Please welcome Gail Z Martin back to the blog as part of her Days of the Dead blog tour, and be sure to check out her links below the post for tons of goodies!
Keeping the Supernatural Real
By Gail Z. Martin
Ghosts, magic, vampires, and freaky supernatural creatures abound in my books. Whether it’s a main character who is a necromancer, a shop owner with the ability to read the history of an object by touching it, or an ancient and deadly ghost menacing a steam-era city, my stories are full of things that go bump in the night.
How do you make supernatural elements real enough that readers suspend their disbelief? Where’s the line between fantastic and fake?
For me, any time I create magic and use the supernatural, there have to be rules and limits. This keeps the story within bounds and keeps it from jumping the shark. When magic has rules and power comes at a cost, then practitioners in the story are going to be careful about how they use their skills and they won’t be able to take on god-like superpowers (or at least, not for very long). Invincible characters aren’t much fun because they’re never at risk. Rules and limits provide boundaries beyond which characters risk damage, death or worse.
Rules also mean that magic doesn’t become the cheap fix for plot problems too tangled to resolve. If we’ve clearly stated that magic can’t do certain things, or can only work within limits, then it doesn’t turn into a cheat or an easy out.
Supernatural characters need to be consistent. If they can’t do something in one place, then they can’t do it later when it would be convenient. Likewise, while the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland may have believed six impossible things before breakfast, asking your reader to swallow more than one stretch of the imagination at a time is asking for trouble.
I try to make sure readers see how the magic and the supernatural work through my character’s eyes. How does magic feel to use? What are the character’s hopes, fears and worries about supernatural power and paranormal creatures? The more we see of the world through the eyes of the people who live there, the more ‘normal’ what they encounter becomes to the reader.
It’s my goal to create a world in which the supernatural fits. If the book is set in a real-world city, explain to readers why there are suddenly gnomes and fairies in Minneapolis when that’s not something people take for granted. My challenge is to make the magic real through the use of details for rituals, descriptions of amulets, sensory depictions of sights, smells and tastes. I tell the reader whether or not everyone knows about and believes in the supernatural, or prepare them for the idea that only a few people have that knowledge and explain how it stays hidden.
Readers want to suspend belief. They are disappointed when a flaw in the writing jostles them back to the real world. It’s my job as a writer to help them lose themselves in the story, and I can best do that by making the magic as real as possible.
*My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for stories and books by author friends of mine. And, a special 50% off discount from Double-Dragon ebooks! You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here: www.AscendantKingdoms.com
Enjoy an excerpt from Reign of Ash, Book Two in my Ascendant Kingdoms Saga—a bonus excerpt from Collector, one of my Deadly Curiosities Adventures short stories —and a second bonus excerpt from Bad Blood, one of my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures short stories .