I finished the Chris Benoit ghost story last night. I think it needs another going over before I send it to a beta reader, but holy fuck! I don’t know if it is objectively scary, but it scares the shit out of me. Like every time I go into work on it, I feel my whole body just tighten up.
When I write, I kind of feel like I am both guiding and being guided. So, like with this story, I knew I wanted to scare myself. I knew the main character is afraid he has CTE and is going to hurt his family. And I knew he was thinking about Chris Benoit. But it wasn’t until I got into writing it that I realized he was seeing Chris Benoit around the house and that this was why he was especially worried that the CTE was getting him.
Okay, that’s something that freaks me out. But then, all of a sudden, he says that he saw Chris Benoit that morning at his son’s house. And then he’s trying to hand his baby grandson to the ghost of Chris Benoit. And his daughter-in-law is all “What the fuck?” And then I had to stare off into space for a while.
And then he learns his son sees Chris Benoit, too.
And, in fact, that’s why he’s sitting in this bar, trying not to drink, talking to this priest. Because he thinks he has to kill his son to protect his grandson from his son pulling something like Benoit.
Holy shit! That scares the crap out of me. Dude KNOWS his brain isn’t working right. He KNOWS he’s having delusions. He is TERRIFIED that he’s going to harm his family because of this brain injury he’s worried he has. And yet, he is certain that he’s interpreting his son’s situation correctly. And certain that he’s come to the correct solution for the situation.
Gives me the wiggums.
But only some of that did I know when I set out to write. It was by writing that I learned that the other stuff had to happen.
I guess this is one reason that I like outlining–I like to know what things I think are important ahead of time. But I don’t like to outline too closely because you never know exactly where the story will go.
I’m not sure this is the best thing I’ve ever written. It shares a lot of things in common with “Frank”–male point of view, unreliable narrator, brain shit–but I thought “Frank” ended on an ambiguously hopeful note. In a world where zombies are real, couldn’t a woman figure out a slim hope for bringing her husband back from zombie-dom?
I don’t know what would stop my nameless ex-football player. He’s going home to kill his son and unless the priest figures out that that’s what he’s up to, he’s going to succeed in doing the very thing he’s feared through the whole story he would do.
So, I don’t know how great it is objectively as a story, but as an exercise in writing something that scares me, it has succeeded.