The audio version of “Being a Ghost – It’s a Thriller” appears below, just hit play.
I’ve never really thought about ghost writing before. Well, that’s not true, I have thought about it, just not very seriously. It was while reading The Ghost by Robert Harris a few years back. Great book by the way, you should read it. The movie? Meh. Anywho…while I was reading the book it occurred to me that it might be kind of fun to dive into someone else’s soul and try and figure out exactly what makes them tick on whatever level it was they were trying to achieve with their particular project.
In the case of The Ghost, the main character is a ghostwriter who writes biographies for small time celebrities. That seems kind of boring to me, and I dismissed it straight away. It doesn’t seem like any real fun could come out of getting into someone’s actual life. But, being able to infiltrate someone else’s fiction ideas while trying to create some kind of symbiosis with another would be author could be very entertaining indeed. Then I finished the book and those thoughts just went away.
Recently, I fell into a project whereby one of those would be authors made contact and asked if I’d be interested in putting a rough story into some kind of readable form. I figured “what the hell”, I was bored with my own stuff at that moment and needed a distraction. Now, this person isn’t exactly what you’d call communicative – which I suppose is the whole reason he/she (I have no idea which, as this person always refers to him/herself as “we”) is going with a ghostwriter in the first place. I’m provided very little in terms of substantive content to operate on and the emails we shoot back and forth are very word heavy on my part and very cryptic on theirs. I was given a one page sheet entitled “background” and a couple of chapters consisting of about three pages each (when I was done each chapter was about 30 pages) which were not poorly written, just lacking in any kind of filler or character development.
Even though this person contacted me, I had to compete against some other authors in order to get the gig. So, to be totally honest, I really didn’t invest myself in the story at first – in fact, it just kind of rolled out of my head and my attitude was “if I get it, great. If not, screw this person.” I submitted what I wrote and got this response:
“We love what you did with it. Still reviewing other authors.”
That was it – nothing else.
I sat looking at the words indignantly. If “they” loved it – then what the fuck is with this “other authors” crap? If you love it, you love it – I should be in. Then I did something that is so diametrically opposed to my shitty attitude, that even I was amazed. In my mind, I basically begged for the job, by asking if there was anything “they” wanted changed, or edited. Keep in mind this is like, no money really, and heaven only knows if it’s going to really be published (I was assured it would be), so there’s not much at stake. But, that doesn’t matter; I wanted to do this thing.
I got this response:
“No. No changes needed.”
Oh, well, hell, thanks for that. So, I waited. Months. In fact, my self-righteousness and ego subsided and I forgot about the project altogether.
Then I got an email with “Remember Us?” in the subject line. It was asking for another chapter. A little shiver went through me. I went back and read what I had written for the first few chapters. Suddenly, I really wanted to know where this story was going.
It’s hard to explain this kind of thrill. I always refer to writing a story as the same kind of excitement that comes from reading one, because you never really know where it’s going or how it will end. But, the one thing remaining constant is that it’s your brain the stuff is coming from, so the continuity is always there. This, – this was something completely different – it was an amalgam of the fun of reading and the thrill of writing, all wrapped up in a hot little package.
For the first time in ages, I blocked out a chunk of time, told everyone in the family to go to Hell for a while, and I wrote the fuck out of that chapter. I stopped once to get another cup of Dark Magic, but that was it – I even held my bladder until the chapter was finished. I did like, three edits – all spelling. I read it once, and only once and hit the send button.
My mysterious friend doesn’t have the latest version of Word, something I’d forgotten over the months, so he/she (“they” rather), didn’t get it on the first shot. I had to re-format. Can I tell you? I nearly exploded when it didn’t go through the first time. I was so anxious for “them” to see it. Especially, since the “client” I guess you would call “them”, used the phrase “dying to read it”, when requesting the format change. I changed that format and sent it so quickly I thought the enter button on my Mac would request some time off.
“They” loved it.
So, now I wait, impatiently for the next chapter. I have no idea why I find this so exciting. The only near parallel I can draw is its like some kind of intellectual voyeurism. Trying to figure out what it is someone else’s mind is creating almost as it’s happening is a crazy, crazy feeling – and, apparently getting it right is a high I cannot explain. I imagine it may be the same kind of rush people get when they watch other people…you know, do it. It’s so intimate and something you are not usually privy to. Hell, I’m a horror show when I’m writing; I want NOBODY to see anything until I’m finished. My poor wife Amy has been abused so badly whilst looking over my shoulder when I’m in the zone, that’s its embarrassing – especially when I was finishing up 5 Tales for the e-book.
I could never do it. I would never be able to say to someone – “Here’s some ideas for a story – have at it.” It’s just not in my nature, its far too personal. But, damn, I’ll tell ya; if you have some good ideas and want them written out – call me, maybe.