All Stories Are Ghost Stories
I recently read Kelly Link’s great short story “Two Houses” in The Best Science Fiction of the Year, Volume Seven. It’s also in her new collection Get in Trouble.
It’s such a great story. Two sister ships are sent out into deep space, and one of the ships disappears in the blink of an eye. Years later, the crew of the second ship awakes from hypersleep for a birthday party and to tell ghost stories. There’s the story of the ghostly people looking up from the table in the meadow. There’s the little girl cut in half by a falling tree. There’s the rich aristocratic boyfriend who lived in two identical ghost-ridden houses. I won’t tell you the end, but it gives me the chills just to think about it.
That got me thinking. Someone much smarter than I said that all stories are ghost stories, and I think that’s true. We writers are in the industry of memory. We take our own emotional memories, and we bleed them out on the page.
Our best writing comes from those things that haunt us, the make us uncomfortable, that embarass us, that shake us to our bones. One of my mentors, Steve Almond, once said, “Run screaming toward the pain.” It’s so true. We writers have to embrace discomfort and pain in a way others can avoid. We have to “go there” in our minds, experience things, in order to write about them. If your character is dying, you have to experience what that’s like in order to write about it, even if it’s just research. You have to imagine it. You have to imagine the worst possible scenarios to make them real on the page, and the more fully you imagine them and convey that, the better the work is.
Do you think it's true, that all stories are ghost stories?