Writing ghost stories for a younger audience by A. Lawrence
As part of the Grave Reflection book tour, I invited its author, A Lawrence to write a ghost post for The Speculative Faction. Grave Reflection is a story I'm sure lots of kids will enjoy because it's fast-paced, full of engaging and relateable characters who find themselves trapped in places where ghosts are the ones in control. I asked the author to tell me what a writer of that genre had to keep in mind when it came to ghost stories. Here's what they said:
Ghosts. What are they? The souls of people who have died? Some remnant of a person’s psyche imprinted on the world? Bad wiring causing hallucinations? Entire industries have been built on proving that ghosts are real. Skeptic or believer, almost everyone enjoys a good ghost story.
When writing ghosts for a younger audience, the first thing you have to decide is your genre. Paranormal/supernatural, horror, romance, mystery, or maybe a mixture. That will determine your tone and what kinds of ghosts you’re writing and how far you can push things.
Once you know what kind of ghosts you’re writing, you have to decide: are the ghosts in this world real, or could they be a figment of the characters’ imagination? Is it ambivalent? Is it just a twist of the character’s mind - something else taking form from some past trauma or to explain something happening in their life? Everyone is haunted by something, is it literal or figurative?
If the ghosts aren’t real and that’s stated within the text, make sure to market appropriately. When I pick up a book about ghosts, I want there to be actual ghosts. Anything else, even if it’s interesting, is a bit of a let down and will color my perception of the book.
If you do have real ghosts, how far can you go? What do teens (and older readers) expect out of their ghost stories these days? How can you scare them without taking things over a line?
Honestly, there is no right answer. The line is imaginary and constantly shifting, so it’s impossible to say. There are some tropes that should definitely be avoided, particularly harmful horror movie tropes (you probably know the ones: only the white characters live, the promiscuous character dies right away, etc. etc.). Make sure to research appropriately. Beta readers will always be invaluable, along with sensitivity readers at all stages.
While I still stand by that, my advice is to push your ghosts to whatever limit you’ve set. What is actually going to scare kids is how the characters react, since they’re rooting for them and identifying with them.
At the end of the day, horror and what scares us is entirely subjective. This makes writing ghost stories hard, but rewarding. As long as the right amount of dramatic tension is built up, usually you’ll have a pretty good story to work with, whether it’s scary or you just want someone to smooch a ghost. The most important thing is to have fun.
I enjoyed reading this book, primarily because the characters are vivid and kids will connect with them. Any writer knows how important that is! This graphic is a lovely insight into the characters, who successfully avoid the usual tropes and stereotypes (therefore another reason for this book being a hit!)
Here's more details about the story of Grave Reflection:
Another Friday night, another trip through a potentially haunted house. Shay’s not a believer, but she’s willing to help her best friend, Max, with their amateur ghost hunting show. Little does she know she is about to be thrown into a world of witches and dangerous spirits.
With newly discovered abilities, Shay finds that she can both see and touch spirits. The downside is, the ghosts can touch her back, and it seems that they’ll do anything to get a hold of her.
She was never much of a ghost hunter. How will she do when she is the one being hunted?
Grave Reflection is the first book of Ghost Punch, an exciting paranormal series full of mystery and action!
You can visit the Grave Reflection book tour at the locations of my fellow book bloggers! Stop by and say hello to them! You'll find they have lots more great reviews to read!
Many thanks to A. Lawrence and Storytellers on Tour for their involvement in this post.