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A Not-So-Special Paranormal Fiction Writing Challenge

Despite Tuesday’s Definition, I’m still convinced that paranormal fiction should be strictly about ghosts and ghoulies. Not vampires. Not werewolves. Not witches.

Just ghosts and ghoulies.

I touched on why I feel that way already on Tuesday, but I don’t mind restating it. It’s because urban fantasy and contemporary fantasy – or any blend of the two – always involve vampires, werewolves, witches, wizards, fairies, ogres and their kind.

So where does one genre start and the other end?

Why have two different genres without two different meanings?

How does that make sense?

What is the purpose of life?

Forget that last one. I already know the answer. But the other three questions remain a mystery that I and Innovative Editing have to admit we’re stumped on. That’s why today’s Writing Challenge might not sound entirely original…

Define your paranormal world.

Since paranormal means “not normal,” readers won’t be instantaneously familiar with your setting. So be sure to welcome them in.

This should sound familiar if you follow Innovative Editing’s Definitions, Writing Challenges and Rules each week. It’s the same advice given in the overarching fantasy Challenge for the same reasons.

Readers want to get figuratively lost in your story, not literally. So make sure to establish a proper guide.

That guide could be the narrator explaining the situation. Maybe something along the lines of:

Yan-Deren had grown up knowing about the other side of life: the world beyond the world everyone else knew. The world where the dead weren’t so inanimate after all.

Obviously, you would need more narration than that to properly take up this Writing Challenge, but that’s the gist of it.

It can also be established through dialogue, such as in the following interaction:

“Ghosts and ghoulies?” she scoffed. “Did those words really just come out of your mouth? You sound like an idiot, Travis.”

Travis didn’t back down though. “They’re real, Vi. As real as those murders. Why do you think there hasn’t been a single trace of breaking and entering at any of the crime scenes?”

“Because the criminals are just too smart for us?” Still the mockery.

“Or because they’re using portals in the Everworld to come in and out of those specific spots.”

Voila! Thanks to that dialogue trick, readers of this fictional work now understand that ghosts and ghoulies do exist, that they’re not always nice, and that there’s such thing as the “Everworld” that can act as a sneaky portal for knowledgeable and capable beings.

Again, there’s more detail that needs to be added in to fully explain the story’s setting. But this is a good start.

Besides, if you’re writing paranormal fiction, you don’t need to and probably don’t even want to give away everything right off the bat. That could kill the suspense, or it could just look like an exposition data dump, where readers get too much explanation and not enough action.

Yet, as with every other genre – fantasy fiction included – readers need to know the setting they’re interacting with if they’re going to feel at home with the characters in the plot.

Keep that in mind when starting or revising your paranormal fiction manuscript, and you should be on the right track. Ghosts and ghoulies and all.

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