Behind the Scenes Don't Date the Haunted

Behind the Scenes of “Don’t Date the Haunted,” Chapter 19

THE CLIMAX! What originally happened to Theo? Why does it happen as it does?

If this chapter had a theme song, it would be “Into Darkness,” by Thomas Bergersen. Not only did I listen to this song (among many others on the “Audiomachine Radio”) while editing this book, but every time I hear it, I go to this chapter in my mind.

Yes, it’s 9:20 minutes long. Just wait to 5:55. For someone who was raised on symphonic and enjoys “heavy beat” music, this hits all the right chords.

Alright, if you don’t know what book or chapter I’m talking about, PLEASE read “Don’t Date the Haunted” through chapter 19 BEFORE reading this post! THIS IS THE CLIMAX! I’m not kidding! Extreme spoilers ahead if you haven’t read the book! If you don’t have “Don’t Date the Haunted,” you can get it on Amazon.

To start off, here’s a personal experience.

If you’re going to die, do it on your own time, not mine.

– Mr. E, “Don’t Date the Haunted,” pg. 223

My high school had a literary and art magazine, and I had the joys of being the Poetry Editor in Chief for my senior year. When publishing our magazine, we took a field trip to the printing warehouse. We didn’t have funds for a bus to take us, so we separated into three cars to drive ourselves. That was when our teacher/supervisor explained how we were under her responsibility and said the quote above. I gave it to Mr. E as a funny sentiment to show that he cared.

As the climax, a lot of the little changes in earlier chapters created big changes here. It wasn’t until the final drafts that Emma had her phone to take selfies and Pansy used it as a flashlight and GPS here. Originally, she used her own phone. In another draft, Mr. E lent her a flashlight with GPS.

Theo’s Fate

On a bigger scale, Theo’s captivation looked very different in the earlier drafts. Before I gave the poltergeist a strength for water, it had a fetish for knife-throwing. Before I pushed Theo down a glass elevator shaft, I knocked him out and tied him with rope to a basement pipe. Before I had the poltergeist possess Sean more fully, it possessed Marcellette (who was then named Marquise), and had her do his dirty work.

“Let go of Theo!” I shouted.  “This is between you and me, no one else.”
The poltergeist looked around himself, like he was merely there to enjoy the architecture.  “True, this is purely between us, but sometimes other hands are needed for the dirty work.”  He snapped his fingers and I saw movement to Theo’s side.  A brunette woman emerged from the side path, holding a sharp kitchen knife.
“Marquise?” I asked, disbelieving.  “What are you doing here?”
“I am here to do my master’s bidding,” she said monotonously.  Her face didn’t wear her usual proud sneer, but a tired glaze of boredom.
“You’re hypnotized,” I realized.  She didn’t respond to me, but with a flick of the poltergeist’s wrist, she jabbed the knife up to Theo’s heart.
“No!” I shouted.
“So you know the consequences now,” the poltergeist said, calmly rubbing his hands.
. . . . .
The poltergeist’s grin widened.
It jabbed a finger at Marquise and she stiffened again.  Before I could shout or say anything, she plunged the knife into Theo’s chest.  The basement echoed with shouts; pain from Theo, agony from me.  The knife might as well have gone through my own chest, the way I felt ripped apart and torn from the inside.  The worst part was I was trapped, and unable to help him.  I couldn’t hold him in my arms one last time.  I couldn’t share with him what I was sure would be ‘true love’s first kiss.’  I heard it was powerful enough to save people from near death.

– Very Terrible First Draft of “Don’t Date the Haunted”

So, Theo was originally stabbed, not drowned.

For all drafts except the last, this scene was like a Harry Potter 4-graveyard duel. I had every person killed by the poltergeist involved in this battle. At most, this included not only Sean, but Emma, Marcellette and her fiancé, Gretta (Pansy’s roommate in Horror), and Sean’s roommate who died in the boating accident. Then Oz was always there as Pansy’s personal protector. Funny enough, this was a reason for me to kill fewer characters because I had to determine where to put them in this final battle.
In the first draft, it was Emma (not Sean) who saved Theo with Pansy’s help.

Emma released Theo from his bonds and I caught him as he collapsed.
“Theo,” I said, stroking his bangs from his face.  His skin was tense and cold.  I wondered about trying the ‘true love’s first kiss,’ as I bent forward.
Emma quirked a smile.  “Hold on,” she said, “no need for loose-lips now.  We don’t want him to feel lip-raped, right?
I sat back, stunned.  She’s cracking a joke about our argument?  Now, of all times!?
You were willing to sacrifice your life for this man,” she said. . . . . .
“Yes,” I said, not caring to waste another second.  “Whatever it takes to save him.”
Emma smiled again, chuckling to herself, “You are a Romantic.

Yep, I originally had a lot more emphasis on the “true love’s kiss” in Romance. I wanted to believe in true love at first sight and true love’s kiss when I was younger. I even thought I’d experienced love at first sight, except it was definitely one-sided.

I changed it to make Pansy question love entirely, turning the simple fact that she falls in love with Theo into a miracle.

As for the miracle that saves Theo’s life…well, you’ll need to read “Don’t Marry the Cursed” to find out exactly what Sean did. Don’t worry, you don’t need to wait long. It comes out NEXT WEEK!

Mr. E’s Involvement

Another big change from this chapter was exactly what Mr. E and Pansy’s friends did to help her. In all earlier drafts, it was pretty vague. All I said about it was:

(During their chat after the sprinkler failure)

“What if we split up again and we have a baited pair on one level, and the rest upstairs to pressurize the air vents and create a torch flame from above?”
“I don’t know how you’d make that work-” I started, but cut myself off as a sudden chill came over me.
“Easy,” Mr. E said, “I’ve seen plenty of crooks do it-“
Pansy,” a whispered chill crept through the room.
Everyone froze.
. . . . .
(During Pansy’s conversation in the basement)

I took another step.  Any moment now, the poltergeist would lose patience and grab me, dragging me down into that thick liquid, and I would drown.  Still, I waited before each step… any moment now….   The lust in its eyes was almost tangible as I felt chills crawl up my arms.  My heel hit the edge of the glistening puddle.
“Quick, do it now!”
The muffled shout came from the vents above, and instantly the room flared.  Mr. E and the others had angled the vents to blow fire from the floor above.  Torches rained down on the poltergeist, touching him, burning him.  It was like watching a transparent candle melt at high speed.  The poltergeist screamed, waving its arms around, like he could bat away the heat.  I caught glimpses of Theo through the flames.  He was alright, and Marquise seemed to sag a little.  He’s losing his power over her!

– Very Terrible First Draft of “Don’t Date the Haunted.”

It was very vague because I honestly didn’t know how it worked either. So, in incognito mode, I researched homemade flame throwers. The water-gun contraption described in the final version actually works, but don’t try it at home, or in the park, or really anywhere without the fire department ready.


One of the main reasons I wanted to write a horror was because the genre can openly address God, the devil, demons, and angels. I believe that God is real, but I also understand that Satan is real and the cause for all evil in the world. I also believe God is stronger. Without getting preachy, I say all of this in this chapter.
As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I believe that those who have passed are watching over us. My dad died when I was five years old, but I have felt his influence and support many times through my life.
Growing up without a dad also meant that I relied a lot on my older siblings. I’ll say more about this in the next chapter–LAST chapter!

Can you believe we’re to the end? ONLY ONE CHAPTER LEFT!

One reply on “Behind the Scenes of “Don’t Date the Haunted,” Chapter 19”

[…] Not to be forgotten are the songs that inspired individual scenes or chapters, such as “Ode to Sleep,” by Twenty-One Pilots for chapter 2 and Pansy’s shower rap, and “Crystalize” by Gentri for the “toward” comment–you can read more about those in my BtS post of Chapter 2. Also, the theme song of Chapter 19, as mentioned in the BtS post. […]


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