I need advice, magical advice.

Sometimes don’t you just need a confidant and advisor?

I do.

It’s not that hubby isn’t great, he is, and I pretty much tell him everything, but sometimes you want a girlfriend to talk to, someone to bounce things off, someone to set you straight or be your cheering section or tell you it will all be okay.  As a mom, I’m the – it will be okay go-to person – but I really don’t have one of those people to play that role for me.

So let’s talk, especially you paranormal authors.  I’m working on a paranormal.  It’s a bit tongue in cheek, but that aside, once you convince your reader to suspend disbelief, how far can you go?  For example, you ask the reader to suspend disbelief the minute you create a character who is a shifter or a vampire.  A shifter does not exist. Neither does a vampire. Besides, a vampire, by definition, is dead.  So, in order to be animated, or reanimated, or in order to shift, there must be some acceptance or belief in magic on the part of the reader.  When you come right down to it, all paranormal romances involve a suspension of disbelief and magic.

How far can you go and how much magic can you include?

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36 Responses to I need advice, magical advice.

  1. Good question… I just finished and submitted a paranormal ms with magical elements this afternoon and I was asking myself this very question…. I think magic at any level works if there are a few logical rules and limitations in place. The reader should have a clear understanding of how the magic works, what it feels and looks like and what it’s repercussions are. If an author does all that a little magic goes a long way.
    XXOO Kat

  2. amber skyze says:

    I’ve heard Kat’s answer given to this question before. I don’t write paranormal so I can’t offer any advise. I’m sure you’ll do a great job either way. :)

  3. amber skyze says:

    PS…I wish these posts had spell check. I meant ADVICE

  4. Penelope says:

    One of my big pet peeves is a paranormal book where one of the characters (a non-paranormal) is freaking out about it for too long. I want a short adjustment period, and then to jump into the story. Anyone who is reading a paranormal has embraced this genre, and is totally on board with weird stuff. Otherwise, they’d be reading The History Of Bosnia, or something.

    You can make anything work as long as it’s well written.

  5. sandracox says:

    As far as I’m concerned, the skies the limit as long as your characters are believable. Okay, give me a hint what you’re working on……

  6. Well, it’s the same as science fiction – you can create whatever world you want as long as you establish your ground rules, right?

    So a paranormal, by it’s definition, involves magic – it posits the existence of the undead, or the werewolf, or the presence of a fallen angel, a demon hunter – which means the reader has to accept that there are demons roaming among us…right?

    Or say…you can have an incorporeal being who can become corporeal at times and under specific circumstances. Kind of like Invisible Girl with the Fantastic Four.

    Am I making sense so far?

  7. Delilah Hunt says:

    That’s a tough one Julia. It could be one of those things where people will either believe it or not. I like to use Twilight and Harry Potter as examples. The way J.K has put so much thought and has an explanation for everything paranormal that happens in HP is genius. Sometimes I’m inclined to believe this magical world actually exists!
    Twilight for me didn’t cut it. I was reading it and it was all eye rolling and astonishment that so many people love it. None of it made sense to me, especially Edward glittering like diamonds in the sunlight. Really???
    I think it all comes down to having a superb explanation for things that seem really out there. Hope I made some sense.

  8. As long as you establish the rules of your world and abide by them, I think you can go as far as you want with the magical/other worldly elements.

  9. shawn says:

    I think you can have as much or as little magic as you want as long as you have some rules in place and don’t break them. I still have a problem with vampires getting women pregnant. How can a dead person procreate the same way a living person does? If it’s not explained in the story, I have a hard time with it.

  10. Delilah – I have similar feelings about the books you mention. However, I don’t want to resort to a huge info dump/explanation. In this particular book, the characters will learn about themselves as we do – neither entirely understand what they are. I’m just trying to avoid deus ex machina. Sometimes it’s a fine line. I think that’s where Twilight (aside from other issues) lost me completely.

    Thank you, Alexis – one of my favorite authors! And thanks for stopping by! It’s always nice to get advice from someone who’s dealt with this question many times.

    Shawn – thanks! I too have a problem with vampires impregnating women. Yes, I have rules – working on the limits of those rules!

  11. Tamara Smith says:

    The great thing about writing paranormal is the world/s we create and making them believable to our readers. When I’m writing and if it’s not believable to me, or I fall out of that magic, spiritual element of my paranormal world, I know my readers are not going to believe or connect. The golden rule applies…well, my golden rule anyway, know your world/s better than your readers. ~

  12. Tamara – good rule of thumb – a golden rule for my work. I like that!

  13. Pat Cunningham says:

    Hey – your world, your rules. Decide what makes sense in the context of the story, and then STICK WITH IT. If the story has internal logic and consistency, readers will accept it. Start messing with your own rules and throwing in any old thing just to make the plot work and that thudding sound you hear will be the sound of your book (or the Kindle it’s downloaded to) banging against numerous wall.

    Vampires getting women pregnant? Coincidentally, I’m working on a book that asks that very question. I think I’ve figured out a way that’s consistent with the rules of my “universe” as I have it set up. If the plot works out, we may know by next year this time whether I got it right.

  14. Gail Roarke says:

    I don’t think you can go “too far” with magic–as long as you’re consistent about what is and isn’t possible and you can still challenge your protagonist. If your protagonist can snap his fingers and fix his problem, that’s an issue. Otherwise? Roger Zelazny wrote the most incredible, imaginative novels populated by fantastic beings of every sort, and they worked. And he’s far from alone. Steven Brust’s “To Reign in Hell” is the story of the beginning of the universe, populated by Yahweh, Lucifer, and numerous other gods (and goddesses once one of them invents sex!) and hosts of angels. It’s one of my favorite fantasy novels.

  15. Thanks, Pat. My book, my rules! Yes, just like with SFR, paranormal must be internally consistent – so I think if you establish a reason why vampires can impregnate a woman…or each other, then that’s one of your rules. I think the problem I had with Twilight, well, one of the problems, is that the author established her rule and then broke it.

    Gail…I have got to get that book, To Reign in Hell! It sounds amazing! And I love Roger Zelazny! That’s the trick, no snapping of fingers to solve problems! I’m not writing an episode of ‘Bewitched’ – in which case it would be a nose wiggle.

  16. Stephanie says:

    Well, looks like you touched a nerve. For me, left brained as I am, what is important is that the world allowed by the disbelief is consistent unto itself. Unless you are writing a metaphysical paranormal in which the beings in an imagined world allow a suspension of disbelief. You know the mirror behind the mirror behind the mirror.

    Basically, I am saying that as long as the new, created world has rules that make or explain the magic, it’s okay. Go as far as it takes you to say, Yeah, Ri-i-ght.

  17. Great discussion! I think the key is consistency, rules that your characters abide by, and then the sky’s the limit. I’ve had this discussion with my editor before–her best advice was to make your magic consistent, and leave your characters room to grow. They shouldn’t be able to do everything well at the beginning, so that there’s a magical learning curve for the characters as well as the reader.

  18. NIna Pierce says:

    I’ve been brought around to Nalini Singh’s angel series and Larissa Ione’s demonic series. Neither author apologized nor explained how our ordinary world morphed into the worlds they created. And you know what? I was okay with that. I just started the story gob-smack in the middle of a new world with new rules. The authors took it from there and I went with it without question. I love both of those series.

    So the answer is, (IMHO) as far as you want to take the reader.

  19. Steph – I am ambi-brainious. I think I use both sides. I like rules, but I like anarchism too. Yeah, trying to maintain consistency in my insanity. :)

    Suzanne – Perfecto! Great advice! I actually do have a learning curve for my protagonists. Doing something right!

    Thanks, Nina – makes me feel better. I’m going in kind of a different direction and I was told by someone who shall remain nameless that only vampires and shifters work in paranormals.

  20. Pat Cunningham says:

    No dragons? Damn, there goes my WIP.

  21. Pat – LMAO! Yeah, guess you’re screwed! I adore dragons! I’ll read it!

  22. It is your story so you can do all you want. Your imagination has no limits.

  23. Thank you, Savannah! It is my story!

  24. Evie Balos says:

    Julia, I’d say there’s no limit. So long as your world-building is solid, and your characters are believable, of which I have no doubt you’ll accomplish. Let your imagination run free.


  25. Thanks, Evie! I like the pat on the back.

  26. Great advice from everyone! I will say that if you the author can’t get into the reality of your world, if you’re not ‘feeling’ it, then that ‘could’ translate to the reader. I always write from the perspective that I’m living in the world I’ve created. It’s real to me, and thus real to my heroines and heroes, and all the secondary characters. So far, I’ve only had one complaint from one reader about world building, and many, many compliments about my ability to paranormal and sci fi/fantasy world build.

    As far as shifters and vampires only populating paranormal romances, that’s the most crap ridiculous statement yet, that I’ve ever heard on the subject. Yeah, a lot of mine are shifters, but I have a carnal cherub, a fallen-to-earth angel, and lots of wips with various beings. My latest stars a real witch.

  27. Savanna – I think you made my day! Yeah, it’s a story I believe in – it’s real to me, but man, I’ve been told no angels, no witches, no ghosts, no psychics…
    I think readers will read a good paranormal story, with or without vampires and shifters.

  28. Only shifters and vampires? Get outta here! One of my favorite paranormal authors – Kresley Cole – population: demons, witches, ghosts, vamps, weres (Scottish ones), Valkeries, furies, … the list goes on. Marvelous world she’s created. What about Sherrilyn Kenyon with Greek gods?

    The idea behind ‘paranormal’ is extra-physical physics, shall we say, of the world you create. Whether its called ‘telekinisis’ or magic, or telepathy, or psychic, it’s got to hang together self-consistently, just like a sci-fi story. There are bio-physics where you can have vamps with body fluids. But you better understand how that works, and not use the hand of god.

    Love you site’s new look, BTW! ;-)

  29. Thanks, Claudia! I am getting some excellent advice. Really outstanding stuff!

  30. Ciara Knight says:

    I think J.K. Rowling does this best. You create a world with rules and boundaries. There are always limitations in every world. So, if you stay with in the parameters of the world you created, the reader will not feel like the story is a joke.

  31. Good points, Ciara. I think she does a great job also.

  32. I guess one note of caution. Some readers just don’t like magic and fantasy — so I believe there has to be some buy-in on the readers’ part that they’ll go along with a make-believe situation. (That goes without saying though, or they wouldn’t be buying the book). My mother hates fantasy. And I’ll never forget the audience groans for the movie preview of Phillip Whats-his-names Golden Compass. Someone said ‘I hate fantasy’ and I have to admit that I wasn’t drawn in by the talking polar bear. Do we need a talking polar bear? I think what makes any fantasy situation work is that the core of the story is relatable. Do you need vampires? Only if there are themes of alienation and being misfits (there are other themes that work with vampires). Do you need witches and the like? It works with themes of hidden powers and/or healing and/or women’s issues…

    To get beyond the laugh-test a magical story should have at its core some really gritty issues, for which the vehicle of magic is a fresh approach. I’ve put down plenty of recently published paranormal because its as if the author threw in a vampire just to keep up with a trend. And also, if too many authors create stories that don’t require vampires but have them just to be paranormal — that’s what burns a genre out.

  33. Jane Toombs says:

    I just start writing my paranormals with the assumption that the reader will accept my concepts for the length of the story. Aftr all, in the “real” world, dragons don’t exist, nor do shapeshiofters , griffins, vampires and alls sorts of other imaginary folk. And readers who can’t accept that they do for the purpose of an exciting story are not going to read a paranomal anyway. I’m a plotter, not a panster so I do a synopsis which I stick loosely to and then I’m off and writing. I don’t create a bunch of rigid rules in my synopsis, just the story line. The rules for what these imaginary being can or can’t do are in my head, but I abide by them in the story.
    As for vampires, I have a real hang-up there, which i freely admit is personal They’re dead , so I can’t imagine them as heroes, no matter how seductive an author makes them. Perhaps I was influenced by seeing Bram Stoker’s Dracula in it’s earliest film appearance when I was a kid. Who knows? in seeing that film I became convinced the gal a vampire sucks blood from enjoys that act sexually. He never has intercourse with her because his sexual thrill comes from the same act–sucking her blood. So he’s a villain in my stories. You can write your vampires as heroes and have legions of readers enjoy them, but I won’t be one of them, I keep trying, but can’t convince myself. The exception might be a vampire being who comes from another planet where he is actually a living, breathing creature who can be killed in fairly ordinary ways. He could be a hero because he’s not dead.
    Back to paranormal. I believe readers will go along with you as long as you’re consistent with your rules , no matter how bizarre the rules mifgt be, if they have a pretty good idea what those rules are if you’ve already set them up in some way–doesn’t matter how–in a previous chapter. Readers want a good story, Give them one that can’t quit reading and don’t worry about them accepting your concept of the patranormal. Jane

  34. Thanks, Jane. I agree, people who read paranormal romances are the same kind of people who enjoy sci fi and fantasy – of which I consider paranormal romance a subgenre – they are willing to suspend disbelief for the sake of a good story. Readers are not fools and for the most part, unless you’ve come up with some unusual gimmick, they won’t buy into chaos for the sake of chaos. You can’t throw things at them right and left, changing the rules constantly, and still expect them to follow you very far.
    I honestly prefer the old fashioned evil vamps, who got their kicks from casting a sexual spell over women – who then allowed the evil vamp to feed upon them. To me, in some odd way, that makes the vampire a more compelling, lonely, impotent figure. Although, occasionally I find a vamp I think is very cool, like Eric.

  35. Yes, Claudia – always a buy-in. The reader consents to believe your story. No consent, no readers.

  36. anny cook says:

    You have to believe…even be enthralled with your world. If you aren’t, no one else will be. And if you are immersed in your world, the “rules” will come naturally to you. When I write a Mystic Valley story I don’t think about the rules or who can do what to who… it’s just there at hand. “This” happens when you do “that”.

    If I have to work a great deal to decide the rules, then the story doesn’t work for me and I move to write something else. Background? Culture? Plants and animals? I don’t mind working to set up the window dressing. But the actual magic/powers that the characters have? That has to come from somewhere deep inside of you. If you don’t believe, you can’t make it happen.