he supposed it was to do with his stroke, since clearly not everyone had such detailed visions at Berwick House. He wanted to talk that through with Xander, to get his husband's opinion on what was happening to him. Yet, there was a more pressing question - what to do about Margaret and Berwick House. The place was dangerous, the newspaper reports were enough to draw that conclusion, but he didn't want to give up on the house. There had to be a way to rid it of its troubled history and murderous ghost. Maybe the secret lay in understanding Margaret's rage.

Tris was pondering this thought when Xander's phone vibrated on the cabinet next to the bed. Tris peered up over the edge of the phone to see who might be calling, but he wasn't planning on answering it. However, his own face was smiling out of the screen at him: the call was from his phone. He'd lost the mobile during the scuffle at the pond, in fact, he'd thought the phone was at the bottom in the mud, so, nervously, he snatched up Xander's phone and answered the call.

"Hello?" he began tentatively.

"Tris, is that you?" Julienne's voice crackled from the other end of the line, and before he could say anything, she continued hastily, "I was so worried. I was out in town today, but Harold, my next door neighbour told me about an ambulance rushing through the village from Berwick House when I got home this afternoon. I came straight up to see if you were alright. I found your phone just lying on the grass."

"Sorry," Tris replied, "it all happened in a rush. I knocked Xan into the pond, we're at the hospital now. He has concussion, he has to stay in."

"Oh, you poor things."

Tris smiled at the sympathetic tone, glad to have found a friend in Julienne. How he was going to explain things to her, he didn't know, but now he had Xander to back him up, he thought it was going to be easier.

"I saw all your stuff was in the back bedroom, shall I go and get your things sorted for you and bring them along?" Julienne offered.

"No!" Tris barked, but there was a huge crackle on the line at the same time, forcing him to pull the phone away from his ear.

Xander stirred a moment but did not wake. Putting the phone back to his ear, Tris tried, "Julienne?"

"Won' 'ake me an' time," Julienne's upbeat tone sputtered into his hearing.

"No, Julienne, don't go into the house," Tris warned, his stomach tying in new knots as he thought about how angry Margaret had been last time he'd seen her.

"Wh' 'i' 'ou s'?" Julienne's enquiry came back, almost indecipherable.

"Not...the...house," Tris tried more slowly and emphatically, but whistles and clicks were now coming at him down the line. "Not...the...h-," a shrill, maddened scream cut off his last word, shredding his hearing, and Tris dropped the phone as the harpie image of Margaret filled his mind's eye.

It was all he could see, or hear for a long, agonising moment and he gripped the arms of his chair as her presence tried to take him over again. Yet, he'd had enough of the vengeful ghost, her power and her murderous use of it made him angry.

"Piss off," he snarled and forced the ugly feelings away from him.

He came back to himself pitching forward out of the chair, and he reaffirmed his grip on the arms to stop himself hitting the deck. He still almost slid out of his seat as he threw himself back into the chair, but he landed mostly safely in a crumple, breathing hard, his concern not for himself, but for Julienne. Her generosity was going to get her killed if he didn't do something.

Taking a final look at Xander, sleeping off terrible exhaustion, Tris bent down, retrieved the phone and then stood up.

First Part | Previous PartNext Part | Last Part

Author Info: Edward Lucas White
American, Edward Lucas White was a teacher at the University School for Boys in Baltimore. He was also an author of historical novels, but the reason he appears here is that he also wrote spooky stories. he wrote the stories from his own nightmares. His two most famous are The House of the Nightmare and Lukundoo. The House of Nightmare , is a classic tale of a man making his way across the mountains on a motorbike when a strange encounter with a stone obelisk causes him to crash. It is getting late and a boy allows him to stay in his house, a house that the boy warns him is haunted. The man has nightmares while he sleeps in the house. I shall say no more and reveal why his night is disturbed, but, there's a nice little reveal at the end :).

British Hauntings: Wittersham, Kent
Wittersham is a small country village nestling on the Kent/Sussex border between Rye and Tenterden. It is also the place if spent my formative years between the ages of 4 and 11. My father was rector of Wittersham, Stone and Ebony and we lived in the Rectory at Wittersham, a 1950's house. Not much chance of a ghost in a house that young, you may think, especially not when I was living there in the late 70's and eary 80's, but I can attest to the fact that there was.

We never saw him, but we heard him coughing in the spare bedroom at the far end of the house. Unfortunately, that room was right next to the bathroom, so you can imagine that, nipping down there for a pee in the middle of the night could sometimes be an unnerving experience! My twin sister had that room for a while when we decided to try out not sharing a room - she only lasted a very short time and we then shared until we left the house. Our ghost also used to make himself known in the TV room that was the next upstairs room down from that spare bedroom. If I was sitting watching TV alone, sometimes I'd have the oddest urge to turn and talk to the person sitting next to me on the sofa. Of course, when I did, there was no-one there.

The most frightening experience I had in that room, though, was one day when we were all outside in the garden and we had a friend living with us at the time who had that spare room. She was cold and my mother volunteered me to go inside and get a jumper for her. Well, I was pretty reluctant to go, because, a/ everyone else was outside and b/ I spent my entire childhood in that house avoiding going upstairs alone. But my mother made me go. Going into the house via the back door, I had to walk through the length of the house, upstairs and then back along the entire length of the house to get to that room. By this time, I was majorly jumpy anyway and I had to ball all my courage up to go into the room. It was this vile 70's violet colour on the walls and I always felt it was really cold in there. Anyway, I hurried to the wardrobe and got out the jumper and, as I got it, I just felt like there was someone standing behind me. I grabbed the jumper and I ran as fast as I could, all the way back down the house, down the stairs and all the way to the back door. I had never been so scared!

And finally, just in case some of you think it was all just childish imagination, I have one final story to tell. One night, my parents and some friends were sitting in the kitchen. The kitchen had two main doors, one that led out to the back door and one that led into the rest of the house. The adults were all sitting around and they got to joking about ghosts. My mother revealed our haunting and one of the men there, we'll call him Jerry, scoffed at the idea of ghosts and said he wouldn't believe stuff like that unless he saw it with his own eyes. Well, as he was saying it, the door that came in from the back of house swung slowly open and then closed, and then the door into the main part of the house then opened and swung back. Let's just say that Jerry never scoffed about our ghost again! (and yes, for those of you reading The Burning Web, this is the real life incident that inspired part 17).

I'd love to hear your own spooky stories, add them to the blog comments. :)

A few of us discovered that we all had supernatural themes for the AtoZ so we got together and did a mini list. If you also have a supernatural theme (ghosts, monsters, witches, spells etc), please feel free to add yourself to the list.

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40 comments:

  1. I loved The Mummy!

    The best stories are the ones where the characters seem to have the worst luck.

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    1. When people tell me they didn't like The Mummy, I give them a hard stare - how could they not like a librarian taking on the might of Egyptian Gods? :)

      There does have to be a certain amount of really crappy luck for a story to be interesting ;P

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  2. Let's hope that Julienne is okay, although I have a nagging feeling there's more to her tale? Maybe it's just me.

    Your ghostly childhood experiences are not dissimilar to mine. I hated when I had to be alone in one particular house we lived in (not the pub, I was too young to understand back then). But lets just say, the experiences in that house were a tad darker.

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    1. Maybe it's just you, maybe it's not - I say nothing...

      I'm glad my only experiences were of noises and not feeling alone - yours sound more unsettling.

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  3. I love reading your tips.. I'm not writing a ghost story but every time i read one of your tips I learn that I have elements of a 'good' story - or at least how to make those elements work. I remember the fears of ghosts as a kid, i would have loved to see the look on 'Jerry's' face.
    Ida
    Reflex Reactions

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    1. Thank you - I'm glad the tips are useful - I just decided to take a look at what I thought were good aspects of the stories I've read and seen :)

      According to my mum, the look on Jerry's face was priceless! ;P

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  4. I love The Mummy and often rewatch it, mainly because they do ramp up the tension and make things go from bad to worse.
    I got chill bumps while reading your accounting of the ghost in your childhood home. Creepy!

    Shelley Munro

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    1. The Mummy is one of those movies that hits all the right angsty and tension buttons - it's unashamed in its pursuit of adventure :)

      It's funny, it was only after we moved into a home with no ghosts when my sis and I were teenagers that we actually discussed it with my mum and realised it wasn't just us, and that we didn't have to be nervous going upstairs.

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  5. So many creepy stories from your childhood! I was also convinced our house was haunted. There was one time in the middle of summer where one of the rooms (my room) felt freakishly cold. This was in California where it gets pretty hot and we had no air conditioning. One of the most interesting experiences, though, was when I woke up in the middle of the night and I saw a woman looking down on me. I turned on the lamp and she was gone. As creepy as that sounds, what makes it interesting is that I wasn't afraid when I saw her, and felt a little sad when she wasn't there (I'm pretty sure I was still half-asleep). It was bizarre. I liked to think of her more as a guardian angel rather than a ghost. ;)

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    1. Some presences aren't scary and that sounds like she was protective - my mother said that when her grandpa died he came and sat on her bed and talked to her (she was about six, I think), and she wasn't scared, she loved him and was happy he was there.

      Thank for sharing your experience :)

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  6. Your post are very informative. I've never really sat down and broken any story down like this. Great posting idea.

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    1. I don't normally over analyse, not when I'm developing a story idea, but it's useful to think about when the first draft is done :)

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  7. When I saw the heading "Wrong" I figured you were doing a post on things writers do wrong in their novels - but that's just me, feeling my WIP is "wrong." Hahaha! How exciting that you lived in a real haunted house! I've never experienced the supernatural.

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    1. I tend to think people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones when it comes to doing things wrong in novels - and I'm also of the opinion that nothing is wrong when done right - which may sound odd, but for every rule, there's a way to break it for good effect and it just depends on skill and intent.

      I can't say it was exciting living in a haunted house at the time, more inconvenient ;P

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  8. You're so right about things going wrong! And the more wrong the better ;-) http://www.hjblenkinsop.com/

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    1. A few mishaps and disasters make a story interesting :)

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  9. Creepy stuff. I always thought there was a ghost at my old house, because like you, I often got the feeling I wasn't alone there. Also, a couple of my pets had this habit of staring into one corner of one room, always the same corner, even though there was nothing there.

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    1. It is so creepy when pets do that! Can be even worse when they're following something round the room that we can't see! ;P

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  10. Sophie, I couldn't imagine growing up with a ghost in the house. Do you think that's why you have become interesting in them now?

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    1. It was definitely part of it. Although I've always enjoyed a good fictional scare as well :)

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  11. Things definitely go wrong in horror stories. You can't escape it. ;)

    Like Edward, I write many stories from my dreams and nightmares too. There was one nightmare that stuck with me for days . . . in this nightmare a girl was cut in half by a weapon that was fired at her. She was still alive, screaming, and grabbing her intestines. (So sorry if you're squeamish.) My point is, that imagine stuck with me and I knew the only way I would get rid of it is if I put it into my book. I was lucky to have a part where I could do that.

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    1. Oh wow - that sounds like a terrible nightmare to have following you around - I find it frustrating when bits of dialogue keep popping into my head until I use them, but whole nightmares - that's a cruel muse!

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  12. wow - wonder, whimsy & wild- filled post!
    things going wrong is important! happens in real life, and makes for a great twist
    love haunted house stories... but i'm too much of a scaredy cat to actually visit one...
    can't believe the challenge is almost over!

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    1. I know - W already - it's been one hell of a month. :D

      You're talking to the person who walked into the Ghostchase at Thorpe Park, discovered it was a ghostly groto entrance, turned round and charged right back out again - so I know all about being a scaredy cat - we scaredy cats should stick together ;P

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  13. The Mummy is one of my all time favourites and will watch it repeatedly. I was thoroughly amused after reading about your ghost who was your tv companion, but got the chills after he stood behind you when you got the sweater. I would have ran like dickens too. Poor Jerry. I think the story with Tris is great.

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    1. Yeah, the TV companion wasn't so bad, but the sprinting round the house was a little more disturbing ;P

      Glad you're enjoying The Burning Web. :D

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  14. It always seemed like it would be fun to live in a haunted house, but I think I'd be creeped out. Already, I hear weird things around my house at times and I don't think it's haunted. We're only the second family that's lived here...and the other family didn't have a death. I wonder if, living in a haunted house, sounds that would normally be dismissed as the wind or a settling house would be blamed on the ghost.

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    1. That is true - most sounds in houses are perfectly normal, and yeah, I have managed to scare myself witless with totally natural phenomena (our current house definitely isn't haunted and I can still get spooked ;P). But there have been times when that feeling on the back of my neck has felt different. Thankfully, not often :)

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  15. I would have been terrified living in that/your house!

    And I like "The Mummy" - I remember liking it more than I thought I was going to when I first saw it. Whenever I come across it on TV, I sit and watch a few minutes of it. :)

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    1. He wasn't a ghost who disturbed too often, or dramatically, so we coped :)

      I do the same thing with The Mummy, I can pick it up at any point and watch it if it happens to be on ;P

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  16. I would scare myself silly living in that house. I managed pretty well in my parents' house, which is over 100 years old, but has no history of a ghost.

    ~Patricia Lynne~
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, YA Author

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    1. When we left Wittersham, I was sure I would never live in an old house again (even though the Rectory wasn't that old) - I was going to have a new build house - but I think I've lived with another ghost in my first house that I lived in alone, although she didn't make herself that known, just the occasional moments when I felt her. My sister's house has a ghost, she's a friendly old lady who turns the lights on sometimes and has once said 'hello'. I think she likes Tash and her husband, but I have felt her follow me round the house when I've had to go feed the cat when they're not there, keeping an eye on the place for them. She's also come home with me in the car a couple of times, I like to think she was making sure I got home safely, but sensing her in the back seat did wig me out :)

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  17. Yes, "wrong" is essential for an exciting plot. Nobody wants to read a story where everything goes right. We want problems. We like problems.

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    1. Unlike in our own lives, problems are interesting in fiction :)

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  18. So much good stuff in this post! Wrongness, yes! What a great tension builder.

    Tris!! Don't go!!!

    And a real life haunting! Yikes!!

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  19. Whoa that would totally freak a girl out. That's too funny though that the ghost obliged and help convince Jerry. What an experience! Whew!

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    1. The ghost didn't like being disbelieved :)

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  20. Oh gosh...is Julienne a goner? Oh no!

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Thanks for stopping by - I'd love to hear from you. :)