It’s officially spooky season, and the plot bunnies have gone a little feral. Maybe a lot feral. Actually, we think they may be undead. Still, the witching hour is upon us, and it’s time to let the rabid little things run wild. Maybe they can scare up a tale or two for that blank page of yours.
An Unusual Sound
Skip the screams. Forget the poltergeist’s knocking and the creaking hinges. Avoid the Victorian ghost playing the piano. What other sounds – given the right (or lack of) context – might disturb you? Try telling a ghost story that depends on sounds for its tensions and scares as much as possible, building up fear with sounds that are juxtaposed with their environment, perfectly innocent at face value, or simply bizarre.
Horror of Absence
Something is missing. But what? Craft a tale with a key absence. Maybe the readers realize right away. Maybe they don’t. The same can be true of the characters. Maybe there’s a missing item (no, not the toilet paper). Maybe there are signs of a missing character – baby things in a home without apparent child characters, etc. The longer you build up the tension, dropping quiet hints, without actually stating the absent element, the better.
There are many stories of ghost dogs, cats, and horses in the world. How could these be scary – or comforting? What animals that aren’t domesticated? Think whale ghost, the ghosts of a herd of buffalo, or the spirits of dead swans. Build a story around one of these concepts.
If people and animals leave some part of themselves behind, it make sense for things like trees – which live hundreds of years – to leave at least a trace. What did the place where you live look like before? What would a ghost forest feel like? What about a lone, ghostly tree? What might a plant’s phantom do to the living as an influence or presence?
Imagine the coolest Halloween decorations in the neighborhood. Maybe they’re grisly. Maybe they’re just off-putting. Imagine they were real. How would you know? What would happen when you found out?
Something terrible lives in the local cemetery, but it isn’t a ghost, zombie, or vampire. It may not be undead at all. It just calls the cemetery home. What lurks behind the tombstones and crawls through the crypts? Is it a human? It could be a cryptid. I’ve never trusted big, old oak trees left to grow in cemeteries, personally.
It’s the end of the world. You’re being hunted, or the apocalypse is in motion. The safest place is the one you most fear. Maybe it’s the old cabin in the woods, the library stacks, or the poorly-managed art museum with a thousand disturbing portraits. Whatever makes you scared, makes you hate that place, whatever’s outside is worse.
Try any of these plot bunnies? Let us know how it went! Have ideas of your own that you’d like to share with other writers? Make sure to comment below!