Thursday Writing Prompt No. 91

St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. False infrared.

A scene in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. False infrared.

Halloween is just a week away and my deadlines are looming for some freelance writing projects, while other projects are just getting started. In honor of the season, I will be doing some research on the Goat Man, a local legend in Prince George’s County, Maryland, for a forthcoming encyclopedia volume on myth and legend. I’ll post more information about the project as we get closer to the publication date.
Your Thursday Writing Prompt is to write a scene for a haunted-building thriller. The photo above is St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, located in historic Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. The architecture is Neo-Gothic, which is a fairly typical setting for haunted houses. Feel free to use the atmospheric image for inspiration, or make a modern building your setting.
Your task is to build atmosphere for a story. Use descriptive language for the setting, and be sure to include sensory details, such as smells or sounds. Weather is a perennial topic for a haunted setting, and you can use rain, wind, or thunderstorms to great effect. Aim for 350 words and don’t worry about the story or characters — just build the setting. This exercise is mainly a task in building atmosphere, not plot. Have fun!


Thursday Writing Prompt No. 65

St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.

A couple of Saturdays ago we were in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. I had gone to a two-day workshop on archival preservation, and Ben spent the days enjoying the beautiful weather and taking photographs in and around town. By Saturday evening I was ready for some sightseeing, but most of the tourist stuff closes early. We ate some ice cream, visited a few shops, including Steam at Harper’s Ferry, where I picked up a book on making Steampunk-themed models.

We also did a ghost tour. I was expecting a dozen or so people, but it was pretty crowded. Perhaps being so close to Halloween was the reason, but I had no trouble hearing our guide tell the ghost stories. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I didn’t see any apparitions, but I did take some nighttime shots of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, which is where we met to begin our ghost walk.

So, Halloween is next Wednesday, which means this is the last Thursday Writing Prompt before the holiday. So here’s your task: look at my photo above for inspiration, then come up with your own ghost story idea. If you have a complete story idea, go ahead and write it, but in case that’s just too much for you to tackle, just focus on coming up with a location for your ghost story. Think about what makes a location frightening. Is is squeaking doors and rotten lathe boards showing through cracked plaster? Yeah, that scares me when I see it in my house (shudders). Or is it when a relatively benign and familiar location suddenly becomes sinister through some modest change in lighting or other atmospheric changes?

Try to avoid falling into the rut of setting your ghost story in derelict Victorian mansions or the damp, dark basements of mental hospitals. What else can be intimidating? Make an outline of what the location has, what it’s close to, and what you can add to make it sinister.