Monday, February 12, 2007

The Malignity of Ghosts

A 19th century Japanese woodblock print by Ulagawa Kuniyoshi for a kabuki ghost play.

The traditional spectral world of folk lore contains an amazing variety of creatures.
The literary world even more.

Zombies, ghouls, draugr, revenants.
I think I like the term revenants best.
Somehow I find it difficult to take the word zombies seriously. Zoom, zoom. Which they don't.
Doesn't sound wicked enough.
But it seems we're stuck with it.

The reason I've been contemplating all this is because of an occupational hazard: a complete opening scene for a paranormal materialized in that devilish way such things do, and I am tempted to drop everything and pursue it down the corridors of legend.
And yes, it involves a zombie.
Perhaps more than one.
Perhaps an entire cemetery of them.
Subsequent details are a little insubstantial right now and I have only about a quarter of a full-bodied plot. I have the why but not the what else.

The opening lines are thus:

I was standing there naked when a dead man sauntered into my bathroom.
Sauntered, not shambled.
That was the second frightening thing


Amy Lavender Harris said...

Ooh, ooh! I hope you run with it! Where'd he leave his grave wrappings?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a hoot!
My zombie book is at Loose Id, but it won't be out until October 2007. (A Halloween release, what else?) The first line is:
"His arm fell off again."


Bernita said...

He's in his funeral suit, Amy. No shrouds.
I need a plot.And I need to decide if paranormal creatures are normal as in urban fantasy or unusual.

That's a good gris-grisly opening line, Sam!

anna said...

Sounds like fun - supposed to be?
or scary?

Jaye Wells said...

Sounds great, Bernita. Good luck unburying your plot. ;)

Bernita said...

Thank you, Anna and Jaye.
That's a question I haven't decided yet - the flavour/tone - breezy or scary.
Think I might have a hard time sustaining serious without a fair amount of levity.

spyscribbler said...

That sounds awesome, Bernita! It has that tinge of humor about it that makes it perfect.

I usually have difficulty with zombies, too. I don't know why, and not in Pet Sematary, though. That was one scary book and movie!

writtenwyrdd said...

That is a great opening. I demand you tell me what the first frightening thing was...does it involve style in dress? LOL.

What I do when such things occur is spend a couple of hours writing down my thoughts so I can pick it up later, then save it in the book ideas folder. Because I got tired of having a lot of beginnings and never finishing anything! (I have at least 35 first chapters with notes and etc.)

Bernita said...

Thank you, Natasha.
Maybe because they are usually defined as mindless - and so the horror is in their basic existence and therefore limited?

The first frightening thing, Written, is that he's the walking dead - and she knows him.
I could very easily get like that - lots of beginnings and no completions. Sometimes it's very hard to pick one and run with it.

Dave said...

GIven the current spate of TV and movies about paranormal stuff, sure it's believeable. There's Medium, Ghost Rider, Charmed repeats, Psych, and all that.

And I think that there are only a few logical things that a zombie can say to a naked woman.
a) Darling I've missed you,
b) Be not afraid,
c) Help me find the person who did this to me,
d) I wanna eat your brain,
e) If you don't listen, you're next.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

And why, pray tell, were you just 'standing'? LOL...she taps her foot waiting for the rest of the story.

Mwhahaha...the snow is headed here...mmwhaha!

Bernita said...

I may be handicapped regarding zombies, Dave, since I've never seen those shows.
Considering how a revenant is under the control of the animator, I think d) is most likely.

Ok, Okaaay, Bonnie. I post a little more tomorrow!

Too cold here for anything other than a lake effect skitter.

Gabriele C. said...

A plot zombie. Well, they seem to be around since even I got a plot selkie, and I don't do paramormal. Have fun and good luck.

with a line like that I'd expect a humorous book. But then, horror had odd effects on me, I've giggled all the way through Poltergeist and Scream.

Anonymous said...

I like the "sauntered". The shambling image is how we tend to minimize our fear of the returned dead i.e. if they're ridiculous then they can't be that bad. But dead and graceful - but neither vampire nor angel - now THAT's scary. Just not fair, she sniffs. Him dead and all, but still walking around as if he owns the place.


Bernita said...

Thank you, Gabriele.
It was a weird collection of associations that produced this.
In fact, I'm wondering if "plot bunny" is a misnomer - they really are plot zombies.

Anonymous said...

It is a funny book - I made him a stripper - and he's looking for the guy that murdered him.

It's funny - I often start books from characters, phrases, or character sketches and fit the plot around that. It sounds like that's what you're doing Bernita.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Asa. I hoped to convey something a little different.

Bernita said...

Sam, that's exactly what I'm doing. Got a "what if," and there was the opening.
But I'm trying, really trying, not to panster this one.

raine said...

Gawd, I LOVE it!!

You MUST write it! :-D

Marie said...

Sounds great. I would be interested to read more. Good luck, Bernita.

JLB said...

You've certainly piqued my interest!

Erik Ivan James said...

With an opening like that, you can go in almost any direction you want to. It is already either "light" or "dark", depending the mood with which one reads it. The first time I read those lines, I thought it humorous. The second reading, I thought, "damn, that would be spooky." Go for it!

Bernita said...

Raine, you are one of the nicest people!

Thank you, Marie.I have to decide on the world before I build it.

JLB, that's encouraging!

Bernita said...

That's one of my quandaries, Erik!

Dave said...

I remembered that the zombies in "An American Werewolf in London" were comic relief. They came back to taunt the newly created werewolf and tell him to kill himself so they could die. Each time they showed up with more decay. If you ever see the movie, they are really, hysterically funny in a ghoulish way.
BTW - forget "An Anerican Werewolf in Paris." It's not fun at all.

He couls say - Hoeny I need a shower to wash this dirt off. Next time you try to kill me, use (something else).

Kate Thornton said...

I love it, Bernita. Write more!

I think if a loved one zombie ever showed up, I'd have a very hard time letting go. It's every bereaved person's favorite poignant fantasy, the hope they'll show up and not really be gone.

It's why we love them, laugh at them, and make them creepy, too.

Bernita said...

I've always avoided the horror stuff, Dave, though I've read Lovecraft and Poe, etc.

Thought of that scenario, Kate, but didn't feel like negotiating the legal problems, for one, or zombie sex, for another.
Though I think having the zombie a loved one is about the only way one could get around the mega-squick factor - if that's possible.
Also, don't want this to end up as a kind of Anita Blake fanfic.

Dave said...

When I was a kid, one of the local TV stations broadcast a movie every Saturday night as "Chiller Theater" and it was always fun. Old B&W movies with strange beasts and weird aliens.

In college I got to go see a taping of it and met the announcer, Bill Cardille (Chilly Billy), and his host of live characters (a luscious lady called "Terminal Stare" and a midget named something, I forget). He wore a great toupee, even bought it with gray hair when he got old.

Bill Cardille did the weather and some news duties when they needed him on WPXI. You can see him in a movie role - he was the TV announcer that appears in the beginning of George Romero's original "Night of the Living Dead."

Which is why this all gets back to Zombies. Many times, I shopped at the mall showed in the original "Dawn of the Dead." Besides, Romero and I are Alumni, of Carnegie Mellon University (although he graduated years before I graduated).

Those movies set the standard for slow-moving, semi-stupid zombies with a taste for flesh. Also, they invented the kill by blowing the brains out. In fact, Tom Savini's makeup is still copies today for zombies.

And Romero's Night of the living Dead has a black (negro) hero. In 1968, that was groundbreaking. So are the end credits of the movie. A resolution of the movie occurs behind the rolling credits.

But Romero's zombies, and his vision of zombie life stands as the primo-genitor for all films after. Even beyond Tim Matheson's "I am Legend."

Bernita said...

That's interesting, Dave, thank you.
Medieval zombies, from accounts, appear to have been very animated - sorry I could resist that.Mainly self-motivated.
However, zombie victims of vodoun are represented as slow, clumsy and controlled by another.

Tattieheid said...

I like it.

Scary with humour works for me.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Tattieheid.