GHOST STORIES – When Revelation Undercuts Execution

Spoilers ahead for the 2017 film Ghost Stories, as well as a handful other films that share its big twist.

I can’t remember the last time a plot twist in a short story, film, television series or novel truly startled me. The ones that come to mind at the moment are from Unbreakable and Fallen, but both of those are from before I even reached drinking age. The final twist of Us also stood out to me, but just made me think, “Oh, okay,” rather than, “Holy shit! Didn’t see that coming.” Surely some other “unpredictable” twist must have had an impact on me in the last fifteen years of movie watching, but I can’t think of one at the moment. I’ve enjoyed–even loved–plenty of other movies that featured a twist, but the twist is rarely near the top of the reasons why most stories stand out to me. That leaves me to believe that the plot twist, one of the most deliciously irresistible devices available in any writer’s toolbox, is somewhat overrated. Not bad, just not the thing that ought to be the most important element of a story in most cases. read more

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Today’s Short Story: “The Four-Fingered Hand”

Barry Pain’s short story “The Four-Fingered Hand,” initially published in 1911’s Here and Hereafter, is a great, swift tale that can be read on Project Gutenberg for free. You should, perhaps, read the story first, then come back to read this post because I’m going to dive into story details, including the ending.

Ready now? Let’s get to it.

If you read enough ghost stories, you know that supernatural omens and phantom harbingers are plentiful in ghostlore; banshees, La Llorona, black dogs, death coaches, The Flying Dutchman, and a host of others that I’m not naming, and plenty more that I’m sure I’ve never heard of. These entities and their freshly imagined stand-ins often pop up in horror fiction, because a being whose mere presence foretells death is ripe for producing frights. Given the familiarity of this character type, stories often add some twist to try to keep the audience on its toes, often utilizing dramatic irony that suggests predestination (the cursed person tries to avoid their death, only to accidentally cause their death through very actions meant to prevent it), or a plot turn involving a false presumption (the banshee appears, but the person sick in bed recovers, and someone else in the house ends up dead instead). read more

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New Short Story Published in Devolution Z

The July 2016 edition of Devolution Z is available on Amazon now, either in Kindle format or paperback. My short story “TMI” appears second. It’s a story about the voices of history and the dead–specifically the ones located under and around a long bridge in Louisiana–and the modern outlets they can find in order to be heard.

Thanks to the Devolution Z staff for publishing the story.

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“There’ll be scary ghost stories…”

“It was Christmas Eve.

I begin this way because it is the proper, orthodox, respectable way to begin… The experienced reader knows it was Christmas Eve, without my telling him. It always is Christmas Eve, in a ghost story.”

This is how Jerome K. Jerome introduced his short ghost story collection Told After Supper, released way back in good ol’ 1891. He goes on to describe Christmas eve as the a “great gala night” for ghosts, and state that, “There must be something ghostly in the air of Christmas—something about the close, muggy atmosphere that draws up the ghosts, like the dampness of the summer rains brings out the frogs and snails.”
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