05 October 2020
Posted by Tabby Hayward
This week, with Halloween not far off, we were looking at ghost stories! What's more, Blandford Literary Festival are hosting a ghost story competition, with a deadline approaching on the 26th October, so we also had this in mind for our young writers, who may wish to enter...
We began by combining the ghostly with the autumnal, coming up with similes and metaphors to describe some stormy weather (e.g. the wind was a wailing woman, the sky was as dark as a funeral, etc). After sharing some of these with the group, we then read an extract from, arguably, the greatest ghost story of all time, The Woman in Black! In the extract, the narrator is alone in Eel Marsh House, with only Spider the dog for company, while a storm rages outside, and he hears what he believes to be the cry of a child out on the marsh... He becomes convinced of a ghostly presence in the house with him...then the lights go out! We looked at techniques used by the writer, Susan Hill, to build the tension and suspense and create a haunting, eerie atmosphere. Then, putting all this together, we began writing our ghost stories, while listening to sounds of wind, rain and a crackling fire on YouTube, to build the perfect ghost-story atmosphere!
When it was time to share, there were a fantastic range of spine-tingling stories to hear, from George's genre-bending sci-fi ghost story, to Kira's mysterious man in a dark hat, to Evie's character pulling back a curtain in a seemingly-abandoned house by the sea to reveal.... (we had to wait for the next installment, after a very dramatic cliffhanger!)
Next, the young writers were given a choice - either to continue with the story they had begun, or to begin a new ghost story set in an unexpected location for the genre... Some examples I suggested were a shopping centre, a beach, a water park, a fairground and (my personal favourite!) a garden centre! The challenge was to make any of these places, none of which fit the traditional criteria for a ghost story (dark, isolated, lonely, abandoned, wild, etc) into the setting for a chilling tale! Thomas and Elsie both managed to make a garden centre incredibly sinister, and George created a truly disconcerting atmosphere on a bright, sunlit, busy beach. Meanwhile, Evie and Kira both continued their stories they had begun previously, developing in exciting new directions...
We're so excited to see how these stories develop and hope many of our young writers will enter the Blandford competition!