Ghost stories are fantastic. Who doesn’t love a good ghost story? The key word being good. The traditional ghost story that sends tingles down your spine and makes you laugh that strange, high pitched relieved giggle at the end. I have always enjoyed ghost stories.
However, I don’t enjoy ghosts that are used as a plot device because the author just wrote themselves into a corner and now they need the ghost to explain something to the protagonist or the entire story will collapse in on itself. The final book of the Harry Potter series was one of the more recent books to seriously annoy me by doing this.
Yes there will be spoilers for people who have not yet read the Harry Potter books.
Book six sees Dumbledore (mentor and guide) finally removed from the story. Great. We can finally see Harry take some initiative and take control. He has been the protagonist for six books and he still hasn’t actually made any decision other than, I’m going to walk into danger and see what happens. Book seven. The final year of school (assuming any of the main characters were still in school), the final show down with evil, this is Harry’s chance.
Oh wait a second. He doesn’t know about this and that. He doesn’t understand this. Nobody told him that yet. In point of fact, nobody told the reader either so they don’t have a clue what is going on. Great. Bring on the ghost of Dumbledore past and in an extremely long winded flash back he can explain an entire back story that didn’t exist until this point but will conveniently tell Harry exactly what he needs to do next.
Ghosts can be great characters. They can also fill in the a few of the blanks. However if you entire plot relies on the summoning of a ghost to do a massive info dump at the last minute I’m pretty sure some of your readers will be upset.
So what is your opinion? Is the ghost a useful plot device or a crux used to explain things away?
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