Monday, January 23, 2012

Lending Realism to the Paranormal—by Lisa Gail Green

by Lisa Gail Green, @LisaGailGreen

Photo on 2011-12-09 at 13.02 #2Lending realism to paranormal. It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? But allowing your readers to suspend their disbelief is vital if you’re writing in this genre or any other type of speculative fiction. Think of Harry Potter for a moment. What was it about an entire society of witches and wizards complete with schools, government and other fantastical creatures that allowed us to read on while hoping for an owl of our own?

I’ve broken down five features I believe are imperative to creating “realistic” paranormal.

1. The details.

It’s the small things that matter. If I buy into a world I want to be able to taste the food, feel the textures, hear the sounds – not just for the major things, but for the everyday bits as well. How does a werewolf shave? Does he laugh at the silliness of it?

2. The characters must be human.

I don’t mean literally. Your MC can be an alien with three heads for all I know. What I mean is that inside, the thoughts and feelings should be familiar to the reader. We have to be able to connect on a visceral level. So as long as we have that internal connection, the character will be much easier to accept.

3. The world must be complete in the author’s mind.

If you don’t understand your world, neither will your reader. You have to know how everything works and fits together if you want to have a hope of conveying it to others. Don’t gloss over parts you are having trouble with, make sure you have a reason and that it all fits together, otherwise fix it.

4. There must be no discrepancies.

If your vampire can’t see himself in a mirror, you better have a very good reason why the girl see’s him coming at the end through a reflection in the water. Make sure if there’s a rule, you carry through to the end. If your MC saves the day because of some hidden power, please build up to that reveal, so it feels natural and not like something you came up with to get yourself out of a corner you’ve written yourself into!

5. The rules must be based on universal truths.

I’m going to assume the laws of gravity apply unless otherwise stated. And even if you don’t reveal every last thing, you will find it helps to have a solid reason as to why things are the way they are. The logic will translate onto the page.

What do you think? Have I missed any key elements?

newestpicLisa Gail Green writes paranormal and fantasy. Her newest publication is IDENTITY CRISIS in the anthology GODS OF JUSTICE. Lisa is an active participant on as well as You can find Lisa most often on her own blog at or Twitter as @LisaGailGreen. She would most definitely have a werewolf for a pet if she weren't allergic.