I’m honored to present A.F. Stewart as a guest blogger today, as part of her virtual book tour for her new book Chronicles of the Undead, a traditional vampire story sure to satisfy any fan of the genre. Without further ado, here is Ms. Stewart’s article:
Writing Paranormal Characters into the Real World
Writing a good paranormal character, like writing any good character, consists of weaving the elements of believability and familiarity together; to create a notable character, you must connect with the reader. A fictional villain who creates murder and mayhem out of greed or self-interest is familiar; one who does it all because he misses his favourite blue teacup might leave readers confused.
The difference in writing about the paranormal or supernatural is what you have to make believable and familiar. The first task of the writer in creating a paranormal character is convincing the reader that a fantastic premise exists, and to answer the question: why isn’t your character the top story on CNN?
One of the simplest ways to familiarize a character is to write a recognizable setting around that character. Say you have decided to write a book about a male vampire, a troubled creature who has been hunting a fellow vampire for centuries. How do you connect this supernatural feud with readers? You can do this by plunking the character in the middle of an ordinary setting, to contrast with his strange reality; perhaps he is a blues musician. He could work, (yes, even vampires have to earn a living), at night in a club, interacting with humans, but never quite one of them. You can play his personality out slowly, simply from his relationships with the other characters. Is there a love interest? Does she know his secret or his he lying to her? Does he constantly suffer from the craving to feed on his friends? Does he dislike someone and why? Give the character a recognizable emotional core to wrap all his supernatural nature around.
Another device to use when writing a story involving an immortal or long lived character such as the vampire is to exploit the long historic possibilities of their life. In my example, you have the entire history of the blues to play with and integrate into the story; a vampire could conceivably be involved with early blues music and musicians. Just avoid over used clichés such as having your vampire being chums with the famous musicians. Now it is plausible that he would know of or even have played with these musicians in a minor capacity, but a vampire would want a low profile and would avoid any notoriety or notice.
Absolutely essential to crafting a great paranormal character is imposing limitations. Paranormal characters need rules; they cannot be allowed to run rampant through your pages. Their powers, societies, their interaction with humans or other paranormals must have restrictions.
For instance, you decide one of your main characters is a ghost of a murdered young woman, who is assisting a detective to solve her own homicide. This character cannot unexpectedly have omnipresent insight and perfect control of her ghost abilities, providing clues and assistance at just the right time; that would be a serious cheat and could alienate your readers. It is far better to have the ghost possess a broken, confused memory and sporadic control over any ghostly talent; this scenario provides you with a wealth of plot opportunities. Providing characters with limitations helps create tension, plotlines and give your characters three dimensions of personality. The basis of a well-rounded believable character is to never go too far with any trait: vampires cannot be invincible; wizards, fairies, or elves must have confines on their magic; werewolves have to have a weakness (usually for silver bullets); warriors cannot be perfect, unbeatable fighters.
Fantasy characters inhabit strange worlds, radiate the fanciful, and are surrounded with the unbelievable; you must breathe vivid, real life into their worlds, their personality and make their surroundings seem genuine.