I am thrilled to have author Claire Fraise on Books, Tea, Healthy Me today! Her new book, They Stay, has just been published and it is the perfect read for this spooky time of year. I am a big fan of ghost stories and the people who write them.
For this guest post, I asked Fraise to tell us a bit more about what it takes to write a really good, spooky ghost story. I imagine a lot goes in to it, but I don’t even know where to start!
Before we hear what she has to say, let’s learn more about Claire Fraise.
Claire Fraise earned her B.A. in English from Tufts University. She is also the author of YA dystopian novel Imperfect (winner of the San Francisco and Beverly Hills Book Festivals), which she published when she was 16. When Claire’s not writing, she likes crocheting amigurumi animals, reading, and hanging out with her dogs. Even though it goes against every introverted bone in her body, she is on social media. Connect with her on Instagram at @clairefraiseauthor, on YouTube at Write with Claire Fraise, or visit her website at clairefraise.com.
Guest Post by, Claire Fraise: Writing About Ghosts
Out of all the paranormal and supernatural things to write about, ghosts have to be the hardest for me.
There are so many ways to write a ghost world. All of them require at least a small suspension of disbelief because, at the end of the day, nobody knows whether ghosts are real so there isn’t anything concrete to worldbuild around. You have to choose what you need the ghosts to do in your story and then worldbuild around that.
There are a ton of things to consider when writing about ghosts. When I first started building my ghost world in They Stay, it felt like my brain was filled with a million questions. Can the ghosts pass through things? Does everyone who dies become a ghost? Does being a ghost twist your brain in some way? Can ghosts feel?
In this post, I’m going to break down how the ghost world works in my own book, discuss what my process for developing my ghost world looked like, and share the best pieces of advice I have for writing about ghosts.
In my YA supernatural thriller They Stay, the ghosts are characters. One of my main POV characters is a girl who can see ghosts, and because she has grown up around many of these ghosts, they are very human to her. She never calls them “ghosts” or “souls.” Only “Jeremy,” “Natalie,” or “Mrs. Lewis.”
To tell the story in They Stay, I needed these ghosts to be characters capable of directly communicating with my character Francesca. I also needed them to be able to experience hardship, fear, and trauma. So the first thing I narrowed in on was that my ghosts had to hold onto the personhood they had during life, with the same capacity for feelings and connection they had while they were alive.
The next thing I tried to figure out was what the system of ghosts was—in other words, did everyone who died become a ghost? Wouldn’t that just result in a million ghosts wandering the earth? I didn’t want this to be the case. So, in my world, I set it up so that ghosts fade away. Either immediately, or within several years. Nobody knows where they go, or where they fade to. All Francesca knows is that, once they’re gone, they never come back. This choice allowed me to create a system where it’s plausible that everyone who dies becomes a ghost, but not that everyone’s ghost could be aimlessly wandering the earth.
Figuring out the physical limitations of the ghosts is also challenging. Some stories show ghosts knocking things over and terrorizing other characters, but I didn’t want all the ghosts to have those capabilities. It would have made life dangerous for my character who can see them, and growing up being with the ghosts is the one place she truly felt safe. But I also wanted the capability to have ghosts knock things over and move things without having ALL ghosts capable of doing that. So, I made it so that after the ghosts fade away in my world, they become more powerful the longer they are in the afterlife and then they can move things.
I don’t personally know what my beliefs of the afterlife are. I have never found something that I believe in wholeheartedly, so developing my own system for the afterlife in my book feels like I’m building a fantastical world, not one that is based on my own beliefs. But if you have beliefs about the afterlife, writing about ghosts is a cool way to explore that because you can establish it as a rule of the world.
Something to keep in mind while writing about ghosts is that it’s okay to keep some things vague. I wanted to be clear with my worldbuilding and share it all with my readers because I didn’t want my ghosts to be scary, but I found that it was impossible to explain everything and some things had to be left up to the imagination. Establishing the balance between being clear enough to have the world be believable and vague enough not to back oneself into plot holes is one of the biggest challenges of writing about ghosts.
I love writing about ghosts because of the way you can use ghosts to explore mental health, trauma, and humanity. In They Stay, I wanted to write a ghost story where the source of horror was not the ghosts, but rather the humans and what they did to each other. Subjects like domestic violence, substance abuse, and sexual assault scare me way more than a possible ghost lurking in the dark.
(They Stay Series, #1)
Publication date: October 12th 2021
Genres: Supernatural, Thriller, Young Adult
For fans of Stranger Things comes a suspenseful YA mystery about a missing kid, a girl who can see ghosts, and a horrifying crime only four outcasts have the power to stop.
What if the only person who could help you find your missing brother was dead?
Nothing is as important to sixteen-year-old Shiloh Oleson as her little brother Max. So when the six-year-old goes missing without a trace, a heartbroken Shiloh refuses to believe nothing can be done and sets out to find him.
When one of Shiloh’s classmates says she knows where Max is, Shiloh hesitates to believe her. Francesca is creepy. She says she can see ghosts, but everyone knows ghosts aren’t real … right?
But Francesca says that Max is going to be murdered.
And a ghost told her where he is.
As the line between the dead and living begins to blur, Shiloh starts to think Francesca might not be as crazy as she believed. One thing is becoming clear. Someone has gruesome plans for Max, and Shiloh must confront her worst nightmares to find him before it’s too late.
THEY STAY is the first book in the They Stay Series. Read on if you like ghost stories, plot twists, enemies-to-friends, creepy circuses, budding romance, and unlikely heroes.
Content Warnings: This book contains death, kidnapping, domestic abuse, references to suicide, bullying, and mild adult language.
Win a copy of They Stay!
Giveaway ends October 21, 2021