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Monday, October 8, 2012

Guest Blog: Jane Toombs: Writing Paranormal Characters

Not every reader enjoys paranormal. But many do, so is there any secret to writing a paranormal story?

Depends. In horror, practically anything goes. And you don’t need a happy ending.

In paranormal suspense, though, you should plan out beforehand what your creatures can and can’t do, not just have them able to do everything. Why? Because that makes it impossible for the hero or heroine to defeat.

Do you have to follow any “rules” for vampires or werewolves or any of the other many creatures? Of course not, because there are no “rules” for fictional characters. You create your own, again remembering not to make any creature all-powerful, whether evil or hero/heroine. Just as humans are not flawless, neither are paranormal creatures. Then you need to remember to follow your own rules if you’ve set any up. Readers will hate it if you don’t.

While it’s okay for your hero/heroine not to know everything about an evil they’ve encountered, it’s not fair for the creature to suddenly be able to do something other than what you’ve set it up to do. In other words, whatever it does can be unexpected to the hero/heroine because they may not yet know everything about the creature, but you need to know, because you’ve created it. Also, If the reader, like the hero/heroine, doesn’t know exactly what’s possible for a creature to do, they can experience the scary thrill of learning right long with the h/h.

Ghosts in fiction seem to follow no absolute rules so you have quite a lot of leeway with ghosts. Which is fun.

Can a hero/heroine suddenly develop a paranormal skill he or she didn’t know they had? If it’s shape-shifting, certainly. A main character suddenly becoming a vampire is more difficult and must be set up very carefully.

Be careful with shapeshifting and think about the ramifications ahead of time. A hero who shifts into an alligator, for example, may be hard for a reader to accept. And play fair with the reader. Still, if the h/h doesn’t know he or she can shift, then readers get the chance to experience all the scares and thrills along with them. Otherwise take care to stick to how you’ve set up the shifting.

Witches, whether good or bad ones are another possibility in the paranormal category. Some writers have ventured into demons, zombies and other outré characters with success. This includes angels, gods and goddesses. Nothing, these days, seems impossible for a talented writer to tackle.

So paranormal offers a wide-open field of possibilities should a writer be slanted that way--as I am.

My very first book, both to be written and also to be published, a gothic titled Tule Witch, was dark. The heroine was no virgin, she’d been raped by a man who was a witch on a stone altar and she bore a child who was badly retarded and who also made her see visions of what was to come when she touched him. How’s that for the beginning of a gothic romance?

Of course it doesn’t start out that way. I may have been a newbie but I wasn’t stupid. The reader finds all this out gradually. The books begins with the heroine, a nurse, sitting in the basement ER of an old hospital where the overhead pipes drip onto her desk. Then something odd happens…

In case you may think this is too weird, Avon bought it. When I wrote for Harlequin Special Edition, my editors were always removing dark stuff that somehow found its way into my stories even though I knew better. Maybe I read E. A. Poe too young--who knows?

My life from childhood on has been the opposite of dark so I have no idea why I like the dark side. I like to have paranormal happenings occur in my stories. In my real life they never have. Not a one. And I’m just as glad. Maybe paranormal wouldn’t be so much fun to write if I’d ever been confronted by any manifestation of it.

One of my recent series, Dangerous Darkness, contains four books: Shadow On The Floor (ghosts) , Watcher At The Door, (a shifter and the deadly enemy of shifters--a stalker.) Terror From Before (a paranormal huge dark bird who kills and eats people) and the last, Stranger On the Shore, which I haven’t yet finished writing. In a way, what affects this hero could be possible in years to come. Not now, though, so I’m having a lot of fun writing it.

Buy links for my books can be found at my website:

Jane Toombs, born in California, raised in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, has returned "home" to live in the beautiful Upper Peninsula on the shore of Lake Superior--with the Viking from her past. Jane has five children, two stepchildren, seven grandchildren, a calico cat named Kinko and two computers.

She's the author of over eighty published books, both in paper and electronic. These include the various romance genres--gothic, suspense, contemporary, historical, Regency and paranormal--as well as other genres such as mystery, fantasy and horror. Jane has used pseudonyms--Ellen Jamison, Diana Stuart, Olivia Sumner--but is now writing under her own name except for her Zebra/Pinnacle romances for which she uses Jane Anderson.

BLURB: A house built for love and cursed with death. Two children, one will live, one will die. Magic potions and secret rooms. Is there a curse or does evil reside in innocence? What is the real secret of Hallow House?


Sandy said...

Hi Jane,
I admire your persistence. You have had such a varied career in writing because of adapting to change. I read many of your earlier books and enjoyed them.

I wish you continued success.

Adele Dubois said...

Thanks for visiting with us, Jane. All the best for your continued career success.


Paris said...

What an exciting career! I love your advice about creating the paranormal world, be it ghost, shifter or vampire.

Looking forward to what comes next and finding out the secret of Hallow House.

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