Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Spooky Houses: Getting it Down on Paper

I love Supernatural stories, and you can’t get far into most Supernatural stories without soon arriving at the front gate, door, path to, etc., the obligatory spooky house. Having tried to write a few tales myself, I can say that these portrait, or snapshot passages that give us the first look at the “house as character” are freaking hard to write—right up there with trying to paint the erotic or sexual in a perfect sentence or two. That said, I thought I would post a few of those more winning passages that I have come across while reading up and down the ghost story spectrum, beginning with one of the best in my humble opinion ….

from the Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

A real departure from the hundreds of spooky house paragraphs that build the house, brick by brick by window and window casement, by paint color, shingle condition, etc., right before your eyes. Plenty of those work well, but I like how this paragraph, aside from being just plain amazing from a language standpoint, uses mood, atmosphere, a little personification, and scant landscaping (its hills) to create an impression, a very foreboding impression, of Hill House.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely one of the best opening paragraphs in literature.