Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Establishing Rules for Your Paranormal Character

One of the things my agent asked me to clarify was the rules to my characters abilities. She has psychic dreams and while I never though it needed to be defined more than that, I can now clearly see why it is oh so important.

The more I began to think about all the paranormal, fantasy or sci-fi stories I’ve read over the years, the more I began to realize they all had rules. Some rules are inherent, such as vampires being unable to go out into the sun, or werewolves changing with the full moon. Others are more mandates, like in Harry Potter, underage wizards aren’t allow to perform magic away from Hogwarts. They are physically capable of performing magic, however they face expulsion.

Rules in speculative fiction create conflict and raise stakes: the vampire who needs to go out in the daylight to save his one true love; the werewolf locked in a room with his family minutes away from the full moon; Harry Potter performing magic away from school while still underage is brought before an inquisition.

But on the flip side, establishing rules means exploring what happens when the rules are thrown out. The day-walking vampire or the werewolf who can change at will.

I thought about all of this while establishing the rules for my psychic dreaming mc. I needed rules for her actual dreams, how they come to her, how she sees them and how she can control them. Then I needed to establish the rules for her interference or lack there of. There has to consequences to just about every action taken, otherwise, why do it? I’m still thinking and tweaking. Hopefully, I’ll get it together.

How important are rules to you? Have you established rules for your speculative characters? Have you taken well known rules, such as no sunlight for vamps and turned them on their ear?


Tamara said...

Crap, woman! Now I have to do more damn revisions. haha...

I don't know if I need to establish rules for Luc and Auri dreaming of each other. I mean...he watches her in his dreams, but can't interact with her beyond that until he gets to our world. She never remembers her dreams of him, because it's too hurtful. I think both those things are pretty well implied. Now I'm not sure though. you've read the book twice. What do you think?

And here's a question...how can you have rules if your characters, like mine, are just discovering that they have abilities? Can I just show them discovering the rules as they go along learning to use them? In other words, can I wait for the next book to cover this? haha

And, last question that has nothing to do with this, but I meant to ask earlier. Did the whole "Looking like a sepia photo and 'flawless brown skin'" cover the fact that Gabby is black? She's actually supposed to be mixed, so she'd be somewhat lighter skinned. I was hoping that description got her race across, cause i'm not sure how else to do it.

Karen Denise said...

Hey Tam,

I think your characters abilities are well enough defined. You've read PD so you know that there are dos and don'ts I can explain with Sayra's abilities. The only thing I can say for Auri is bc of her other "magical" abilities and how she can manipulate the opposite sex with it, you've already explained the stigma, but there really aren't any rules so to speak. But I'll think about it more. Sorry if I threw a monkey wrench into you story-lol

I think you can absolutely show them discovering the rules as they go along.

As for Gabby, her description is fine. She's a minor character so you don't need to beat us over the head with it. I think what you have is good.

Jai Joshi said...

Good luck figuring out those rules! It'll be a better story for it.


Karen Denise said...

Thanks Jai, I'm still working on it. But you're right. It will be a better story because of the effort!

Tammy Theriault said...

Great blog. Rules help for those wondering what the limits are and it makes the story interesting when you have those "hurdles" in the way.

Yolanda Renee said...

Rules, rules and more rules, got me thinking, good blog.

I found you because of the liebster award, and wanted to say hi.

Karen Denise said...

Thanks, Tammy. I've been realizing how great rules are and how breaking them are even greater! Thanks for the comment!

Hi Yolanda! I'm glad I got you thinking. Thanks for coming over to say hello!