Friday, April 11, 2008

Color Your Paranormal World

by Briana St. James

Authors often hear about world building in science fiction and fantasy novels. These books need to show a vibrant world instead of the barest bones of a society. Paranormal romance needs an equally colorful world and this is something many new authors fail to achieve. It isn’t enough to take paranormal characters and place them in a world identical to ours without additional details to make the story shine.

Readers and editors want to know what makes your world different and unique from any other paranormal world out there. It isn’t enough to have a vampire hero or a witch heroine, a werewolf clan, or a fairy princess that the reader knows nothing else about. What will pull the reader in are the richly imagined details of your world.

When you create your paranormal characters, there are many things to consider. Before you start writing your book, you may find it helpful to map out the history of your characters. How did they become paranormal? Were they born into this life or created? Is the world known to non-paranormal characters and society at large? What special powers or enhanced senses do your characters have? Do they think and act differently from the non-paranormal characters in your book? Do they look different, have certain substances or metals that enhance or weaken them, do they have a longer or shorter life span than “normal” characters?

If your vampire can breathe deeply, eat and digest food in addition to blood sustenance, and feels warm to the touch, the reader will want to know how these typical vampire conventions have passed your vampires by. A line inserted here and a couple of tidbits there can go a long way to fleshing out the world.

For shape shifters, your canvas is so much bigger. If one character shifts into a dragon and the other a hummingbird, can they possibly interact well together when in animal form? What are the circumstances in which they shift? Is it voluntary or is the shift dependent upon tides, lunar cycles, or something completely different? And what happens to the clothes a character is wearing when they shift? A nice designer dress could never make it intact through a shift to dragon shape, and that hummingbird would become entangled in the fabric and most likely have a very painful landing.

It is a fine line to create the world without veering into over-description or info dumping. In many cases, a little information goes a long way. Tell the reader that there is a shape shifting clan den or witch coven headquarters without describing everything about that dwelling in detail. Stick to the information the reader needs in order to have a clear and vivid picture of the world without bogging down the flow of your story.

Dynamic world building will help your paranormal romance stand out from the pack. Color your paranormal world brightly!


Diane said...

This post is right on time for me.

Especially since I am cross-checking my characters and the world I am excited to reveal to everyone.

I've gone through the descriptions I've given and put them on a diet so that they will be "colorful", different and intriguing without sounding like stereo instructions.

I enjoy reading your blog and look forward to more excellent advice.
Thank you

Diane said...

That sentence should read "Especially since I am cross-checking my characters and the world I've created and that I am excited to reveal to everyone.

Ugh, I hate when I do that.


orangehands said...

i found this site just a short while ago. very helpful, and this post is spot-on for me.

thanks a lot!

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