The rules of ghosts

The title of this post makes me think of The Rule of Names by Ursula K. Le Guin – it’s one of my favorite short stories. But this post is about ghosts, not names … nor dragons …

I’ve had a few people ask how I came up with the ‘rules’ Emma has to follow in With Perfect Clarity. One guy even asked, in complete seriousness: but how did you know that’s how ghosts work?!?

I felt bad explaining that I have absolutely no idea how ghosts work, nor if ghosts truly exist at all. I think he had expected a more exciting response.

But the real answer is: I made it all up.

Well, not all of it. I used some things from traditional ghost lore, so Emma can move through furniture and walls, she haunts the house she was murdered in, and when she touches someone they feel a chill. But I made up a few things, like her ability to read the thoughts of the living. Or at least I think I made it up … for all I know a ghost is reading my thoughts right now.

I occasionally run into people who say they’ve seen ghosts, and even though I’ve never seen one, I figure who am I to say they’re wrong? One of my favorites was a woman I used to work with who said her mother had a ghost cat. She swore you could actually feel the cat sit down in your lap and purr.

Making things up doesn’t have to involve ghosts, of course. All fiction involves the creation of things that don’t exist, whether it’s creating characters who live in a real, modern-day city, or something a little further from home, like defining how magic works. In my current novel, I’m using some traditional myths, but I’m making up a few new things as well. I love having the freedom to create characters and stories.

Lately I’ve had a few things slow down my writing. My mother-in-law visited, which was a lot of fun. Our dog Maisie spent five nights at the vet and had surgery, which was not a lot of fun (especially for Maisie). Maisie is doing great now, but it was pretty scary for a while. I’m glad things are back on track, and I hope both Maisie and Jasper are able to keep me company while I make things up for many years to come.

2013-08-11 Maisie and Jasper

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