When I have an idea for a story but know I won’t get to it for a while, I will write out whatever scene I’m seeing in my head so that I don’t lose it or forget about it by the time I get around to writing that story.
More often than not, that story keeps rolling around in my head as I’m writing other things, and sometimes, by the time I sit down with it, it’s changed and morphed into something much different than the original concept.
While rummaging through some folders on the computer today, I found this passage titled, “The Curve”. This was the original concept that would become Sloane’s story in The Ghost in the Curve, Volume 1 in my Cedar Creek Mysteries.
Many of you may have heard me say that the idea came from a real-life curve I needed to pass through on my way to and from home many years ago.
The curve was part of a narrow, winding, two-lane road that meandered along the shores of a large lake. In this particular section of the road, it wrapped around a small inlet of the larger lake, the water so close to the pavement that the inside lane would flood in heavy rains. Tall cypress trees towered above the curve, draped in Spanish moss whose wispy strands danced in the wind.
At night, most of the road was pitch black. It was a rural area with few houses and no street lights for miles. The curve, blanketed by the trees as it was and hugging that inky body of dark water so closely, always pricked at my imagination.
How horrible would that be to wreck in that curve and end up in that black water? Or how scary would it be to break down or have a flat in that deserted, eerie stretch of road? As my mind ran with its fears, I would try to picture what it might be like to walk alone on that pavement in the darkness.
How lonely might that feel? What sounds would you hear? How much would you be able to see once your eyes had adjusted? And what other living beings might you encounter as you walked through their nocturnal world?
Those musings led to a story idea about a sixteen-year-old girl who moves into a fictional cabin in the curve with her family and who enjoys walking the property at night. On one of these walks, the newcomer encounters another girl the same age as her, but this teen is not among the living. She passed away in an auto accident in that curve thirteen years earlier.
She wasn’t a scary ghost, mostly because that would have scared me to write her that way. She was friendly, and she was just as surprised as the newcomer to learn they could see each other and communicate.
With this story, I always knew the ghost girl carried a secret she was desperate to reveal, and once I came back to it and began to flesh out the details, I discovered that her baby brother had been kidnapped at the scene of the accident and did not die with her as the world believed. She needed someone to find him and restore him to his rightful family.
As I delved deeper into the plot, I kept hitting roadblocks with my sixteen-year-old amateur sleuth trying to conduct the kind of investigation needed to find the ghost’s brother. So, in an early revision, the newcomer became twenty-nine, and instead of living in the cabin with her family, she was running from her former life and seeking refuge in the woods. (Changing her age also allowed me to add a romantic element to the story with the addition of a handsome deputy!)
Not wanting to lose the crucial connection between Sloane, the amateur sleuth, and Chelsea, her ghostly client, I determined they were still born the same year and therefore essentially the same age–like the original story–but each had experienced a life-altering occurrence at age sixteen. Sloane appeared in her first film and lost her anonymity and her independence in some degree due to the film’s success and her subsequent fame. Chelsea lost her life, admittedly a much more devastating circumstance, but both were in some ways stuck in that teenage mindset.
If you haven’t read The Ghost in the Curve, I recommend you check it out to see what happens with Sloane’s investigation and her friendship with Chelsea in the final version of the tale. But here is that first passage I wrote years ago to remind me that someday I wanted to write a story about a ghost in a curve.
I was sixteen when we moved into the house in the curve. It was the first brand-new house I had ever lived in. We were so excited to move in. There had been several construction delays, and I was beginning to get nervous that we wouldn‘t be in before my seventeenth birthday. I was really looking forward to having a party in our new backyard, which sloped down to the lake underneath a canopy of tall, majestic trees. Mom and I had planned to hang twinkle lights from the trees and light tiki torches around a fire pit. Dad said we could even get a DJ, a professional one. Not just my brother on his computer. But the builder had finally come through, and we moved in with 3 months to spare.
This was my dad’s dream property. He had ridden through the curve every day of his life, going back and forth to school as a boy and then to work as a man. Dad grew up just a few miles past the curve, in the modest house my grandparents built when they first got married. Dad and my uncle Tommy spent most of their childhood on the lake. Dad loved the way the lake hugged against the road in the curve and the way the gently sloping hill rose away from the water and into the trees.
He had said from a very young age that one day he was going to build a house there on that sloping hill. My mom and dad saved for years to buy that property. It was a miracle that no one had built on it sooner. Most of the north side of the lake was completely filled with big fancy houses. But this side was all owned by Mr. Baxter, and he hated all the developments on the lake. He refused to sell to anyone.
That was before he met my mom, though. She could be quite the charmer. Especially when she wanted something badly. And she wanted to give my dad his dream more than anything. They had talked about the lake house for as long as I could remember. I had seen the drawings and plans for the house for years before we actually built it. I felt like I had lived there forever by the time we moved in.
The house wasn’t huge, but it was bigger than the one we had. Carly and I finally got our own separate rooms, which was awesome. No one in high school should ever have to share a room with a fifth grader with an eight o’clock bedtime.
But the best part of the new house for me was the yard. It was ginormous! Having lived in a cookie cutter neighborhood my whole life, I was used to a postage-stamp size yard that took all of an hour to mow. This yard was a little over three acres, covered in huge trees that shaded the house and the yard and created funky patterns on the ground where the sun peeked through.
I suddenly became an outdoors girl, spending all my free time down by the lake or sitting against a tree reading. I especially loved to walk the yard at night, listening to the songs of the crickets and frogs along the water. It was incredibly loud and unbelievably peaceful. My mom was amazed that I enjoyed walking around in the dark. To her it was spooky and gloomy, but to me, it was serene and beautiful.
On a clear windless night, the moon would light up the lake until it almost looked like glass. There were too many street lights in our old neighborhood, and their glow robbed the night sky of her splendor. There always seemed to be a haze that obscured the stars so that only the brightest ones showed through. But here above the lake, the stars were infinite. No matter where you looked, they twinkled and gleamed. And if you held your gaze long enough in one spot, more stars seemed to appear behind the first ones, as though space went on forever. Which I guess it pretty much does.
The first night I saw her, there was a full moon. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the lake reflected the moon’s bright light so brilliantly that it almost seemed like the dawn was coming hours early.
I had walked out on the dock to get a better view of the sky, but the large tree branches stretched like tendrils across the sky and blocked my view. I had decided to walk down through the trees to the road to stand in the curve where the lake comes right to the roadside. I figured from there I would be able to see the lake and the stars open up like a huge Imax theater.
I kept glancing back over my shoulder at the deck to make sure Mom didn’t come outside. She would probably flip out if she knew I was walking in the road at night, but it really wasn’t dangerous. You could hear a car turn off the main road from a mile away, and you could tell the cars coming from the other direction when they slowed down for the large S-curve before our house. If I heard a car, I would have plenty of time to get back across the guard rail and into our yard.
I had just reached the middle of the curve and stopped to glance back at the house when a chilly breeze blew against my face. I shivered a bit and hugged my arms closer to me, not even stopping to wonder where a cold breeze came from in the middle of July.
When I turned to look back at the road, she was standing there. She was a little shorter than me, with long hair that swirled around her face in the wind.
If you’d like to read the final version of The Ghost of the Curve, you can find it on my website’s Cedar Creek page, or you can find links to all your favorite online retailers by clicking here.
Comment and let me know what you thought about the original story concept!