December 1, 2011

How To: The Ins and Outs of Creating A New Paranormal Species

(This was my guest post for the 'I Just Want To Sit Here And Read' blog. A huge thanks to Kate and Jessica for the feature!! Check it out here or keep reading.)

One of the reasons I love paranormal romance is the sheer creativity involved. Just having a vampire or a werewolf in your story is not enough anymore. Everything has been done already, so now it is all about creating something new - a new twist on an old character or a new species all together. In my new book, Ignite - Midnight Fire Series Book One, I do both. But, a lot goes into creating a new species. For anyone else trying to invent the new and next paranormal idea, here are the most important aspects of developing your own fantasy character.

1. Create a Unique Idea

First and foremost, you need to come up with something unique. If you create a whole new species, and it sounds just like a character another writer already created, you might sound like a copy-cat or a less legitimate writer. If you want to make a new version of an old character, like a new shape-shifter, write down everything you've read about shape-shifters in other books. Pick and choose which ideas you want to borrow, and then make sure add something completely new - and make that the highlight of your character. Writing is often times about stealing something else's idea and adapting it. Twilight stole vampires from Dracula and pop culture, but transformed the species into something entirely new.

To make an entirely new species, think of all of the books you've read and write down all of the characters they used. Then, set those paranormal creatures aside and think of what is missing. Once you have an initial idea, develop it further by asking yourself questions, such as what are their powers and what are their limitations, are they good or bad, and so on.

I got the idea for my character during a walk on the beach when I let my thoughts run away from me. Sometimes, taking a long walk and letting your thought wander without bounds is the best way to create.

2. Make It Believable

After you come up with an idea, you need to make it believable. The first step is a name. I prefer simple names, so they are easily remembered and people can talk about them without stumbling on pronunciation. However, ancient sounding, hard-to-say names are fantastic too, and it is an easy way to make a species seem older. In my novel, I went with a simple name. However, in the sequel, the reader will dive further into the history of my species and will learn more of the ancient traditions and names. This way, there is a modern name and an ancient one.

After you choose a name, you need to come up with a creation story. Every species came about in some way, and it needs to be stated to make your characters believable. Whether you decide on a concrete story or one that is more like a myth does not matter, the reader will just want something.

Try to think of other aspects of the species too, maybe by answering some of the following questions. Will other creatures like vampires or weres be involved in your novel - how does your species fit in or interact with them? Who are their enemies, who are their allies? How do they reproduce? How long do they live? What are the myths or stories that get passed down through generations?

I personally, as a reader, like having these sorts of questions answered. If they are answered, I am usually left more satisfied at the end of a novel. However, even if you as a writer don't intend to share so much information, you should still know the answers yourself. That way, when writing, you will rarely contradict yourself and your character will sound more complete.

3. Create a Structure

After forming a history for your species, think about their present day structure - most importantly, are they hidden from the human world or out in the open (like in True Blood). Do they run on a monarchy or a bureaucracy or is there no structure? Are they scattered around the globe or is there a central hub or multiple cities where these characters live and grow? Do they have laws to abide by? What are the punishments for breaking those laws?

4. Never Forget A Weakness

Lastly, you need to have a weakness. Even all-powerful creatures can die, and you need to create some sort of fatal flaw. No one wants to read a story where one creature can not be destroyed. And, thinking of this before writing will help you create a believable weakness, and not one just thrown on at the last second.

There is nothing I hate more than a lame weakness. Think about Independence Day versus Signs. In Independence Day, the heroes figure out how to use the alien technology to turn off the aliens' shields and bomb their butts. In this instance, the aliens' weakness was in thinking they were all powerful, and the ending was fantastic. However, I compare this to Signs, where the heroes discover that the aliens are burned by water....what?! I've always hated that, and thought it was a complete cop-out, because why would aliens invade a planet whose surface is almost totally water if they could be killed by it. Do you see what I mean? A good weakness can make or break a story. If you create a lot of tension to keep a story going, nothing will deflate it faster than a lame weakness.

I hope this has helped a bunch of you! I would love love it if you would check out my book Ignite, and I can't wait to hear what you all think of my new species. Good luck with your own paranormal endeavors! 

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