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#1 Katie Bailey

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Posted 21 June 2013 - 11:40 PM

Everyone works differently, and I was wondering how you guys handle paranormal perimeters.  Do you just go with the flow of "it's supernatural; I don't sweat the details.  The reader's already suspending their disbelief, so I'll just have at it," or do you try to still maintain logical reasoning and boundaries?

 

While I do leave some aspects untouched, on the whole, I'm one of those people who tries researching lore and theory.  I combine various vampire mythos and tweak things to make them fit together, and, when it comes to subjects like ghosts, I try looking into reference works done under the theory of ghostly existence.  However, I will sometimes add my own rules and regulations to make it fit sensibly.

 

What about you guys?  How do you work with paranormal physics?


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#2 Darke

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Posted 22 June 2013 - 08:16 AM

It really depends on what I want to do. The Supernatural doesn't really have any rules, but giving them boundaries makes them easier to deal with. I despise any story where there are invincible characters, supernatural or otherwise. Boundaries and flaws on both sides help to add conflict to the plot, and make for a more interesting read.  


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#3 DianaR

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Posted 22 June 2013 - 10:39 AM

Katie-

 

As far as established boundaries for the paranormal/supernatural/horror genres, I would say there aren't any. But for any given story or series there certainly should be. You as the author have to set those boundaries and stick with them otherwise your reader will be confused. Personally, I spent a few years doing research for a race of creatures I wanted to invent for a series. There are very specific things that they can and can't do and physical aspects that I needed to keep straight in order for the creatures to be believable characters, just like with anything else. To keep it all straight, I made up a file (a manuscript bible) with the rules for my story, creatures, entities, and I make sure whatever goes on the page is ultimately in keeping with that stories' bible.

 

Hope this helps.

 

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#4 FolioRoad

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Posted 22 June 2013 - 11:00 AM

I agree with the previous comments. You can make up what you want, but it does need to make some sense and be consistent.

 

Another point related to this: In Save the Cat by Blake Snyder (which is a screenwriting methods book, but applies) he refers to Double Mumbo Jumbo... the idea that readers only "buy" one set of magic. That set of magic can be very complicated and have lots of rules, but it's consistent. If you set something up, you shouldn't a) flip it on it's head halfway through, or b) introduce something we've never seen before out of the blue.

 

The example he gives is with the Spiderman movie from a few years ago: we follow him getting all these superpowers, suspended disbelief achieved, and then the second half flips to the Green Goblin. Wha? I agree with Snyder on this point - there's only so much we'll put up with before we scratch our heads or lose interest. I always wondered what bugged me about that movie (since I'm a comic nerd), and that was it. Double Mumbo Jumbo.

 

So, there's another thing to keep in mind!  Personally, I love the challenge of making up my own rules and then making sure they all make sense.  :biggrin:


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#5 Katie Bailey

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Posted 22 June 2013 - 12:24 PM

Actually, guys...that wasn't a question about what to do.  As I said, I have ways that I handle it and have for several years.

 

Maybe I'm not good at this kind of thing, but the post was just trying to get a conversation going; it was a discussion point rather than a request for help.


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#6 FolioRoad

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Posted 22 June 2013 - 01:32 PM

Actually, guys...that wasn't a question about what to do.  As I said, I have ways that I handle it and have for several years.

 

Maybe I'm not good at this kind of thing, but the post was just trying to get a conversation going; it was a discussion point rather than a request for help.

 

Yes. You're right. It's pretty obvious now that I read your first post again.  :blush:

 

My bad. 

 

*ahem*

 

Interesting topic, Katie!  :smile:   For myself, I've never written paranormal in the strictest sense of the word (ghosts, vampires...), but my work is all speculative and I've built worlds that need rules. I've always started with my broad concept, then tried to come up with general rules before I write the first draft. I ALWAYS have to get more specific as I write that first draft, and a lot changes as I find out my logic wasn't very sound.  :humph:   Then to really flesh out what I'm talking about I turn to my CPs and betas to make sure everything gels... it always makes sense in my head, but no one's at that party but me.

 

My process might not be linear, but I'm ridiculously anal about having everything line up. I think if I ever do take ideas from established lore I'll drive myself insane trying to weave everything together... and I don't know if I could ever just settle on one version and exclusively stick to it, even if I allowed myself some tweaks and adaptations.  To me it seems it would be harder to work with existing supernatural creatures, because of all of the research and decisions to make as you sift!

 

There, now I feel better that I actually addressed your first post.  :biggrin:


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#7 Katie Bailey

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Posted 22 June 2013 - 02:28 PM

 

My bad. 

 

*ahem*

 

Interesting topic, Katie!  

I probably shouldn't have laughed as hard as I did.   :laugh:  

 

I just find it interesting how different people handle this sort of thing, and it often seems to lend itself to taking intriguing routes.  I think it succeeded on bringing some thing interesting to the table; based on what you said about not tackling the normal, assumed variety of paranormal, I'd be interested in hearing more of what you do write on!  Do you work more along the lines of chimeras, mermaids, changlings, and such, or completely create your own sort?


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#8 FolioRoad

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Posted 22 June 2013 - 03:15 PM

I probably shouldn't have laughed as hard as I did.   :laugh:

 

I just find it interesting how different people handle this sort of thing, and it often seems to lend itself to taking intriguing routes.  I think it succeeded on bringing some thing interesting to the table; based on what you said about not tackling the normal, assumed variety of paranormal, I'd be interested in hearing more of what you do write on!  Do you work more along the lines of chimeras, mermaids, changlings, and such, or completely create your own sort?

 

I can't claim to come up with completely original concepts; I'm sure many someones out there in the great, wide, world have developed similar ideas. 

 

For example, the first book I queried (and shouldn't have, but that's another story) had a "trickster" type fellow. He was the bad guy, driving the characters to act and react. He had virtually no face time - he was just the catalyst for the change the characters needed. In the end, his intentions were good even though he screwed with them every opportunity he had. I didn't look into folklore to create his character, but I know trickster tales are common in First Nations culture. I didn't place him as similar to a Trickster until I'd already written him.

 

The book I'm currently querying personifies the forest. As in, all the organisms have sentient thought and a way of communicating. There are rare forest guardians who counsel, keep forest lore and secrets, and mentor future generations, but I didn't consciously create this world off of anything I'd seen before. That said, I refer to those guardians as "dryad" in my query letter just for easy association: they are the tree, but have evolved to be able to "move" in emergencies so the forest knowledge doesn't die, and in this case they use human-like form (there are some differences between how we look and they look though... cool ones  :wink: ). I didn't look into the original Greek myths as I developed this group, but there's at least the similarity of a woman (sorta) coming out of a tree.

 

So like I said, I definitely can't claim complete originality; I read voraciously and a lot has been absorbed by my sometimes-functional brain. I just don't work with anything consciously and therefore can avoid the research that would drive me nuts. If it isn't based in well-known lore, readers might be more forgiving? I mean, we all know the outcry that happened because of the sparkly vampires, right?  :smile:

 

That's the way I roll. Hopefully I didn't make you fall asleep.  


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#9 Derek_C

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Posted 23 June 2013 - 12:01 PM

This sort of metaphysical world-building is my bread and butter, whether I'm building my own universe from scratch (as the first step of making an apple pie), or drafting the metaphysical rules behind a modern fantasy setting. (When it comes to laws and rules for magic, I'm a big fan of Brandon Sanderson. He's one of my literary heroes of world-building.) I'm pretty anal about these sorts of things. I think the details really matter and I'm constantly asking "why?" and "what if?". Some of my writer friends hate it, because I always poke at their settings with these questions, but it usually turns out for the best.

 

For the modern fantasy MS that I'm revising now, I needed supernatural rules that worked as a 'best fit' for as wide a range of myths and legends as possible. But I put a lot of thought into how average, run-of-the-mill people would interpret things, as compared how things actually are. Myths and legends are from the common people, I decided, not those who see behind the "Masquerade," so to speak. It allowed a surprising number of myths from around the world to be condensed into smaller number of "real" creatures that simply were treated a little differently in around the globe, with variations in the local form of the myths (especially re: explanations for how such a creature comes to be) chalked up to local beliefs and customs influencing how the locals interpreted a phenomenon they had no other way of explaining. Actually creating the rules for the "truth" behind it all comes pretty naturally to me, but it's sort of a mix between intuition and logical analysis.

 

I've rarely intentionally set out to mimic anything I might have seen or read before, but I know that influences come from all over, unconsciously or otherwise.

 

The two primary types of "magic" in my world are called "necromancy" and "wild magic". These aren't the "original" names for the powers (in times past, they were Chthonic and Supernal, respectively, among others). They have a sort of yin-yang relationship, and both are perfectly natural processes which are required for the universe to keep moving forward. But then there's Eldritch magic, which is loosely inspired by Lovecraft's mythos. And a fourth power that is distinctly human, and will become a huge fact of the books if the series ever ends up complete. I also created various different realms of existence and even came up with multiple models of how those realms might be arranged, to satisfy multiple viewpoints. The two big ones are the "World Tree" model of reality, which describes everything as parts of the Tree of Life, and then there's the Copernican model of reality, which describes everything in concentric orbits/spheres (in my setting, Copernicus was a wizard as well as everything else, though that is just a tangential fact to the series, to add background). Spirits, which are ephemeral creatures of pure thought, also play a huge role in the metaphysics of the setting.

 

The rules I laid out allowed me to create entirely new things, as well as deal with things in myth. I actually ended up making a game of searching for mythical creatures I hadn't heard of before and seeing how they might fit under my metaphysical framework. It was a learning experience in a hundred different ways.



#10 Katie Bailey

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Posted 23 June 2013 - 06:16 PM

Folio, let me say right now, from what you just said, that sounds AWESOME!  It sounds like the first one would be something really cool to eventually revisit, but the current own sounds REALLY cool, too!  NIIIICE

 

Derek, WOAH, looks like you put a lot of work into studying and figuring out the continuum when you write.  That's pretty impressive!


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#11 Aaron Bradford Starr

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Posted 02 August 2013 - 09:58 PM

Part of what makes me write a story as horror or supernatural as opposed to fantasy is the degree to which the rules are understandable by the characters.  So I usually have rules, but the fantasy and SF stories get a lot more detailed, since the characters get to explore the edges more.  In horror, the characters are usually operating outside of their understanding, and I reveal the rules only so far as to make inexplicable things believable.

 

One way I tend to do this is to have my characters speculate about things.  I mean, understanding is the key to minimizing fear, and the characters will need to do some of that to have the longer stories come off as believable.  In horror, though, it's best to keep this to an absolute minimum, since as a writer I don't want to break the mood.

 

This sort of thinking makes most horror films nearly unwatchable.  The supernatural force strikes at will, usually, or within limits that are so loose and vague as to be nearly useless to contain it.  The question as to why the entities in question don't strip-mine entire towns on a regular basis comes up a lot.  Even simple-to-understand threats (like vampires) are rife with logical errors unless the writers follow Stoker's model exactly (which they don't).

 

Yeah, I'm looking at you, 30 Days of Night.



#12 Katie Bailey

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 11:26 AM

Part of what makes me write a story as horror or supernatural as opposed to fantasy is the degree to which the rules are understandable by the characters.  So I usually have rules, but the fantasy and SF stories get a lot more detailed, since the characters get to explore the edges more.  In horror, the characters are usually operating outside of their understanding, and I reveal the rules only so far as to make inexplicable things believable.

 

One way I tend to do this is to have my characters speculate about things.  I mean, understanding is the key to minimizing fear, and the characters will need to do some of that to have the longer stories come off as believable.  In horror, though, it's best to keep this to an absolute minimum, since as a writer I don't want to break the mood.

 

This sort of thinking makes most horror films nearly unwatchable.  The supernatural force strikes at will, usually, or within limits that are so loose and vague as to be nearly useless to contain it.  The question as to why the entities in question don't strip-mine entire towns on a regular basis comes up a lot.  Even simple-to-understand threats (like vampires) are rife with logical errors unless the writers follow Stoker's model exactly (which they don't).

 

Yeah, I'm looking at you, 30 Days of Night.

I just want to point out that Stoker's version of the vampire isn't even the only one.  If you study traditional vampiric lore, there are a bunch of different mythos and parameters spanning countless cultures.  (Part of what I do is trying to weave different methods of folklore together to create something that could make most of them plausible in the same existence.)


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#13 Terradi

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Posted 06 October 2013 - 03:47 PM

Bit late to the party, but I wanted to add my two cents.  

 

I like seeing what's out there when it comes to folklore and mythology, and then going from there.  I do write vampires, and I've actually written two very different vampire 'worlds' for urban fantasy.  One is a lot more traditional (in the Dracula sort of way, I mean), and vampires are a lot tougher and harder to kill.  The second one doesn't follow as many of the traditional rules, but vampires are a lot more breakable.  The second has a complex set of mythology where I've actually figured out where everything comes from and what the history is.  The first ... not even the vampires have a clue exactly what happened originally.  

 

I kind of like the contrast between the two, especially because sometimes I do feel like reality doesn't give a ton of reasons and history is easily obscured or masked.  In regards to origins, I like that there might not be a known history because things are so old and there were no written records (or they were lost or discarded aeons ago).  

 

 

I have an idea loosely in my head for a supernatural dealing with fallen angels and demons, more in the Otherkin sense than anything else.  I know quite a bit about that community, and I'm going to try and borrow lightly from that.  Less from the biblical sense and terms for angels and demons because it doesn't fit the story I want to write.  I suspect when I get closer to writing it I'm going to have to sit down and sketch out my rules and world a little bit better than I have now, but it's so far in the future (and I have several projects I really want to tackle first) so I haven't bothered yet. 



#14 Aaron Bradford Starr

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 10:51 PM

I just want to point out that Stoker's version of the vampire isn't even the only one.  If you study traditional vampiric lore, there are a bunch of different mythos and parameters spanning countless cultures.  (Part of what I do is trying to weave different methods of folklore together to create something that could make most of them plausible in the same existence.)

 

This is true.  My fault for wording it in that way.  I, personally, love vampires from other cultures (African cultures are awash with simply terrifying ones, if I remember right).  But most cultures saddle their vampires with so many restrictions and hindrances that, even if they existed, they'd be hard pressed to run amok.  And even Stoker presents Dracula as one vampire, and hints that there are others, and that their abilities are not consistent.  Still, traditional vampires all share that feature in common: they have unbending rules that hamper them.  But encounter them on their own terms, and things get bad, quick.  Now that's good horror!



#15 Katie Bailey

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Posted 29 November 2013 - 02:01 AM

Bit late to the party, but I wanted to add my two cents.  

 

I like seeing what's out there when it comes to folklore and mythology, and then going from there.  I do write vampires, and I've actually written two very different vampire 'worlds' for urban fantasy.  One is a lot more traditional (in the Dracula sort of way, I mean), and vampires are a lot tougher and harder to kill.  The second one doesn't follow as many of the traditional rules, but vampires are a lot more breakable.  The second has a complex set of mythology where I've actually figured out where everything comes from and what the history is.  The first ... not even the vampires have a clue exactly what happened originally.  

 

I kind of like the contrast between the two, especially because sometimes I do feel like reality doesn't give a ton of reasons and history is easily obscured or masked.  In regards to origins, I like that there might not be a known history because things are so old and there were no written records (or they were lost or discarded aeons ago).  

 

 

I have an idea loosely in my head for a supernatural dealing with fallen angels and demons, more in the Otherkin sense than anything else.  I know quite a bit about that community, and I'm going to try and borrow lightly from that.  Less from the biblical sense and terms for angels and demons because it doesn't fit the story I want to write.  I suspect when I get closer to writing it I'm going to have to sit down and sketch out my rules and world a little bit better than I have now, but it's so far in the future (and I have several projects I really want to tackle first) so I haven't bothered yet. 

You're not late to the part at all!  I'd say more like a good mad scientist and bringing it back from the dead!

 

I know what you mean about how things can be better to focus on and decide the parameters for once you're actually ready to devote proper time to it, though.


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#16 Katie Bailey

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Posted 29 November 2013 - 02:02 AM

This is true.  My fault for wording it in that way.  I, personally, love vampires from other cultures (African cultures are awash with simply terrifying ones, if I remember right).  But most cultures saddle their vampires with so many restrictions and hindrances that, even if they existed, they'd be hard pressed to run amok.  And even Stoker presents Dracula as one vampire, and hints that there are others, and that their abilities are not consistent.  Still, traditional vampires all share that feature in common: they have unbending rules that hamper them.  But encounter them on their own terms, and things get bad, quick.  Now that's good horror!

Oh my goodness, YES!  Some of the regional and cultural-specific vampire tales are FASCINATING!

....Man, I love a good vampire horror.


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#17 SnowGlobe

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Posted 23 April 2015 - 08:08 AM

One book in particular, and admittedly more to do with science fiction than paranormal, had so much detail it felt like a physics lesson. That was Xenocide by Orson Scott Card. I had to read parts of it 4 times to appreciate them in entirety. As far as paranormal, I don't think most readers expect the "science" to be explained the way they would with a book like Xenocide. This is because a lot of the stuff are things science hasn't been able to explain or are fantasy.

#18 Aaron Bradford Starr

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Posted 18 September 2015 - 12:52 PM

I break horror stories down into three main parts.  Nor every story has all three, of course.  Here they are:

 

Inexplicable Occurrences:  The characters begin experiencing something strange and frightening.  Characters realize they are not in control of their destinies any longer.

Gathering of Wits:  The characters rally enough to formulate some idea of what is happening.  After doing so, they sometimes (in movies, often) recruit an "expert" into their team, to try to deal with the situation.

The Reassertion of Control:  The characters use their knowledge to master their fear and banish/trap/redeem/destroy the evil.

 

In any case, in order for these three parts to happen, the writer needs to have some idea of the rules at play.

 

Horror stories often don't include Step 3, and literary characters are often consumed by the evils they face.  In movies, this is less common, and step 3 is usually where a lot of CGI and visual effects happen, usually while the horror and suspense vanishes.  Lovecraft, strangely, often would skip Step 2, and go straight for Reassertion of Control, which would, usually, fail, with unspeakable consequences.  The (excellent) movie Occulous, by comparison, largely forgoes Step 1, and begins with a very cool Gathering of Wits.

 

To be honest, I'm not sure how you could write a horror story and not have a firm set of rules in mind.






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