Using Ghosts to Explore Structure

During an early February post, I commented on Amor Towles’ novel, The Lincoln Highway, and its structure. Exploring structure from a different angle is Emily Hauser’s For the Most Beautiful, a retelling of Homer’s Trojan Wars epic.

Hauser’s tale deviates from Homer’s telling by examining the wars through the eyes of the women of Troy. Like Towles, Hauser uses multiple voices and POV characters. She offers a chorus of gods and goddesses who toy with mortals, directing their fates, while they sit on Mount Ida conversing among themselves.

Ghosts or other beings often serve as a chorus in modern novels. In my novel, If You Walk Long Enough, ghosts appear to Reid. His inner conflicts are not created by these ghosts but become the catalysts which cause him to question his actions and decisions.  One ghost appears to Reid during the hour of the wolf—midnight—initially as a phone call, but later as a disembodied voice. This male voice challenges him to remember the war years, but more importantly, to examine his own actions.  

The apparition of his Vietnamese lover approaches him throughout the book. She leads him as he crosses the line between the living and the remembered. Additionally, she reflects changes in his relationship with Ellie.

Ghosts of friends and Vietnamese soldiers appear to Reid randomly as he tries to restructure his life and find meaning for those years spent away from home. As time goes by, he sees the ghosts as companions, not to be dreaded, but much like himself, souls seeking peace.

Authors often use this technique to represent contradictory actions and thoughts for their characters. This crossover between the present and other dimensions can lend new depth to your reading and writing.

5 comments

  1. I really loved the way you used the ghosts in your novel. You were able to share things about Reid’s character and emotions that couldn’t have been expressed any other way. An invaluable tool for any author. Well done.

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  2. As a writer I have difficulty with POV from one character only. When I read The Lincoln Highway, I was encouraged to continue to explore outside the usual writing box. Thanks for reading the blog and commenting. Cheers to you as we trot down the writing road.

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