Ramblings from the 'goblinn

"They that hobgoblin call you, and sweet Puck...."

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On Ghost Stories, and the Telling of Tales
Not the right time of year for this, but I was thinking about it, and how we humans make stories. So--

I was driving with my son the other night, and he was talking about a video he’d seen recently-- “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” And he noted that there was less talk about science in this story, and more about supernatural stuff. And talk turned to how ghost stories start in the first place. I told him that usually, ghost stories start with some real event, that gets embellished over time. And he said, “How could that happen?” So I gave him a real life example. And then-- he gave me his own. And it was amazing.

My example was this: when I was in college, I worked for the campus police. And one of our officers was a tall thin man, with striking white hair. He was a good friend, and a good officer. And not very old, only 48, when he died very suddenly, of a heart attack.

I was a night dispatcher, and I would often get off work either very late, or very early in the morning. One night, not long after Bill had died, I was walking back across campus to my dorm. There was a long, wide sidewalk running the length of the central part of the campus, and I was at one end of it. And I looked -- and at the other end of the walk, I saw a very tall person wearing a dark bomber style jacket passing underneath one of the lamps. The person had white hair, and the gait looked very familiar to me. As did the jacket, very similar in style to that worn by our officers.

Was it Bill’s ghost? I’d like to think so. I deliberately didn’t get close enough to tell for sure one way or the other. It gave me a lot of comfort, and still does, to think that he was still watching over us. I could easily make this experience into a ghost story-- in fact, the above is more detailed and skewed in that direction than the bare bones outline I told my son. He looked thoughtful when I finished, and then he told me this story.

For several years, my son was in the care of the state, and he needed more care than a foster family could provide. So he was at a local children’s home. And there was a particular groundskeeper who was kind to him, and he would often see this man mowing the grass or caring for the many growing things on the grounds. He once told my son that he had grown up here himself, and that he had planted many of the flowering plants himself, as a boy.

After this man died, my son says he saw him one day near one of these plants, which he had been noticing wasn’t doing very well now that its caretaker was gone. He says he saw the man look up from across the grounds and nod at him. When he got over there, the figure was nowhere to be seen. But my son did notice that the flower seemed to be doing much better.

We make stories for lots of reasons. To comfort us. To share our beliefs about how the world is. To make sense of an often nonsensical existence. We wouldn’t write or tell our tales, if we didn’t need to do it on some basic level. And we wouldn’t read others’ tales, unless it filled something inside us.

So I put it to you, writers and readers-- what do you need? And when was the last time you thought about how those needs, and the needs of the audience, fit into your stories?

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What do I need from story?

To be moved emotionally. To be moved to a state that's different from the state I'm in when I start reading. (This is why I listen to music as well.)

To escape. When I am in the world of (Louis Wu exploring the Ringworld with all its dangers|Jack on the mizzenmast|Lizzy Bennet walking across a field), I am not in my own world. Related to the desire to experience the famous SensaWunda.

To be told something True about the universe, or the state of humanity. Or inspired to behave better in some way. Or encouraged. Or bettered somehow, in a vague way I can't describe in advance.

When was the last time I thought about how these needs fit into my stories? Every darn time I write. With varying success.

Lovely stories from both you and your son. I've never really thought about this. I read and write for a sense of wonder and escape, to lose myself into a story and go some place new. Some things just bug me until I have to write them. This is a good way to get rid of disturbing things, write them out and they go away, sometimes.

My favorite story to write was Treasure Hunt. Not much happens, just Anya and Xander go camping and have fun. Silly story, but it was so relaxing to end the day tapping out a page or so of a fun camping trip.

Those are both fantastic stories. Thanks so much for sharing.

Wow-- thanks for reading them, and reminding me they were there with your question.

It's really hard to judge your possibly paranormal situation. However, your son's sounds like a classic visitation. The caretaker could have been either a spirit or a ghost. What he experienced is consistent with other one-shot type sightings that I've heard about.

I am the same Hypnobarb that visits Loose Canon. I don't often post, because they take no prisoners when they disagree with you. But, I've learned a lot about the HP books from reading what they post.

I'd be delighted to friend you back. I think I started reading "In Loco Parentis", but I've gotten behind in everything while dealing with the Great Basement Flood of '08, combined with about a dozen presentations about ghost and hauntings.

"Looking for Magic" started as something I thought would take 50 chapters to write. I'm up to 109 chapters, with about five more to go. It'll be 750,000 words before it'll be done. Remind me during my next incarnation not to make my first shot at fiction an epic.

Wow. I was just reading your "Small Town Ghosts" website-- very neat stuff. Maybe I'll try something original for Nanowrimo this year-- a ghost story of some kind. Though I guess in soem ways, ghost stories are really all the same. And say more about us in the end, than about the dead.

I'm delighted you friended me back. I, too, have a hard time with tackling tales that seem pretty small when I start, but mushroom. (Or, I start with a cool image and have no idea where it's going-- like Lost Boys.) I am filled with admiration for you, that you've stuck with a tale of that magnitude. Especially a first time out. So many people never finish, despite promising starts. I know I started your story myself as a reader but got daunted by the length, and the unfinishedness of it. I do know I was impressed with the writing, though, and I think I left you some feedback. I'll get to it eventually.

Welcome to my journal. Kind of ironic, to lose a friend and gain one the same day. But Juno assures me we are still friends in the real sense and has forgiven me my faults and will still keep up with me. So that's all cool.

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