Genre tips

7 Tips for Paranormal Writers

paranormal fictionOne of my writing gigs is as an Amazon Vine Voice. They send me free books (and other products) and I share my honest opinion. If you go to Amazon, you’ll find a label (Vine Voice) by my name, as you will with all of the other Vine reviewers. It just means we accept the responsibility to share our thoughts as objectively as possible.

When I log into my Vine account, I find a list of a couple hundred books to choose from. I can pick the genre so I don’t end up reading a travel book when I’d prefer a thriller, but, it’s not an exact science. More often than expected, I’ve been surprised. For example, Richard Bausch‘s fantastic new book that I’d consider more brainwork than I normally subscribe to is included under thrillers–which is usually reserved for plot-driven, non-stop action stories. This is my long way of explaining how I’ve stumbled on and enjoyed several paranormal novels which normally I would have skipped such as Heather Graham’s Krewe of Hunters series and Carsten Stroud’s Niceville trilogy.

WiseGeek defines paranormal this way:

Paranormal stories encompass elements of the paranormal such as ghosts, vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, and any sort of magical or otherworldly creatures. This type of fiction often goes beyond fact and logical explanations to speculate about the things that cannot be seen or proved, such as extrasensory perception (ESP) and alien life.

If you’re a paranormal author or reader, here’s what you’d expect out of your story:

  • paranormal is not fantasy, though it may be similar. The characters include ghosts, vampires, psychics–that sort–set in a real-world setting. Here’s a test: If you can remove the paranormal creatures and what remains is a world much like what you see around you, it’s paranormal rather than fantasy.
  • create a solid mythology. It doesn’t have to match what the standard opinion of vampires or werewolves is, but it needs to be believable.
  • include a strong female lead. From what I understand from my paranormal-writing friends, this is the current trend and a popular one.
  • the main character may or may not have supernatural abilities–or they may be hidden–but should include a core of goodness that directs his/her actions.
  • include lots of conflict between the supernatural world and the human world.
  • the villain is likely darker and more powerful than the main character.
  • if you include a romance as a main plot point or subplot, you’re probably writing for the sub-genre, paranormal romance.

If you write paranormal, what would you add to this list? How can I explain it better?

More on genre writing:

10 Tips for Steampunk Writers

14 Tips for Young Adult Writers

Can You Mix Genres in Your Writing?

Tips on how to write 23 different genres

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

42 thoughts on “7 Tips for Paranormal Writers

  1. Thank you for the tips. I’m indeed writing a paranormal romance. But I would not have known it was exactly ‘paranormal’ until a blogger friend told me last week. This confirms it in your post🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You asked what I would add to this list. I’ve noticed some writers who write about this genre are not including ghosts, shape-shifters, psychic abilities, etc. Yet that’s what I think of as paranormal. Has the term broadened that much?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not familiar with this genre from personal experience, but I appreciate your definition. I do like a bit of magical realism, a la Isabelle Allende, but not sure that qualifies as paranormal. Also loved A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle, about the dead., but it’s called fantasy. At least this genre likes strong female characters.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like paranormal, Jacqui but I really don’t read enough of it (this post is a great reminder for me). Two of my stories touch on the paranormal and I absolutely loved writing them because it was a great way to really stretch my imagination 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great to read right now because I’m almost ready to pass my medical thriller off to beta readers and it has a touch of paranormal in it. My lead is a man this time around, but he has a strong female sidekick, so maybe I’m covered there. I never thought I’d write paranormal elements, but I had an idea and I went with it. There are a lot of medical thrillers out there, so I try to add another layer to mine, whether a theme like my last one or a subgenre.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think the ‘reluctant paranormalist’ is perfect for me. The books I mentioned seemed that way: They weren’t so much a paranormal story as the paranormal kept intruding on the reality of life. That made it believable to me.


  6. Paranormal writers could learn a lot by looking at the writing of many of the Central and South American authors (though I think they’d be offended at applying the genre to their work.) Some cultures just have a wider spectrum of sensory input than others. For them, the spirits of the dead are ever-present in the day-to-day of living. Maybe they are correct. I’ve often wondered if the influence of our departed loved ones doesn’t shape our actions–maybe as much through how we (our characters) internalize life’s lessons as through actual paranormal interference, but it is still the impact of the “dead hand” in any event.

    Liked by 2 people

      • I’m generally a straight science kind of gal, but, in my own experience, I have had contact with ghosts, spirits, whatever you want to call them. I know that “witness testimony” is dubious, but it’s tough to discount multiple, verifiable connections. As a result, on the paranormal spectrum, I move through the universe with an open mind.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Jacqui,
    I had the privilege when I first started to review books to read a trilogy from a writer out of the United Kingdom who wrote paranormal, Merlin Fraser. He wrote a beautiful trilogy that I believe you would love. They were my first contact with this genre and his books also paved the way for me to like well-crafted paranormal books.
    All of the points you have mentioned, I agree with. Paranormal is not fantasy and not romance either.
    Great article.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll look up Merlin Fraser on Amazon. I’m currently reading James Runcie’s cozy mystery series “Grantchester Mysteries”, but it’s only four books long. I’ll be on the hunt for the next read soon.


  8. I don’t read much in this genre but I note your comment about a strong female lead – that seems to be the case for many genres nowadays, don’t you think? Police & crime particularly. Also I find children have the lead role in many contemporary fiction novels – another recent change.

    Liked by 1 person

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