Saturday, February 18, 2012

Another day, another vampire - Three rules for writing paranormal fiction

The other day we saw the release of Bites - Ten Tales of Vampires. I wrote one of the ten tales, a short story called "Tangled Dreams". You might wonder why I'm still playing with vampires. Good question. They're just so darned useful, with all their history and baggage and good & evil stuff. I just can't seem to get over them.

You might also wonder HOW I write about vampires. Like, what are the rules? Well, like most things in writing, the rules are pretty flexible. In my mind, it comes down to three main points. 

  • Decide what the world rules are and stick to them.  Whether you're going to have vampires or werewolves or fae characters, you need to decide a couple things up front.  More than just what the magical powers each character is going to have, you need to know the framework they're functioning in. Do the non-magical characters know that paranormal characters exist, like the vamps and werewolves in the Anita Blake books, or do they operate in secret, keeping the Muggles in the dark?

  •  Make sure there's a good reason for the extra skills the paranormal characters have. Right now I hear Hell is hot. ;) I mean, angels and devils are popular characters.  It may be tempting (evil often is), but if your work doesn't naturally go there, I wouldn't try to force it. You need to do the same goal/motivation/conflict work to develop a paranormal being as you do for any other characters.

  • Don't let your characters discover a new magical ability right at the end that saves the day and resolves the final conflict. This is one of my pet peeves as a reader. Like, your kick-ass martial-arts expert heroine has some kind of magical psychic break ten minutes before the final showdown and discovers the ability to bend metal so she can wrap the evil Fae prince in iron chains? Really? That's cheating. You want your characters to learn new things about themselves, and some of those things might be magical, but it has to be congruent with their development within the story line.
This is my take, and if you're interested in learning more about how to create alternate worlds and use vampires and other paranormals, check out this blog post from Kris Neri. And have fun writing things that go bump in the night.


 (PS - If you've been following this blog, my daughter got accepted to both high schools that she applied for. Yesterday was a very happy day! Thanks for all the support and positive energy you sent up for us. You can read more here about where we started from.)
Peace,
Liv

luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net (Nightmare eyes photo)

(Millions of Bats photo) Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

18 comments:

Bridget Bowers said...

It is hard sometimes to avoid the jumping on the bandwagon deal and write what is selling at the moment. Sometimes we forget no matter what is the latest trend it still takes the same planning and plotting to write vampires or werewolves as elves or regular people.

Thanks for the reminders.

Liv said...

Thank you, Bridget. It's good to remember that the more complex you make a character, the more real they seem - whether or not they have a pulse, or fur, or wings, or whatever.
;)

Ellen Gregory said...

In my view, these rules apply to all speculative fiction. Good stuff!

Liv said...

Oh yeah, Ellen. It's not just vampires I'm talking about here. I was thinking this morning that if you're going to include a paranormal character, it shouldn't be because the cool kids are doing it. Instead, you should ask yourself what would happen if a character had magical power X, and develop the plot around that, so that it's an integral piece and not plunked on top.
Thanks for checking in!

Amanda said...

But I AM one of the cool kids :) Great tips, and congrats to your daughter!

Cora said...

I followed your link to Kris Neri. One of her commenters used the phrase, "the tricky balance between fact, fiction and fantasy." I'm always questioning where that balance is for my paranormal writing whether short stories or novels. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

Liv said...

You are definitely in the cool kid camp Amanda! Thanks for checking in.
;)

Liv said...

Thanks Cora. I think you can make the characters as crazy as you need to, and as long as they're grounded in truth, they'll feel real. (Sorry if that sounds pretentious. I just mean to use details from the real world to ground your fantasy.)

Gabriel Rumbaut said...

What a great list. Like someone else said, I think they apply to speculative fiction in general. I'm writing a fantasy story now, and keeping these in mind definitely helps.

Liv said...

Good luck with your story, Gabriel! Thanks for checking out the post...

Margaret Miller said...

I'm with Ellen - I think they apply to all speculative fiction. It's nice to see them written so succinctly, thanks.

Liv said...

You could probably write pages on this topic - I just caught the three most obvious points, to my mind at least. Glad you liked them, Margaret. Thanks!

Diana Brandmeyer said...

Congrats on the highschool!
Vampires scare me. :)
Diana

Liv said...

Oh, Diana, some of them vamps are quite cuddly. Well, a few...maybe one...
Thanks for checking out the post!

Traci Douglass said...

Great reminders on building believability into our characters, even those of the undead variety! ***two thumbs up*** :D

Liv said...

Thanks Traci!

Ann Cory said...

Woo hoo! Great post and congrats on your fantastic news! Yay :)

Liv said...

Thanks Ann! Appreciate the positive vibes...