By Courtney Pierce
Chills. Thrills. Tension. Danger. It’s not what I see, but what I don’t see that defines a scary novel or movie for me. I’m easily suckered into a good ghost story. Graphic images of severed body parts and gushing blood do nothing for me, but I love the suspense of an unseen force. Suspense makes my heart race. My imagination is so much bigger than what any special effects team could show.
For example, take The Haunting or The Legend of Hell House, both movies based on books. These classics ooze with the dire stakes of “Don’t go into the nursery” and “Do you feel that? A cold spot”. The only thing one sees is a door slam shut or the steam of a character’s breath. Yeah, the premise is predictable―characters gather in a presumably haunted house for a week with a can't-miss offer―but it’s such a great hook. Time for a potty break when a shadow of an erotic statue comes alive on the ceiling!
Skepticism morphs to fear; shock clarifies to belief. Finally, there is understanding and strength. All the emotions I want, and need, to feel take us to a satisfying conclusion.
One of the best romantic ghost stories is Rebecca by Daphne De Maurier (and the rare triumph of book-turned-movie version by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940). The implied ghost of Maxim de Winter’s dead wife, Rebecca, is everywhere, even in her embroidered monogram on a linen napkin and on her embossed custom stationary. Rebecca’s luxurious bedroom―off limits to all but the creepy maid―swirls with sheer curtains that billow with a breeze from the sea. The camera pans from the soft touch of furs and lingerie in the closet to a framed photo of Maxim on the dressing table. The maid even mimes the "hair drill" brushing of Rebecca's hair. The unseen ghost of Rebecca wedges herself right between Maxim and his naive young wife. The poor thing is so diminished by this ghost that the reader (or viewer) is never even told the new wife’s name. She’s only referred to as “Maxim’s wife” or “Darling”, much to the disdain of the mansion’s housekeeper. Rebecca's not a real ghost, but she's certainly an overwhelming emotional presence that drives the suspense.
I was so taken by De Maurier’s crafty technique that I used the scaffolding of the story (sans the creepy housekeeper) to end my Dushane Sisters Trilogy series, only in reverse. In the upcoming final installment, Indigo Legacy, it is the ghost of my heroine’s dead husband that torments her male love interest. The presence lives in the wedding ring that my character can’t get off her finger. To overcome the challenges of a death bond is not only painful but suspenseful. A hacksaw finally severs the gold band in a hospital Emergency Room, but it’s not quite over. Invisible baggage makes my characters stumble and fall. I had fun infusing my own humorous take on the road map of De Maurier’s story. It’s due out in 2017.
I watch and read scary stories to vicariously experience the emotions of what the characters feel. It’s a break from the mundane work-a-day world, an escape when characters want so desperately for life to be normal while invisible forces get in the way. The characters must conquer their fear of something that is totally out of control. And when they do, their lives will forever be changed.
Like watching the news. That’s a scary story these days. We writers are better positioned to change lives by crafting a good book.
Courtney Pierce is a fiction writer living in Milwaukie, Oregon, with her bossy cat. She writes for baby boomers. By day, Courtney is an executive in the entertainment industry and uses her time in a theater seat to create stories that are filled with heart, humor and mystery. She has studied craft and storytelling at the Attic Institute and has completed the Hawthorne Fellows Program for writing and publishing. Active in the writing community, she is a board member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association and on the Advisory Council of the Independent Publishing Resource Center. She is a member of Willamette Writers, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, She Writes, and Sisters in Crime. The Executrix received the Library Journal Self-E recommendation seal.
Check out all of Courtney's books at:
courtney-pierce.com and windtreepress.com. Both print and E-books are available through most major online retailers, including Amazon.com
The Dushane Sisters are back in Indigo Lake. More laughs, more tears...and more trouble. Protecting Mom's reputation might get the sisters killed―or give one of them the story she's been dying to live.
New York Times best-selling author Karen Karbo says, "Courtney Pierce spins a madcap tale of family grudges, sisterly love, unexpected romance, mysterious mobsters and dog love. Reading Indigo Lake is like drinking champagne with a chaser of Mountain Dew. Pure Delight."
Colorful characters come alive in Courtney's trilogy about the Dushane sisters. Beginning with The Executrix, three middle-age sisters find a manuscript for a murder mystery in their mother's safe after her death. Mom’s book gives them a whole new view of their mother and their future. Is it fiction . . . or truth?
Get out the popcorn as the Dushane Sisters Trilogy comes to a scrumptious conclusion with Indigo Legacy. Due out in early 2017.