Thursday, August 08, 2013

Ghost Stories v. Ghost Novels



Is it me or are there a lot more first rate ghost stories than ghost novels. If you look online, hundreds of ghost stories are mentioned compared with only the same dozen or so ghost novels.

Is this the one sort of tale that the short story excels in? If so, why? Is it harder to scare people for 300 pages rather than 15? Is it kind of like showing the shark too much in JAWS?

18 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - You always ask interesting questions! I think part of it is that the ghost story builds tension quickly. The novel takes longer to do that and that might not be the best way to make an impact if your theme is a ghost. Even on Hallowe'en, it's a quick 'startle' when someone says, 'Boo!'

pattinase (abbott) said...

Good points, Margot.

George said...

Margot is right. When a writer tries to sustain a ghost through 300 pages of a novel, it stops being strange. Of course, maybe Stephen King can pull it off in the sequel to THE SHINING, DOCTOR SLEEP, that comes out this Fall.

Ron Scheer said...

I'm wondering about ghost romances (not meant to be scary). I can think of movie examples (e.g. Ghost, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir); there must be novels.

Charles Gramlich said...

I think it's very difficult to sustain the intensity in emotion of a ghost tale over a whole novel, but much easier with a story.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Portrait of Jennybwasvagreat novel and movie!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Robert Lane?

pattinase (abbott) said...

RoBert Nathan!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Of course my favorite is a kid's book. Tom's Midnight GArden.

Dana King said...

Ghost tales need a quick payoff that lends itself better to short stories. The longer the story goes on, the harde it is for the author to come to a satisfactory ending, as the universe built limits options the more well-defined it becomes.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

How about A CHRISTMAS CAROL? I think it falls somewhere between the two.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, good one. I would never have thought of it.

F.T. Bradley said...

There are some good ones for kids (which are also shorter, of course). Mary Downing Hahn ghost stories are big with my kids.

Todd Mason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Todd Mason said...

Brevity is the soul of horror and suspense as well as wit. The dull slog through Stephen King or others' unfocused meanderings simply weakens the effect, much as more people read Mary Shelley today than read Ann Radcliffe. Or Poe than Marie Corelli. I frankly don't expect most of King or Anne Rice to last very far into the next decades, even as V. C. Andrews is fading now.

Todd Mason said...

Not that it's impossible to write a good, long horror novel...it's just that most of the reason to write a longer novel will tend to work against the desired effect. My favorite longer one, which is peripherally a horror novel among several other things, is currently Kate Wilhelm's DEATH QUALIFIED. Certainly the most popular is probably DRACULA. Among ghost stories per se...well, A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE by Peter Beagle is among those you find repeatedly cited? It should be.

Todd Mason said...

..."the one sort of tale"? The short story excels in just about every sort of tale. I continue to fail to understand your apparent lack of appreciation for the suggestion of larger matters, rather than the often lazy pounding of the said matters into the ground. You genuinely think novels are a better form than shorter fiction...?

How many, say, Chekhov or O'Connor or Borges or de Maupassant or Paley or Cheever shorts do you think we could lose, if we had to, to save Stephen King or Thomas Wolfe or Herman Wouk or Norman Mailer novels?

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think I should have said short stories produce better ghost stories than novels often do. In other sorts of tales either one might produce a great story.