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…