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Creating a Paranormal World: inkTips from Author Cynthia Hand

Posted by inkpopbecki on April 6, 2011

Cynthia Hand knows a thing or two about writing compelling paranormal worlds. As a debut author, she was able to intrigue a HaperCollins editor so much, she sold the paranormal trilogy Unearthly on her first round of submissions. That is practically unheard of in the publishing world. How did she do it? Ask her yourself. Join us for a live chat with Cynthia Hand today at 5 p.m. EST in the inkpop Event Forums.

In the meantime check out these helpful tips from Cynthia on how to create an engaging paranormal world.

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1.Do the research. For most paranormal worlds there is some sort of mythology and history out there. Most of the big best-selling books like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, etc, that have fantastic, creative and original worlds also have a very strong basis in real history and myth. Don’t be intimidated by it—dive in! Become an expert in the subject, really let yourself get into it and try to look at your topic from all angels—whoops, I mean angles. J The more you know, the fuller and richer the world you create will become. Creating a believable paranormal world is about the details, and doing the research will provide you with all kinds of beautiful details. Make it your business to collect details.

2. Follow your instincts. While you’re doing all this amazing research, let your gut lead you. If there’s a nagging little voice at the back of your brain that says that a piece of information you stumble over could be important, or that maybe you should look into this particular story or subject a little more, listen to it. Be curious. Go after what interests you, not just in a little way, but in a big way, because if something is super interesting to you, chances are that it will be interesting to everybody else, too.

3. Ditch the research. At some point you will have to push out on your own. Don’t let the information you’ve gathered confine you—break away. Take what you want from the research and abandon the rest. What will make your paranormal world successful is ultimately not about the fact-gathering you’ve done, but about your own unique vision. That’s why there can be ten great vampire novels out there or why so many writers can get away with retelling the story of Cinderella; even if the story’s been told before or we’re familiar with the subject, you, as a writer, can make it new. It’s all about your creativity, your twist, your fresh take.

4. Don’t forget the real world. Maybe the biggest, most important tip I can give you in creating a paranormal world is to put as much focus (if not more) on the real world of your story as you put on the supernatural world. When we are immersed in a real world that feels true and visceral and er, real, then it is easier for us to believe the aspects of your story that defy belief. A good story is not just about the flashy special effects—it’s about the people, and you want your people to live in as real an environment as possible. Practice restraint with your crazy supernatural stuff and think instead about what your main character eats for breakfast. (My main character, Clara, is a fan of Cheerios with banana slices.) Again, this is about the details.

5. And finally, have fun with it. Let yourself play! This is the fun part of being a writer!

Want to read more about the Unearthyly series? Check out Unearthly at HarperTeen.

2 Responses to “Creating a Paranormal World: inkTips from Author Cynthia Hand”

  1. Derek Odom said

    Ha! Do the research, then ditch the research. LOVE it. So cool! Great blog, thanks!

  2. […] Hand, first-time author of Unearthly, posted some tips over at Inkpop for authors looking to create their own paranormal worlds. 1.Do the research. For most paranormal […]

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