Recommended Reading: Ghost Stories
This past weekend, I did a deep dive into flash ghost stories. I leaped into the realm of flash specters and those that haunt with an open mind, not in search of something clearly defined as I did when researching flash Fairy tales and Fables. I wanted to find stories reminiscent of Casper, the Friendly Ghost (even though I’m a fan of the conflict caused by the presence of Uncle Fester and Spooky), Ghost Busters, with a pinch of Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde (the ghosts from Pac-man for the non-nerds out there). As you polish your ghostly tales for Fractured Lit’s Ghost, Fable, and Fractured Fairy tales contest, consider telling a different kind of ghost story. I’m drawn to the stories below because each contains a different perspective regarding the haunted house, a banshee, friendly ghost, or spirit.
Mao’s flash is what I would call a deconstructed ghost story. This isn’t Scooby-Doo screaming, AH A G-G-G-GHOST! Instead, the title and the following three paragraphs depict the haunting elements within this flash, the entrance of an ex-ghost. What I love about Mao’s story is the focus on reality, the grounding elements of the two characters living and growing together. Therefore, the ex-ghost is not a soul floating in and out of the narrator’s life but rather a companion, an actual being that learns how to interact with her sister, who knows how to be alive. The will to learn compared to the intimate relationship shared between sisters left my emotions shattered in the best way at the story’s conclusion.
What happens when a ghost has unfinished business? Better yet, what happens when the living have unfinished business with the ghost that haunts their home? Edwards provides a chilling story of a narrator who is happy to see his father’s ghost again, despite his wife and child’s unenthusiastic reception of this unknown figure. Much like in Mao’s flash, the familial ties are still present within this piece, but what I love in this flash that sets it apart is the narrator’s attempts to excuse his ghost-father’s behavior. “He was always absentminded, you know.” I don’t want to spoil the ending but, as you work on your ghost stories, consider if your ghost or those who are still living are ready to say goodbye to one another and how, if one or both are not, how that impacts their interactions with one another.
- How to Teach the Ghost in Your House How to Sing by Noa Covo
If you haven’t read anything by Noa Covo, best to prepare yourself because she is taking on the flash world by storm. I am already a fan of her work and this story continues to be one of my favorites. Covo’s flash is a lesson on not only what the title states but how to make your ghost unique. There are instructions but also rules to follow, ways to appease the ghost Covo has created. Even methods on how to alter your life to make the ghost more comfortable. The grounding element, what ties the story’s “you” and the ghost together, is the music but the personality and life Covo breathes into the ghost’s character reveals more about who this spirit once was and who “you” are in this world the author has constructed.
So far, I’ve provided stories revealing the ghost as a secondary character. But, what about the ghost as the main character? There’s a careful tightrope to balance on when writing from the point of view of a ghost and Phillips flies across it with ease. We are given hints that not all is well with Mary as she plays MASH in the first sentence. Consider Phillips’ decision to subtract the term “ghost” from her story. Why? This story is about something much bigger, a life lost yes, but trapped wondering what could have been if they had lived another year, week, or day. The age of this ghost also plays a vital role in what the cost of a life lost too soon really is and heightens the sense of time standing still for a spirit who cannot remove themselves from the place they ceased to be.
- In All That Light by Cathy Ulrich
My list would not be complete without a story by Cathy Ulrich, who continues to transport readers to different worlds and across universes through her multiple flash series’. For this list, I’ve chosen a flash from her Girl Detective series. We’ve discussed ghosts as secondary characters, main characters, relatives, and friends. What about the inclusion of multiple ghosts? Ghosts who haunt, who reach, who others can see? I love the girl detective’s interactions with these ghosts, but Ulrich provides another ghost within this story in the form of the absent father. The father’s removal from this flash is depicted by his empty seat at the table, through the mother’s actions, and the girl detective noticing his absence. When writing your ghost stories, consider all the forms your ghosts may take. In reading Ulrich’s story, consider which presence is more haunting. Is it really the ghosts who make themselves known, or the one whose absence is felt by all of Ulrich’s characters?
- You Told Me to Write You a Way Out by Chloe N. Clark
- You Don’t Have a Place Here by Anna Vangala Jones
- The Haunting of Mile Marker 73 by Anne Gresham
- The Ghost That Haunts My House by Madeline Anthes
- Life Cycle by Joshua Jones
- Catherine Eddowes Describes Life After Death by Amy Sayre Baptista
- Soba by K.B. Carle
K.B. Carle lives and writes outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is the Associate Editor at Fractured Lit. and Editor at FlashBack Fiction. Her stories have appeared in Passages North, Porcupine Literary, Apiary Magazine, Jellyfish Review, The Offing, Mineral Lit. Mag, and have been nominated for Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, and the Pushcart Prize. She can be found online at kbcarle.com or on Twitter @kbcarle
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