My Novelette: The Exorcism of Jack Evans

Good evening! Tonight is the final entry in my three part series talking about the most ambitious stories I’ve written.  Like the previous two entries, I’ll be sticking with the same format.  The primary goal is to provide insight into my creative process.  A secondary goal, which I don’t think I mentioned in the previous posts, is to practice talking about my stories and describing what makes them special.  I think this kind of practice is important for making me better at querying.

Here is a list of the things I’ll talk about regarding The Exorcism of Jack Evans.

  • What It’s About
  • The Inspiration
  • The Writing Process


What It’s About

The Exorcism of Jack Evans is about a man named Jack that is murdered before the story even begins.  He finds himself as a ghost hovering over his own still cooling body.  He soon sets out after the person that shot him hoping that he can somehow make his revenge.


What is it REALLY About

This is actually the first time I’ve talked about this story like this, so I’m having a more difficult time describing this story than I had the other two.  The Exorcism of Jack Evans is split into three equal parts.  The first part follows Jack as a ghost and his struggles and horror at existing without a body.  The second part follows Jack’s murderer once Jack has caught up with him, and the third part follows the priest that ultimately brings Jack’s story to an end.

When I started the story, I didn’t realize I was writing psychological horror.  Given the things I knew would take place, I should have known.  I probably didn’t think about it because I’ve never tried to write a horror story before.  This one went to some very dark places.

In terms of themes, there is quite a bit going on in a very short amount of time.  There is a contrast across all three characters in how they deal with loss.  I don’t want to talk about spoilers, but I will say that this touches on suicide, and there is some sexually graphic content.  I think I handle both in a way that is respectful.  I think the material belongs in this story.  None of it is there for shock value or titillation.  However, I feel it’s important to give people a fair warning before they read it.


The Inspiration

While listening to N. K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, I had a really hard time with the parts that were in second person.  I think it had a lot to do with it being an audio book.  The narrator kept telling me that I did certain things and felt certain ways and I just kept arguing with her.  The second person parts of the story made me feel uncomfortable.  It made me feel like someone was trying to take over, and I didn’t like it.  I wound up turning off the audio book without finishing it.

The experience of fighting with the second person narration stuck with me.  Some time later, I asked myself what I could do with a story in second person?  Remembering how the audio book of The Fifth Season made me feel, I decided that it would be perfect for a possession story.

After that, I decided to write the story in three parts.  The first part would be in first person, the second in second, the third in third.  I came up with the name of the main character and the name of the story first.  Then I did some plotting.

All of the beats I wanted to cover in the first and second part seemed obvious to me from the start.  The third part, on the other hand, gave me a hard time.  I knew there’d be a funeral but I didn’t have a clear vision of anything else.  For the longest time, I had no idea how I was going to wrap up the story because I didn’t know what the third part was all about.

After listening to an episode of Writing Excuses talking about character arcs, I decided to apply the DREAM tool to all three parts or my outline to see what that would reveal.  If you don’t click the link, DREAM stands for:

  • Denial
  • Resistance
  • Acceptance
  • Exploration
  • Manifestation

After applying that tool, I had a concrete view of what I was going to explore in the first and second part.  The third part was still a little bit fuzzy, but I had enough to work with.  I felt confident that I could write the story and that it would be powerful.

On the cruise, I pulled out my outline and started writing it.  I finished it earlier this week.


Where is it Now?

I haven’t shared it with anyone.  I finished the first draft and I still need to do a good edit.  It is 15,000 words which makes it a novelette.  If you’re curious, the word count ranges look like this:

Word Count Classification
Under 7500 Short Story
7500 to 17,499 Novelette
17,500 to 39,999 Novella
40,000 and above Novel

I’ve written a few short stories before but I think this is my first novelette.  It’s also my first adult psychological horror.  I don’t know where I’d be able to sell this or if I even could.

It is a really good story.  Even though I started writing it for my own amusement and with no other audience in mind, I think it’s something special.  However, with its length and subject matter, I won’t be surprised if it’s something that never goes anywhere.  I’ll keep my eyes open but I won’t hold my breath.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts.  In November, I’m going to restart the novel I put on pause for NaNoWriMo last year.  I don’t expect to reach 50,000 words in thirty days due to the nature of the story.  I don’t think it’s going to be something I can rush.  But I do have a complete outline to work from.  In many ways, I’m more prepared for this year than I’ve been any other year.  Starting in about a week, we’ll see how prepared I really am.