Unicorns shed their horns in early fall and vampires hoard Twinkies. I’m not an authority on unicorns or vampires but who is? Today, author Jacqui Jacoby shares her research tips on researching the paranormal.
Welcome back, Jacqui!
From an unnamed book by an unnamed author:
“Demons are creatures from one of the many levels of hell. They don’t like sex, they don’t eat, they can influence your dreams, they are super strong … and basically you are writing a fiction novel so you can make up anything else you want about them.”
That was literally the writer’s recommendation for researching the demons in your novels.
And I have to be honest and say that 1) as a professional researcher and 2) a writer of the paranormal, I have to agree with the man.
No offence to anyone’s belief systems but if you are working with vampires or werewolves or the abominable snowmen? I hate to be the one to tell you, but they don’t really exist and what you are doing is not exactly “research”.
Research: noun: 1: the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions. (Webster’s)
Paranormal writers don’t research. We discover, we rewrite, we create when needed.
Can your character fly? What do we have to know in the book in order to present them flying? A magical power that simply creates this ability? Jet pack?
Canon is the law in a story that once is put into motion, stays in motion. If you character can fly on page one of your book, he can still fly at the end of the book, unless an adequate explanation can be given for why this ability was lost.
We, as writers of books that alter reality, we are held to a higher standard to provide “facts.”
Where do we get “research?”
Calling someone in field: i.e. a church officer to see if a minister will talk to us for a moment about a particular scripture that influences the novel. I needed a Gaelic word and I had zero luck finding it. My hero was Scottish. I contacted two departments in two major universities in Scotland for the information by email and I had the answer within forty-eight hours.
Dear <department name>: I am a fiction writer working on a new book in which my hero needs to utter a Gaelic phrase. I was wondering, if you had a minute, do you know if you could help me or maybe someone who could …
Regardless if you are researching a “normal” novel or a paranormal, getting help from people is actually one of the easiest parts of research. Ask. Generally someone is at a job where they do the same thing every day and a note from an author saying ”help” brightens up their routine.
I am heavy into vampires as I am currently living with five in my head and I did a ton of “research” into them only the sites I found online? They can be pretty weird. Some were legitimate modern day vampires living a real vampire life giving advice on “victims” (don’t kill anyone), where to get blood (don’t ask) and their sex lives based on their ability to go all night with their vampire skills (really don’t ask).
I really wish I was kidding.
Do a Google search and you will find hits. Comb them carefully to find the information that pertains to you.
“How to Start Your Own Cult.” Okay, not my usual read but what do they say that I can apply to my vampire world?
There was a lot of information on vampire lore available based in many mythologies and religions.
Question the logic of who wrote these pages. These are myths, remember, not reality. Example: vampires cannot be seen in mirrors or photographed.
Why? It is traditional to have this fact in a story however digging deeper into the myth, you find that their bodies cannot reflect the soul they lost off the silver of the mirror or the silver in the film.
Silver was the key and yet I have seen that this one element of being a vampire carried so far as they cannot be seen in a toaster. A toaster in the kitchen and the vampire was not reflected.
And today, mirror backs are most commonly treated with aluminum. It’s cheaper than silver. And cameras? Digital.
In modern society there is no reason why a vampire cannot be seen in a mirror or a camera.
Researching creatures that don’t exist does require a certain amount of diving skills: we have to dig into what we find while adding in the possibility that we can make this up. See toaster.
The vampires in my Dead Men Series all shave in the evening in the bathroom mirror, all carry driver’s license with their photos and can walk into a church. I took the myth and rewrote it to make it logical for me.
Do you want your zombie to fly?
Not something I have heard of, but if you can find a reason why and how, why not? Find the science or religion behind it, present it as background and you are there.
Max Brooks said in his book The Zombie Survival Guide that it is advisable that you don’t have sex with a zombie as things could go bad. He took a concept, applied logic and I believe he is right. In my opinion, sex with a zombies sounds icky.
People ask me what I do and I have no problem answering that: “I make things up for a living.”
I do…I do make things up. I also understand that though it is fiction, there has to be a reality to the world I am working with presented in a logical fashion.
That’s where the “research” comes in.
Can you share tips on creating creatures, places, and things that don’t exist?
DEAD MEN PLAY THE GAME – For a hundred years, Ian Stuart has fought the monster controlling his life. Living as a human among humans, he wants to fill the void that has followed him from one empty, lonely relationship to another other. Ashley Barrow is working the worst murder case in Davenport, Oregon’s history. She needs a drink to forget the detailed images in her mind. When she walks into Ian’s pub, Ian knows their lives are about to change.
Bio: Award-winning author Jacqui Jacoby lives and writes in the beauty of Northern Arizona. Currently adjusting to being an empty nester with her first grandchild to draw her pictures, Jacqui is a self-defense hobbyist. Having studied martial arts for numerous years she retired in 2006 from the sport, yet still brings strength she learned from the discipline to her heroines. She is a working writer, whose career includes writing books, teaching online and live workshops and penning short nonfiction. To learn more about Jacqui, visit her website at www.jacquijaxjacoby.com, her blog, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
- Jacqui Jacoby presents: Heroines Can Save Themselves
- Weekly Lecture Schedule – July 6th to July 10th
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- Weekly Lecture Schedule for July 5-9: Query Writing, Twilight Craze & Paranormal Discussion w/2 Authors & an Editor
- Love Bites! A Young Adult’s Perspective on the Twilight Craze