Guest post by Chris Green, author of Every Breath You Take
So there’s this ghost who died in the 1980s. Her name is Jensen Murphy, and she has dedicated her afterlife to haunting confessions out of humans who might or might not have committed a crime. Now, it’s true that solving crimes could take up a lot of time, but I started to wonder how I could “flesh” out the rest of Jensen’s life. I mean, these ghosts never go to sleep, after all. So what do they do during the rest of the book?
When I first started writing the Jensen Murphy, Ghost for Hire series, I realized that there were two areas in particular that might be challenging to explore: a ghost’s love life (I’m talking about how to go about love scenes in particular, since romance is an element in urban fantasy) and trying to put some scares in a book with the ghost as a protagonist. After all, how do you whip up dread and suspense when you’re writing about the entity who is doing the scaring?
Let’s talk about those love scenes first. In the first book, Only the Good Die Young, Jensen develops a star-crossed crush on a human who might or might not have murdered his fiancée, but I wanted there to be more to his relationship with Jensen than just ghostly longing. So I decided that Jensen would have the power to seep into his dreams, interacting with him in a physical way in this parallel world. (I was watching a lot of Paranormal Witness at the time, and I’d heard stories about ghosts appearing in dreams or affecting dreams, so hello, potential love scenes!)
However, as with many urban fantasies, there’s a love triangle, too—but not with another human. Jensen also tangles with a very mysterious entity who won’t reveal his identity. However, his skills go beyond a ghost’s, and wouldn’t you know it—he has the power to make her feel human again. (More love scenes ensue!)
The “dream solution” wasn’t the only power I came up with for my ghosts, though—what if ghosts had different layers of affecting the human psyche? For example, what happens when a ghost tries to touch a human? Well, in Boo World, ghosts can read a human’s thoughts through contact. And my ghosts have the ability to cause hallucinations, too.
Oh, the possibilities. And I needed all those possibilities to help Jensen haunt confessions out of those maybe-criminals—and that’s where we come to my second challenge: attempting to make a ghost story scary, even though we are in Jensen’s mind and we know what she’s planning, hence, taking away the surprise element and the “boo”s.
And this is where those dreams and hallucinations came in very handy.
Jensen is essentially a private detective who enters human dreams to figure out their psychological make up as well as their intentions—she has to piece together symbolic clues in those dreams. And we all know how horrific and confusing dreams can be; what Jensen sees inside the heads of evil people can be very disturbing (especially when she enters the head of the maybe-criminal in book 2, Another One Bites the Dust. Yikes.). But I tried to use hallucinations to go even scarier—what if, once a hallucination is started, Jensen has no control over what happens in them?
Needless to say, it’s the ghost who can get “boo”ed in these novels. And in book 3, Every Breath You Take, the scares are compounded with a twist—the tables are turned when Jensen is the one who is haunted!
In the end, what all this boils down to is this: every potential story problem is an opportunity to push the tale in a direction you might not expect; it’s a chance to expand your world and deepen the trouble your characters encounter. It’s world building as you write, and that truly can be the scariest thing about writing a book!
About the Author
Chris Marie Green is the author of the urban fantasy Vampire Babylon series and the Jensen Murphy, Ghost for Hire series, which features a fun-loving spirit from the 80s. She tries her best to avoid international incidents whenever she takes a break from her first love, writing, and cheats on it with her other true love—traveling. She has an alter ego named Crystal Green who writes romance, namely the Aidan Falls new adult series and the Rough and Tumble series from Berkley InterMix.
You can find her at http://www.chrismariegreen.com or hang out with her online at Twitter @ChrisMarieGreen and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chris-Marie-Green-urban-fantasy-author/129182500450801.