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?