Crystallizing Your Book Idea . . . for Paranormal or Any Genre
By Debbie Herbert
I love paranormal romance because the possibility of magic tingles my creative drive and curiosity. The speculation that there might be something more to reality than can be perceived through our senses provides a natural “what if” environment writers need to create stories.
Plus – I’ve never outgrown my love of fairytales and mythology!
Not only do I write paranormal romance, my subject matter isn’t of the popular vampire or werewolf variety. I chose to write about mermaids. I’d completed three other novels (as yet still unpublished) before switching to mermaids and landing multiple contracts with Harlequin Nocturne for a series.
It all started with a dream. I was swimming in a deep body of water when I noticed a man dumping something from the side of a boat. Curious, I swam over. The man noticed me and his expression was so evil that it frightened me and I woke up. Like a typical writer, I started asking those ‘what if” questions: what if he were a killer? what if he was dumping a dead body? what if I were a mermaid and he caught me?
And from that one dream, I created a world in which a clan of mermaids secretly lived deep in an Alabama bayou.
Okay, great ideas are had by all writers. How do you begin the whole unwieldy process of stringing together thousands of words into an interesting, coherent story?
We all have our own process. I’m sharing mine today in the hopes it may spur you to try something different that might make it all a little easier or clearer.
My starting point is answering these three questions:
1. What is the HOOK or PREMISE? What makes your book unique? What’s it about? Just write one sentence – the shorter the better.
2. What is the GOOD VERSUS EVIL in my world? I think for paranormal writers, this is important. Are your supernatural beings seeking power or dominance over humans or other creatures? For mystery writers, it may be an evil killer versus potential victims that provides this conflict.
3. What are the STAKES? The stakes are huge in paranormal worlds – it is often no less than world upheaval or human subjugation to supernatural beings.
If I can grasp these, I can go on to develop character and romance ARCS and external and internal conflicts. The questions form my logline and blurb. This is how I start every book. It’s how my brain works. Here are some examples from my books:
1. CHARMS – How can a teenage witch help an immortal on the run from another enemy immortal? Note: In Immortal legends there is already a strong, built-in good versus evil theme. The hook was combining the worlds of witchcraft and immortals. Stakes: Control of immortals and humans by an evil warlock clan.
2. CHANGELING –What happens to a child kidnapped by fairies and raised by them? Good versus Evil is between two warring fairy worlds. Hook is the reverse fairy tale. Stakes – if bad fairies win upcoming battle with good fairies, humans will suffer from bad fairies.
3. FAMILIAR MAGIC – How can a magical cat help an outcast middle grade girl? The evil are the bullies. The Hook is that the book is written from a cat POV. Stakes: character and animal’s happiness and survival in MG school world.
4. SIREN’S SECRET – Hook: What would happen if a mermaid saw a serial killer dumping a body at sea? Good versus Evil – serial killer versus cops. Stakes: Killer could expose mermaid world and endanger their species.
5. SIREN’S TREASURE – What would happen if a mermaid was captured by modern-day pirates? Hook – treasure hunt. Good versus evil – kidnappers versus law enforcement. Stakes: Missing H-bomb captured by American enemies. Stakes: World peace.
6. SIREN’S CALL – What would happen if a siren met a man not affected by her magic? Hook – hidden world of Okwa Nahallo – (Choctaw legend of mermaids in the bayou) and Indian lore. Good versus Evil: Female stalker versus cops. Stakes: Main character’s life and happiness of hero – prevention of future murders.
Once you’ve answered these questions you can go about the nitty gritty details of plotting your book. I’m pretty low tech. I get a posterboard and divide it into 20 sections which represent each chapter. I fill in the turning points and any scenes that have come to mind. I don’t worry about filling every square, I just fill in what I have and GO.
How do you begin your novels? I’d love to hear your process as well!
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Debbie Herbert writes paranormal romance novels reflecting her belief that love, like magic, casts its own spell of enchantment. She’s always been fascinated by magic, romance and gothic stories.
Married and living in Alabama, she roots for the Crimson Tide football team. Unlike the mermaid characters in Siren’s Secret, and Siren’s Treasure, she loves cats and has two spoiled feline companions. When not working on her upcoming books, Debbie enjoys recumbent bicycling with her husband as well as spending time with her two adult sons.
A past Maggie finalist in both Young Adult & Paranormal Romance, she’s a member of the Georgia Romance Writers of America. Debbie has a degree in English (Berry College, GA) and a master’s in Library Studies (University of Alabama).
Connect with Debbie on social media or learn more about her books.
http://goo.gl/cdgxFT – buy link for Siren’s Secret
http://goo.gl/ymsQdL – buy link for Siren’s Treasure
Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Debbie-Herbert-Author/151793451695632 Debbie Herbert Author