Sunday, October 23, 2011

On Creating a Realistic Paranormal Storyline: A guest blog by Craig Hansen

Ever since the success of Stephanie Meyer's TWILIGHT, the genre of young adult paranormal novels has exploded in popularity. Along with that popularity, a fresh influx of new authors trying their hand at the hot new genre was surfaced. Some understand the conventions of the genre and formulate believable storylines out of those raw materials. Others understand the component parts, but not necessarily how to mix them successfully, and produce storylines that hit all the genre conventions, but somehow don't ring quite as true.

Crafting a believable paranormal storyline is as challenging to pull off convincingly as it is in any other genre. In fact, it can be more challenging because one must mix the emotional realism of sympathetic main characters with the fantastic elements of the paranormal genre. It's a delicate mix.

Overemphasize the paranormal and the resulting storyline may have plenty of action-packed scenes; but if the characters in them are not relatable, there will be no emotional connection between the reader and the fate of the characters. Overemphasize the real world aspects and some readers may reject the novel as being properly categorized as a paranormal novel. The mix has to be just right to capture the widest possible audience.

TWILIGHT pulled off its mix by concentrating on the teen angst of first love. The paranormal elements became more acceptable because of the gripping emotional roller coaster readers took with Bella Swan; they bought into Bella, so they bought into the rest of the four novels.
There are several approaches that can work, in this regard. Yet whatever approach is chosen, getting that mix just right is important.

For my novel, SHADA, I faced the same choices and challenges as anyone else entering the paranormal genre. How prevalent should the paranormal be in the world of Ember Cole? Should most of those around her be hiding paranormal involvements, or should most of them be "normal?"

Because I conceived Ember Cole as a character around which a series of novels could be built, I decided I wanted to introduce the reader to the characters first and foremost. I also decided, after extensive reading in the genre, that the novels I enjoyed most were the ones where the paranormal was present, but rare, and the subject of some skepticism among normal characters.
By taking this approach, I opened myself up to a realm of storyline possibilities not already well-trod in the genre. I could introduce paranormal elements slowly and selectively, and make the occurrences special due to their rarity.

Let's face it; between Stephanie Meyer, Amanda Hocking, and dozens of others in the young adult segment, as well as novelists like Charlaine Harris, Lauren Hamilton, and others who cater to older readers, we've all read plenty of takes on what the world would be like if vampires, ghosts, witches, werewolves, and other creatures of paranormal origins were not only real, but accepted as a common part of daily life. There are plenty of folks writing that sort of novel.
SHADA is a unique read in that while the paranormal does manifest, it's not an accepted part of daily life, and even when it's encountered, folks try to explain it away. This makes the world of Ember Cole more recognizable and easy to relate to.

In SHADA, the main problem confronting Ember Cole is not whether to accept the romantic advances of a vampire boyfriend, nor is it how she is the key to victory in a Wiccan-lycan war in some way she doesn't understand at first.

Instead, she's facing problems many teens face in real life. She has experienced the death of a loved one. She's also coping with the effects of grief and aging on her grandmother. These experiences cause internal conflict that lead her to seek answers through paranormal means, enabled by a tight circle of friends who only wish to help her.

In SHADA, the paranormal elements are a séance and a haunting. For people who love to read about a war between two paranormal races, that's not a lot of paranormal content. Yet keep in mind, this is our first glimpse into the world of Ember Cole. Best not to overwhelm readers straight out of the gate.

How Ember and her friends, Jeni, Willow, and Shada, interact with and relate to the paranormal tells us a lot about each of them, and gives us a context for who Ember is. Ember will appear again in the second book in the Ember Cole series, EMBER. The paranormal elements will increase in that installment, but my goal is to always have Ember facing conflicts that girls her age normally face. The paranormal conflicts will be the icing on the cake, not the only sources of conflict.

By offering up enough real life issues, as well as paranormal ones, my hope is that SHADA and the entire Ember Cole series will provide a believable context out of which the paranormal storylines grow.

Oct 18 Promo
Book Lurve

Oct 19 review and guest blog

Oct 20 guest blog
Pocket After Dark

Oct 20 Interview and Review

Oct 21 Guest Blog
Lisa’s World of Books

Oct 22 Spooking The Spine- Halloween Guest Blog

Oct 23 Roxanne’s Realm

Oct 28 review

Oct 29 Interview
Fang-tastic Books

Oct 30 The Write at Home Mom

Oct 31 Halloween Theme Guest Blog
Fang-tastic Books

Oct 31 Interview at

By Craig Hansen

Book 1 of the Ember Cole series.

Genre: young adult paranormal suspense

Word Count: approximately 32,500 words.

SHADA Book Blurb:

"If you could talk to a dead person, anyone at all, who would it be?"

A year ago, Ember Cole witnessed the death of her grandfather. Now, with her grandmother slipping away into dementia, she seeks answers from the only person who loved her grandmother more than her, even if he is dead: Grandpa Normie.

Joined by three of her closest friends, Ember treks deep into the woods of northwestern Wisconsin, seeking the advice of a dead man on how to save the living. But sometimes, the dead have their own agenda.


Craig Hansen wrote stories from an early age, but when his SF short story, "The S.S. Nova," was published in the Minnesota Writers In the School COMPAS program's 1981 anthology of student writing, When It Grows Up, You Say Goodbye To It, he decided to dedicate himself to writing. Several unpublished novels and short stories followed.

Hansen earned two degrees at Minnesota State University at Mankato under the mentorship of young adult novelist Terry Davis. In the years that followed, Hansen worked a variety of jobs related to writing, including editorial work at a small publishing house, holding a position as a Web site editor, and five years in journalism in northwestern Wisconsin, where he earned several state awards for his writing and editing.

His work has appeared in the Meadowbrook Press anthology, Girls to the Rescue, Book 1, as well as the true crime journal, Ripper Notes, in volume 28.

His first novel, Most Likely, was released in May. Shada is the first installment of the Ember Cole series of young adult paranormal suspense books. Hansen is hard at work on the next installment in the series, the novel-length book, Ember.

Hansen recently moved to Oregon with his wife, a dog, a cat, and his 89-year-old father, a World War II veteran.

Craig's interests include the music of Johnny Cash, reading the novels of other independent authors, blogging, and the study of Messianic theology. On his Web site, you can sign up to receive a periodic email newsletter that will notify you when he releases new novels.

Connect With Craig Online At:
Blog and Web site:


Craig Hansen said...

Thanks for hosting me, Roxanne. I hope your readers enjoyed the post, and if they have any questions for me, I'll be checking here throughout the day and periodically throughout the rest of the month. :)