TAKE AN OLD castle, some flickering candles and a boy with a recurring nightmare and you have the ingredients of an award-winning ghost story. It worked for Esther Leung Ai-ting. There is nothing the 14-year-old likes more than getting lost in a chilling tale, except writing them. 'If the character in the story is scared, then so am I,' said the Heep Yunn School student. And she had chills down her spine when she began to write The Ghost Of No One, a 16-page story that earned her a prize in the Secondary Schools' English Writing Awards 2001. She chose the subject from a list of composition themes suggested by her school, deciding against writing about aliens because she had never seen one. 'I don't know much about outer space and I've never seen an alien - I've never seen a ghost either, but I had more of an idea about what to write,' Ai-ting said. She is not the only teenager to be fascinated with ghosts, ghouls and all things eerie. The Young Post regularly receives letters requesting ghost stories. The combined fear of the unknown and tension as the plot unfolds can make such tales compelling page-turners. Reading a ghost story out to your friends can be a thrilling experience, but the faint-hearted should reserve these chilling tales for daylight hours. Ai-ting picked up her first ghost story less than two years ago and has been hooked ever since. Her award-winning ghost haunts the dark and chilly corridors of a castle, a pale apparition that floats just above the ground. 'There is no blood or mud on it but I can smell the horrid smell,' she writes. Ai-ting knew that she wanted to write a ghost story, but she had thought no further than that when she sat down to pen the 6,000-word tale. The story evolved as she wrote it. 'I wrote a little every night for three weeks, each time I sat down to write I was curious to see what would happen, where the characters would go,' she said. Creating a spooky atmosphere and setting are crucial if you want to put people on edge, Ai-ting added. And the characters are important, she said. 'Try to write as much as you can about the people. That way when something frightening happens the reader will feel scared for that person.' Writing about things you know about makes the story more real, she added. The main character in her story, Chris, works as a kitchen hand in an old stone castle. Although Ai-ting has never scrubbed dishes for a living, she has helped her mother at home and drew on that experience. She said being able to use her father's computer made the writing process much easier: 'I've been using my dad's PC for about three years. It's much faster and makes it easier to make changes.' Being able to work the suspense and keep a twist in the tale is what separates good ghost stories from the mediocre. In Ai-ting's story, the main character is paralysed by fear when he sees the ghost. There is a familiarity about the ghost's eyes that he cannot quite place - and that suspense keeps the reader turning the pages. Consider yourself a supernatural ghost story writer? Then we invite you to write a 300-400 word scary story which must contain the following words: eerie, grotesque and mysterious. The best composition will be published in Sunday Young Post. Send your entry, with your name and contact number, to Sunday Young Post, SCMP, Editorial Department, 16/F, Somerset House, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong. Deadline for entries is March 8.