"My Time on Earth" by Ian Creasey — story background

Earth is a world full of ghosts.  That's because it's so full of people, and they've got all that history they keep going on about.  I wanted to see a ghost, as there's no point visiting Earth if you don't see anything weird.  When I asked my parents if we could do one of the ghost walks, they weren't keen.  But they wouldn't let me go on my own, so I just kept nagging them —

Yes, Stacey, I did see a ghost.  Eventually.  I'm getting to it!  Do you want to hear this story, or not?  Sit down and listen, all of you, and eat your chocolate.

This story arose from the following note in my 'Fragments' file: "In a future of interstellar travel, Earth is naturally a tourist attraction due to its rich history.  Of the many sightseeing tours available on Earth, 'ghost walks' are particularly popular.  There are far more ghosts on Earth than on the colony worlds, because so many more people have lived and died here."

I have no idea where that seed came from, or when, or why.  My 'Fragments' file is a repository for whatever random notions happen to drift into my head.  Most of them never amount to anything.  The problem with fragments is that by their nature, they suggest an image or a character, but they don't specify a full story.  There's a lot of work involved in developing the initial notion.

Basically, a story needs a plot.  In 2013, I came up with an outline and decided to write the story.  I set it in York, because York is an old city (founded by the Romans), and this tied in with the premise of Earth having a lot of history.  Also, York currently has several ghost walks aimed at tourists, so I figured it was plausible that this would still be the case in future.  Finally, a few readers had commented that one thing they liked about my writing was its strong sense of place, particularly for the stories set in Yorkshire.  I enjoy using Yorkshire locations, and it's easier to write about somewhere you know than to make up a new setting.  So if a story can reasonably be set in Yorkshire, then I often take advantage of that.

As well as a plot and a setting, a story needs a protagonist.  Who is the offworld tourist who comes to York and participates in a ghost walk?  I decided that it would be a child, because children are more likely to believe in ghosts.  And I decided to write the story in first person, from the child's viewpoint.  This meant that the narrative needed to be in the voice of a child who was self-confident and a trifle over-indulged (since holidays on Earth are expensive).  The voice, once I settled into it, turned out to be a lot of fun to write.  I finished the first draft of the story in just two days, which is fast by my standards.

Of course, the draft needed a lot more than two days' worth of editing, but that's always the way.

Page last updated: 9 April 2019