Julie's Quest

Hello, and welcome to my blog. My blog is about the trials and tribulations of writing, where we celebrate successes and commiserate our near misses. We tell it like it is here and will do our very best to help you on the road to being published and pick you up after the rejections (they will come!) Whether you are a professional or amateur writer you will find something useful here.

I hope you enjoy reading my posts and will visit again soon.

Happy Writing

Julie Phillips - freelance writer - member of the Association of Freelance Writers - member of the Society of Authors

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Are You Superstitious?

Seeing as we are heading towards Halloween (already!) I've been thinking a lot about folklore and superstition, old wives tales, and spooky goings on that there appear to be no rational, scientific explanation for. I used to love watching Derek Acorah and Yvette Fielding and crew on their ghost hunts and I would get quite scared at some points without really knowing what it was, exactly, I was scared of!

Another incident that still makes me laugh now (even though it didn't at the time) was when my husband and I were walking on Bodmin moor thirteen years ago. He suddenly stood stock still and stared over my shoulder, a look of horror on his face and shouted "RUN!" We'd been talking about the Beast of Bodmin (alledged huge black pantha-like animal) a few minutes before so I did what he said and legged it after him! I actually over took him at one point and left him at the paws of this creature! As only a loving wife would. I was taking no chances.

But, when I stopped because my legs wouldn't carry me any further, not because I'd had a sudden change of heart and wanted to help my husband escape the beast, I turned round to find him collapsed on the ground, clutching his stomach and howling with laughter! Oh yes, you've guessed it, he'd pranked me. I was running from nothing! I have too good an imagination for my own good sometimes!

I have many times had a shiver up my spine and the feeling that something is not quite right - but I can't confess to have actually seen anything supposedly not-of-this-world. So if I've never seen anything to make me believe in spirits and the afterlife, why does the hair on the back of my neck stand on end when I see such programmes, when the lights suddenly go out and I'm in the dark, or even sometimes when I'm just sitting watching TV on my own. And why was I so freaked out about walking to the loo at night, or being in my room at the retreat alone without the light on? If there is nothing there - why was I so scared? I blame Hollywood.

I have seen far too many ghost movies that's what it is! It's all down to perception and conditioning. Honestly, I am such a wuss! But there's obviously something in my brain that has held on to every horror movie I've ever watched and images fly out of me when I'm in the right environment and scares me! For instance, we had a sudden power cut the other week at night and I went upstairs to check on my daughter as she has the landing light on at night (as I did when I was a child - and still do!) But my heart was hammering and I had to fight the temptation to turn tail and leg it back downstairs! All I could think of was, "If anyone/thing touches my hands now I shall expire!" I had my hands held out in front of me and I couldn't see a thing - I was terrified. But, it wouldn't look good to my daughter if she was the one having to comfort me because Mummy's scared of the dark and not the other way round!!

It fascinates me, though, when I read books and stories which are grounded in folklore and superstition. How did these rumours and stories get started? How were they perpetuated? It's like sightings of Nessy and Big Foot, of aliens, angels and spirits. Are they real? Or is an hallucination - we see what we want or expect to see not what we actually saw?Suggestion rather than what is physically happening is what makes good ghost/horror stories work so well

My mum died 8 years ago on Halloween and I often think of her, more so when we reach each anniversary. Do I believe in ghosts? No, I don't think I do. I have never, to my knowledge, seen her, or anyone else I have known who has passed away in spirit form. As to whether I think there is an after Life - well that's a different matter.We have all lost someone we loved, and this emotion, no matter how painful can be used in the future to infuse our stories with realism. We all know what it feels like to hate or love someone, to miss someone, to fear someone or to fear for someone, to be frightened, to be happy or sad. So we, as writers, should harness and work with these emotions in our creative writing. The Human condition makes excellent fodder for stories. The mistakes we make, our achievements/failures, our hopes for the future, our past experiences, our unique out look on life - it all strikes a chord with our readers.

I have been watching a series about Darwin on TV and the role the church, Darwin's theory of evolution, the after life, and the whole issue of the purpose of life was discussed and I found it intriguing. Are we just the sum of atoms and cells and once we are gone that's it? Or is there something more?

I love a good spooky ghost story and I think it's incredibly hard to write a good one. I wrote a few while I was feeling freaked out on retreat (which probably didn't help my fear!) last year, and I sent a couple of them out to magazines. One was rejected and I guess the other one has been too. But I shall keep trying to write them. I've also written short stories about superstitions - never walking under ladders, and having a respect for Magpies where I have to greet them whenever I see one - this can be time consuming as we have a lot of them round these parts!

I think writers can really use their fears, rational or irrational, to bring their writing to life - give it some true emotion that moves the reader. I often think that anyone who labels a fear 'irrational' might not think it so if they were afraid of whatever it was too. My husband laughs and pooh poohs my fear of spiders and wasps but only until I ask him if he'd like to go and look at some rats (especially the white ones with pink eyes) at the pet shop with me. That shuts him up! One person's irrational fear is another persons rational fear! I personally love rats.

So when you're thinking up a theme for another short story, poem or novel, why not look into the world of fear, superstition and ghosts? It's an Aladdin's cave for writers, it really it!


I've been compiling a list of questions and studying the website of my next victim - I mean interviewee - it always pays to be prepared.

I have made contact with a couple of people I hope can help me with sourcing photos for one of my articles.

Got a couple of poem ideas floating around in my head at the moment and the urge to work on them is getting stronger.

Got another rejection - this time from Women's Weekly - a Christmas themed short story. But did a count and still have 20 other stories out there and a few more in the pipe line almost ready to join them!

Going to see Carol Ann Duffy at my local Literary Festival Friday night.

It's the Wrekin Writers workshop for the same Literary Festival on Saturday with Nick Fletcher, local writer, on writing articles and short stories - I'll be in heaven! And I'm on tea duty.

Saturday night I'm off to see a performance of the Woman In White by my local Am Dram group - the one I've seen them rehearsing and the one I mentioned in my local paper feature about them. Unfortunately I have lost the review for the same paper as I can't get to their first night performance tonight. But that's the way it goes. I have other priorities and can't always be in the right place at the right time - daughter comes first and that's the way it should be.

Have a nice weekend, whatever you're doing. And don't forget to write about it!

Got a stinking cold which isn't helping!


Suzanne Jones said...

Hugs for the R, but 20 stories still out there is incredibly impressive. And tons of good ideas for stories in this post, Julie.

My mum used to keep my sister and I up to watch horror films because she was too scared to watch them on her own. As a result, I've always been able to scare myself witless without really trying.

I admire your restraint in not doing hubby serious harm for his prank. :-)


Julie P said...

Thanks, Suzanne. Yes, I think ghosts and the paranormal - or whatever it is makes for excellent stories.

Thanks for your hugs re the R! But I remain hopefully. Hope all is well with your writing too.

I can see the funny side of the prank now - it was ingenious!

Julie xx

Teresa Ashby said...

I'm very superstitious, Julie and I get scared very easily and I have seen a ghost, but he wasn't at all frightening.

I did laugh about the Beast of Bodmin chasing you - your hubby has got such a great sense of fun hasn't he, even if he did scare you half to death.

Julie P said...

You've seen a ghost?! How exciting - well, I wouldn't know if I'd be excited or scared if I saw one. I get scared so easily too - it's pathetic really! I hate the dark - particularly if I'm alone.

I know! I can't believe I fell for the beast of bodmin moor trick. But I was young, naive and in love! That's my excuse anyway. There's no way he'd get away with it now - too much water under the bridge. He would know better than to try anything like that now!
He has a sense of something - not sure I'd call it fun!!

Julie xx