When I put a call out for performers to volunteer to write original ghost stories for ‘The Visitation‘ , I received a message from Rob Walton. Last year, our performance at The Cumberland Arms – ‘Blood from the Quill’ – featured three guests and they went down a storm so I was very keen to have more ‘guest performers’ (i.e. people who may not necessarily be regular attendees of Elementary Writers).
Rob’s taken time out today to talk to us about the challenge of writing – then reading – an original ghost story. Thanks, Rob!
So I’ve taken a year out of teaching commitments to do more writing and creative projects. So I see a tweet about the Old Low Light in North Shields, a great local venue I’ve recently visited. So there’s a hint of some Hallowe’en writing/reading shenanigans. So here I am, in the same month as the event and with my story almost finished. So I need to work on some Sentence Openers (‘SO’ for short).
I wanted to take part in the event for various reasons. I’d never written a ghost story and had absolutely no idea if I could. I really liked the venue and it’s very local (I’ve got a chance of running home if I get too scared). I like being part of evenings with other writers, sharing work and experiences. I hadn’t actually completed a short story for a long time, finding myself writing flash fictions as ever, and more and more poetry for both adults and children.
How to start? Well, when I was teaching very small people I’d often bang on about listening and talking coming before reading coming before writing coming before rejection from your best friend’s poetry magazine. I had copies of ‘Phantoms at the Phil’, Volumes 1,2 and 3 on the shelf, so I pulled out all the stops and took one down. Then I read it. Then I realised I could at least have a go, if only the dead bloke in the corner would give me my pen back.
I’d previously had an idea for something with a specific local setting using a specific song, so I tried it and got somewhere. This was followed by a certain amount of research – some online and some walking the mean streets of Shields. For the latter, what I actually did was collect my nine-year-old daughter from school in the car (I was trying to raise the spectre of global warming) and drive along, stopping every so often for her to write down details. Apologies if you were driving behind us, but we’ve all got to suffer for my art.
As I wrote I discovered that my original idea for using a song wasn’t the right fit so it, along with much of the research, wasn’t used – but it was important in getting me to that stage. The final choice of song made much more sense and helped me make progress, and the whole thing started to come together.
I’ve really enjoyed writing it, and now only need to fill my pen with the right blood group for the last few edits.