Tuesday, 29 April 2014

A to Z Challenge 2014 - Ghosts - Y is For Yield, You, York

A to Z Challenge 2014 - Ghosts
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suitable for all
The yield, the payoff, every story has one and that's what I'm talking about today in writing. York, ancient viking stronghold, is my choice of haunted location, and my author(s) today is you, the lovely people who have been reading my blog and sharing some of your ghost stories this month :) And, there's part 25 of The Burning Web, where Tris must face the awful truth of what has been happening at Berwick House.



Y is for Yield
Yield, payoff, satisfaction - very important in all stories - we writers have to leave our readers satisfied with the conclusion of our stories, or we may never be forgiven. I have seen ranting reviews left for authors who have built and built their story, only to leave it on a cliffhanger with no resolution at all for a reader in that story. This is NOT GOOD. Personally, I loath cliffhangers anyway, I'm the type of person who saves up all the episodes of a multi-part drama so I can watch them all at once and not suffer the waiting game. However, that doesn't make cliffhangers bad, I'm just impatient ;P, but you cannot have an ending that does not give a reader some sort of resolution and if you've had them invest their time to read your story, the payoff better be good ;).

In a ghost story, the yield can range from a final, usually fatal confrontation between mortal and immortal, to a resolution to a tragedy that has held a spirit earthbound. In Stephen King's Rose Red, the confrontation between Ellen Rimbauer and the psychics has been building and building throughout the story, and we are learning more and more about what the house actually is. The payoff brings together all the threads of the story: Steven Rimbauer's conflict with his great grandmother, Ellen; Joyce Reardon's obsession with proving the existence of the paranormal world; the other psychics around Annie Wheaton being able to reach her and free themselves from the house; even Emery's smothering relationship with his mother is brought to a head. All of these strands are twisted together to produce a thrilling climax.

I think this is worth repeating, whatever cliffhangers, continuing threads and twists you want to throw in, make sure you give the reader satisfaction at the end of every story.
by Sophie Duncan


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Tris screamed, half in fear and half in fury as Margaret possessed him. Her presence was all-encompassing, a nightmare of madness carrying the weight of death with it. He felt his own fingers flex on the handle of the razor, but he fought his would-be owner when she tried to lift his arm. His head threatened to split open with the effort and the world exploded with light that was not from the candles. The cold blanket of his visions was now a prickling coat like hot pins were sticking into his body and Tris choked on his cry and his throat constricted on the pain. He felt the invading creature on every level, his mind full of her hatred for the world and her determination to destroy any happiness she saw.

[I know you,] she spoke right into his mind, and he coughed a sob as she reached right into his worst memories, forcing him back to them.

The boy lay on the floor, staring up at him, no life left, and he had stolen that spark. Nothing could make that right, no amount of sorry's, no level of guilt would ever mend the wrong he had done and Tris collapsed under the burden of his own sorrow. His head fell to one side and, as his vision cleared, he saw the razor, lethally sharp.

"You want to," Julienne whispered, kneeling eagerly by his side, her eyes shining with anticipation.

Tris blinked up at his friend, numb now as he retreated from the grief. Yet, he had felt this before, he had faced the suicidal impulses Abdi's death had inspired in him, and he remembered the man who had brought him through that nightmare. Tris remembered Xander's love through all the nights of crying, the bureaucratic questions and the criminal ones, and finally the support that had helped him fight back from the edge of death. He looked back at the razor and let it fall out of his fingers: he would not betray that trust.

Margaret convulsed within him, but Tris gritted his teeth and closed his eyes, remembering too the protective rage that had driven her away from him in the pond. It hurt again, his heart hammering and his temples thumping, but Tris fought with all he had. Margaret's fury cut deep, but Tris pushed her away. It was like a clamp being broken off his chest as her presence suddenly lifted and, gasping with relief, Tris flopped back onto the floor.

"No matter," Julienne's lilting disappointment drew Tris out of the momentary stupor that followed Margaret's retreat and he looked up at her, no longer knowing what to expect.

Julienne was holding a candle in both hands and she was still smiling, Margaret standing right behind her. When she had Tris' attention, she continued, "We have another way."

Tris struggled to sit up as Julienne crouched down and tipped the candle to the floorboards. A small patch of the wood lit up with a blue/yellow flame and that flame quickly ran along the path between the candles and out of the door.

"The razor would have been quicker," she then told Tris with an almost whimsical smile and, to his horror, Tris watched as she turned the candle on herself.

Tris recoiled as whatever accelerant was on the floor, was clearly on Julienne's coat and the flames rushed over her body. She did not move, did not even make a sound, her eyes turned up to Margaret, who watched her approvingly as the fire engulfed her. Tris couldn't take any more of the madness, he scrabbled to his feet, flight instincts finding his reserves, and he lurched out of the room.

The trail of flames ran down the entire length of the hallway, branching off into each room and up the walls of the landing as well. The trail also ran down the stairs, clutching at the plasterboard on the way down, having spread with terrifying speed. The banisters were clear, however, and, leaning heavily over them, away from the shots of heat eating up the house, Tris half fell down the stairs.

The fire was running ahead of him with what felt like unnatural speed. His instincts were confirmed as he struggled down the second flight of stairs and, to his horror, found Margaret waiting for him. The petite woman was standing blocking his way to the front door, her face fixed in a mask somewhere between victory and hatred. The flames licked over the floor, running down the corridor towards the kitchen and spreading into the shape of a pool of accelerant in the hall, running all the way to Margaret's skirts. Tris froze as his adversary slowly smiled at him and then she raised her arm. Flames leapt four foot in the air, and Tris fell away from the sudden, stifling heat, hanging on to the newel post as his only anchor.

Margaret stood in the centre of her inferno and began to laugh. Tris could only stare, fear and despair swamping his fight. The heat was pressing at his back and flaring in front, there was nowhere to go: she had won. Defeat sank onto his shoulders and Tris almost surrendered to the madness before him. Margaret would welcome him, one of her own. Yet, his skin prickled with something other than the heat and, without knowing why, Tris looked away from Margaret to his left, down the corridor. The place was aflame, just like everything else, but Tris' attention zeroed in on a face he recognised. Abdi was standing about halfway down the hallway. Tris' first instinct was to shy away - another demon come to watch his demise. Yet the boy did not move, did not blink, frozen as always, but, as Tris was drawn in by that plaintive stare, he realised the flames between himself and his demon were dropping.

"No!" Margaret bellowed and gave Tris the final hint that Abdi was not a threat: the aneurysm, the pond, the nightmare, blocking the way to Margaret's room, standing in the corner when he was ill, the revelation about Margaret's involvement in the killings, all had come from the image of the dead boy, they had been warnings.

Grasping onto his only hope, Tris pushed himself up off the stairs and launched himself towards Abdi. The boy was no longer there, but the flames in Tris' path remained low and where his saviour had stood, there was the cellar door. Tris dived against it and it flew open with his weight. He lurched forward into complete darkness and rebounded off a wall immediately across from the door. That sent him stepping backwards and his heel slid off stone and into air. Flailing wildly, Tris tipped backwards and went tumbling down uncompromising, stone steps.

Grabbing for the wall slowed his descent a little, but Tris tensed as he fell, preparing for a hard landing. Yet, he splashed down with a gasp of shock as he landed in several feet of icy cold water. The chill drove the air out of his lungs and he went under the liquid that had broken his fall. Choking down a few mouthfuls of disgusting water, Tris fought to right himself in the blackness of the cellar. It was so dark, his balance failed him and he could feel the room spinning, but he managed push his palms onto the floor and get himself onto his knees. He ended up kneeling chest deep in water more brackish than the pond, panting and lost in the alien space.

He coughed as smoke rolled down from above and unsure what to do next he did the only thing he could, he closed his eyes against the hostile darkness and looked to his instincts. The chill down his spine told him Margaret was not far away, but that was not what Tris was looking for, he was feeling for something deeper. Down in the real horror, Abdi's death, where all this had started, Tris found what he was looking for. When he opened his eyes, Abdi was there again, always with him, but this time seen, a light in the darkness and, without hesitation, Tris began to half crawl, half wade his way across the cellar to where his beacon was standing.

Tris wasn't sure when Abdi disappeared from his view, but when he reached the other side of the cellar, he was gone again and, once more, where he had been standing Tris found a short set of steps and above that, a pair of doors. He stayed on his knees as he hauled himself up the stairs and then he pushed at the doors. They lifted and then slammed shut above him again, held by something on the outside. Tris swore as the action pushed him back down the steps and began working his way back up, ducking to put his shoulder to the doors this time.

Tris shuddered with recognition as his body went cold, and he felt the chill behind him. He refused to look though, his courage failing him. He could not face Margaret again, she had done enough damage. Her maddened shriek filled his mind as well as his ears this time and the terror that lanced through Tris powered a whole-body shove at the doors. He felt the freezing blast of air hit his neck an instant before he burst through the splintering, rotten wood into the clear night and he threw himself forward, out onto the grass.

Margaret wailed, but she did not follow him, and, gasping and shaking wildly, Tris crawled away from the far right front of the house where the steps he had never noticed before had brought him up. He collapsed on the long grass at the edge of the drive after only a few metres, the adrenaline running out, and he pushed himself over onto his back, looking up at the house, orange flames licking out of her windows, glass shattering, wood burning. Tris was so tired he could barely keep his eyes open, but he had to see, had to feel the fire as it cleansed the place. There was no future here, Margaret had tainted all she touched and Berwick had to burn.

Tris drew in several long, deep breaths, trying to calm the raging in his mind and his body, but Berwick had one last message for him. As he lay in the garden wilderness, he looked up to the window of Margaret's room. He tensed, but stopped himself from turning away, because he was meant to see. Margaret was standing at the window, flames caressing her like a lover as she glared down at him. Tris gazed right back and reached for the part of himself that had protected Xander. Balling up all the energy he had left, Tris rejected the evil above him. He breathed out and felt the chill of Margaret's presence lift from him as, simultaneously, the terrible figure faded away.


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Author Info: You
Today, I wanted to thank everyone who has been sharing their personal ghost stories with me here in the comments of my A to Z posts. Ghost stories are a living tradition and whether the stories we tell each other are fiction, or our own personal experiences, they are wonderful additions to our culture. Every time we retell a story we are enriching it, making it live and giving it our own added something.

We can share the urban legend of Bloody Mary as we stand in front of a mirror, scaring ourselves at a teenage slumber party, or we can whisper to a friend about something we've seen in our own home, not sure if we are going to be believed. Not everyone believes in ghosts, some folks aren't sure and others of us have actually experienced what we believe is a supernatural event, so the paranormal is something unique to each one of us. Yet, I think there is a universal constant here, in the right place at the right time, lots of us like to be scared, we enjoy the telling of and listening to spooky stories.

So, once again, to everyone willing to share those stories: THANK YOU :)

British Hauntings: York
Mark Graham, founder of the original ghost walk in
York (theguardian.com)
York is a beautiful, ancient city located in the North East of England. It's a place with Viking heritage, narrow, twisting streets sided by tall, leaning buildings and it has a large crop of ghosts. You can take a selection of ghost tours in York (something I have not yet managed to do, even though I've visited the city on multiple occasions and explored its streets) and also learn about the history of the place. I'm going to tell you about just a few, I recommend Paranormal Database for even more!

Don't go down into the cellar at The Angler's Arms, there's something really evil down there. You won't see it, but you'll feel it. This pub also has the ghost of a little girl who is seen on the stairs. Plus, there's a ghost scent here too, that of lavender. Right next door to this haunted established is another one, an eatery called Marmaduke's Restaurant. Marmaduke was a crippled boy who lived in the house until 1715, when he killed himself. His presence is a helpful one, although he has never been seen.

Of course, the ghosts of York would not be complete without their own Grey Lady. Supposedly a nun who worked at St Leonard's Hospital, she now haunts the Theatre Royal, which took the place of the hospital in the 1700's. She's not the only ghost in the theatre, since there is an actor who was killed on stage still wandering around and sometimes ghostly organ music can be heard when nothing is being played.

There are lots more ghosts in York, it has christened itself the most haunted city in England and it certainly has it's fair share of spooks! :)

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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34 comments:

  1. I chose Yield as my word, too!

    I don't mind cliffhangers, so long as the story of book one has some resolution. Usually, I'm fine with cliffhangers that act more as inciting incidents to book 2. I'm pretty patient, though, and would rarely fault a writer for leaving a cliffhanger (unless it was an obvious gimmick). I have been waiting for the Winds of Winter by George RR Martin for 3 years now, and it probably won't be out for another 2 years, minimum.

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    1. Great minds think alike :)

      You are a very, very patient person! 5 years - wow!

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  2. I LOVED how you used Abdi to help Tris. In more ways than one here. Well done!!

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  3. I agree that sharing stories is a wonderful thing. Though I always hated that Bloody Mary game (too scary). Going on a ghost walk in York sounds like fun. I might need to put it on my "list" of things to do. :)

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    1. I was always too chicken to play Bloody Mary as well - when it comes to the supernatural, I am always one to err on the side of caution - once, at a party, someone suggested playing with a ouija board. I didn't drive at the time and I was twenty miles from home, but I was ready to walk out and walk home if they started. o.O

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  4. Sharing ghost stories is a wonderful thing.

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    1. It's been a great month with everyone sharing their stories :)

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  5. It's funny you mention standing in front of a mirror, saying Bloody Mary. We had that in Nashville when I was a kid--but for us, it was the Bell Witch. That happened in Adams, TN, about an hour away or so(?), so she's our local legend!

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    1. I've heard of the Bell Witch, I can see how that could be your equivalent :)

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  6. "Don't go down into the cellar" is the best advice EVER. Also, "don't open that door" and "don't look under the bed." :)

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    1. And never look out of the darkened window either! ;P

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    2. And never look out of the darkened window, either ;)

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  7. I was glad that Tris was able to overpower Margaret, and that wasn't easy. I am curious to visit Yoirk, but that's the brave/silly side of me. My cowardly smart side rejects the thought.

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    1. York is a fabulous city to visit, it has fantastic architecture and history as well as ghosts :)

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  8. I have not personal spooky stories to share. All mine are made up!

    --
    Timothy S. Brannan
    The Other Side, April Blog Challenge: The A to Z of Witches

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    1. And they are just as fun - fiction or reality, it's all the fun of the scare :)

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  9. Oh that would be fun going on a ghost tour of York. Though I'd rather steer clear of any ghost children. The music playing would so give me chills.

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    1. I think I'd rather steer clear of any ghost kiddies as well ;P

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  10. I'm like you when it comes to series. I wait and watch all at once because I hate waiting. Nothing worse than being left dangling on a cliffhanger.

    ~Patricia Lynne~
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, YA Author

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  11. If I really love the book, I don't mind the cliff-hanger and waiting for the next one. The bad thing is if you finally read the end of the series and are disappointed with it... I really enjoy urban legends! They're so much fun! :)

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    1. Cliffhangers can build the tension, but you have a point, it the series doesn't pay off, it can be even worse, especially if you've been waiting years for books to come out.

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  12. I was going to say I WISH I had a personal ghost story to tell, and then I thought Um, no not really LOL.

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    1. LOL - it is rather a double-edged idea, isn't it? ;P Anyway, the fictional ones can be just as fun :)

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  13. Leaving readers satisfied with the end of my stories is one of my biggest goals. I want them to feel like the story is complete and the ending is perfect for the story line even if it's not what they expect.

    I've really enjoyed your posts for this Challenge. I'm going to be sad to see them end.

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    1. I'm really happy you've been enjoying my posts :D It's been fun interacting this month. I love your W post BTW :)

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  14. I'd love to take some ghost tours. I've heard about some bus tours of haunted cemeteries and sites in Chicago and New Orleans, and of course the Tower of London. My best starting bet seems to be nearby Boston, which sometimes has haunted tours at night.

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    1. I heartily recommend bus tours for ghosts - I went on a GhostBusTour (get it? and yes that is what they called it) when I was a teenager - it was around Exmoor in Somerset and they had actors at the significant locations - it was fun and a little bit scary until they faked a stop, the driver got off to go and 'help' someone whose car had broken down and, of course, a ghost started stalking round the bus. It didn't matter that I knew in my head it was a guy in a costume, I screamed along with everyone else, and when he started coming up the coach steps I was in the front seat and I literally climbed over the back of my seat. It was SOOO much fun! ;D

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  15. York is an interesting place to visit, and I imagine a ghost tour would be fun.
    Cliffhangers are only good when I have the next book in my to-read pile and can start straight away. I hate having to wait.

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    1. Another impatient person, yay, - we should start a support club - Cliffhangers Anonymous :)

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  16. Take that, Margaret! I love that Xander's love pulled Tris through. Well done. :)

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  17. I love York, and since I moved in December I'm only an hour's drive away now. I've been there a few times, and I've done two ghost walks - they were very interesting, though I've never actually seen anything spooky there. I'll definitely be going more in the future, so maybe I will one day.

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  18. I knew it! That certain ghost turned up to help Tris! ;)

    York is a beautiful place, like you I've visited the place many times but never taken a ghost tour. We have one in Norwich and I informed hubbie we're going to take it this year.

    I'm not looking forward to the next post, because it will mean the end of my ghost-infused journey, and that's sad. :(

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