Cliff McNish is the best-selling author of the Doomspell series and many dark teen novels such as Breathe, Angel and The Hunting Ground. He says:
A diary is the perfect vehicle for telling a ghost story. What do you reveal? What do you hide?
Here, Cliff adapts the opening of his spooky thriller The Hunting Ground to show you how you might think about starting your own diary-based supernatural chiller. See if it draws you in ...
Hello! I’m Theo, and this is the premier entry in my first ever diary.
Don’t ask me why I’ve decided to start a diary. There’s just something about this weird holiday house we’re staying in that makes it seem worth it.
My little sister, Eve, says diaries are dumb, but she’s only seven and thinks everything not related to herself or her dolls is dumb, so we’ll ignore her view.
OK. Date and time check. It’s 9.42 a.m. OK, a few facts. I’m fifteen, brown hair, six feet tall, well, only three inches less than that, and—
Hold on. Mum just looked over my shoulder and says I’m starting all wrong. She says you’re supposed to confess things in diaries. So I’ll start off by confessing something on her behalf. Her hair caught fire yesterday. She was bending over a candlelit table on Dad’s birthday, about to kiss him, when she got a bit too close to the flame. What I learned in that moment is that you can’t control how fast hair burns.
Anyway, now you know my family. We’ve been in Glebe House for about a week already. It’s weird here. There are these strange portraits everywhere, and the place is so big. You never know where anyone is.
Hi again. Eve just did an amazing thing. She went out with one of Mum’s art pads and came back with a really impressive sketch of trees near a slope. Until now Eve’s just been proudly handing us stick-type drawings. None of us know where this great new leap in skill came from. Did someone else help her? If so, she’s not telling us who it is.
I met a girl today. Her name’s Janey Roberts. Her family live in a tiny little detached house across the fields. She’s around sixteen or seventeen, and she’s tall, with these intense blue eyes and straight black hair. She’s forever wandering on her own around the Glebe estate wearing a dress with real flowers on it. That’s weird enough but the weirdest part is how around a third of the flowers are shrunken and dead. I asked Janey why she doesn’t get rid of the dead ones. She told me that she wears them ‘as long as she can, even if they’re not in season, because they’re the dead children’s favourites.’
Do you want to carry on writing this story, decide yourself how it develops and ends?
Or perhaps you’d like to come up with your own ghost story based upon the diary?
If you want to find out why Janey was wearing dead flowers, you’ll find the answer in his dark novel The Hunting Ground.