Sunday, 14 October 2012

How to make the Supernatural into Natural Thrillers

Making the Supernatural seem Natural?

Turning the supernatural into the super-believable? That, as I see it, is the challenge to all paranormal thriller writers. Making supernatural elements fit into a thriller story so seamlessly that the reader accepts them without question, is not easy.
After all the vast majority of readers who enjoy this kind of fiction are perfectly reasonable sane individuals who do not necessarily believe in ghosts, spirits and things that go ‘whooo’ in the night. But just like sci-fi readers, they want to wonder and ponder the unanswerable questions. Just for the time it takes to engage with the story readers will willingly believe if we give them a good reason to.
That’s not to say that once the book is read the reader will believe any of it but just for that book the reader suspends disbelief. This, of course must happen with all stories but it is so much more difficult when dealing with the paranormal.
Of course, making the world the characters inhabit detailed and colourful and having the characters themselves rich in human traits and emotions (even if they are spirits or whatever) helps. If the people in the story believe in the other-worldly elements and do so right from the beginning as a matter of course, then the reader will too. Events follow in a normal and accepted way and lo! - the supernatural becomes the natural for that story.
For me the furthest I will go into using the supernatural is to introduce elements of ‘what if’ into a story. What if someone’s soul/spirit does not die with them but carries on in someone else’s body? What if a spirit wilfully inhabits someone else’s body and makes them do things they would never normally do? What if someone has the power to read certain people’s minds? What if this power is hereditary and a child is unaware they have it? What if someone believes that if they preserve a person’s body after death they will gain power over life and death and eventually become immortal themselves? (See The Afterlife of Darkmares ). What if a person really does have a double and the double/doppelganger bends the person’s will to make them murder their own child?
I know, I know. All of these have been done before but not by me and my imagination. I had fun with these stories and will continue to use similar scenarios in my writing. But apart from the paranormal additions my plots have conflict, suspense and follow normal storytelling rules and my imagination, with the help of my muse, adds width, depth and a sprinkling of magic – at least I hope it does…
Happy Writing!

Do you read paranormal thrillers?



  1. Hi Pat,

    I don't read as many as I want to...mainly because I'm trying to write one!
    I wish I had more reading time...but there is nothing else I can sacrifice to find the time right now.

    The trick is definitely making the world the characters live within believable to readers though. ;-)

  2. I do not read paranormal thrillers. I think my very strong Christian beliefs keep me from enjoying them, but a soul carrying on and doing good in the world could certainly fit within my beliefs.


  3. I both read and write paranormals, and I agree that making the world believable is half the job done. People can suspend disbelief in some areas (vampires are real, ghosts exist, etc) if the rest of the world is solid enough that they don't have to do any work to believe it. Let's face it, this world is real but contains some pretty unbelievable stuff - we just have to translate that to fiction!

  4. I like your 'what if'ing', Pat. I hate it when authors make assumptions that readers are always on the same page as them when it comes to the supernatural.

  5. Check out Austanspace's blog. He posted a ghostly gallery site. Worth looking at.