When seeking advice on how to breathe life into your paranormal characters, look no further than the pro: Yasmine Galenorn. The author, creator of the Otherworld series, has penned many mystical beings and their worlds in rich, compelling detail. Take, for example, the engrossing D’Artigo Sisters. The three women, half-human, half-fae, have went on to inspire a 13-book series. At a craft workshop during the 2012 RWA Conference, the author shared her tips on creating life-like paranormal characters with aspiring writers.
Tip #1 - When crafting a book, leave 90% of the main characters’ back stories out
Galenorn says that it is important for the author to know just about everything about their characters. But when it comes to imparting this information to the reader, be very careful. “Authors need to ask themselves if it is necessary for the reader to know something or just get to see the outcome.”
In order to keep readers engaged, the author says that characterization should come in “drips and drabs.” As an example of this, Galenorn told the audience to check out some of her stories. Inevitably there will be a section, usually in chapter two, where there is a page and a half of character introduction. “I pick out the highlights of what has come before in the series. I try to encapsulate why the characters do what they do.” She says any more than a page or two of this backstory and readers may become bored.
Looking for an easy test to see if there is too much info dump? Galenorn says, “After you write, look at the physical page. Are there long blocks or text, or is there plenty of white space? Readers respond to smaller paragraphs."
Tip #2 - When creating a fictional world try not to include rules “across the board”
Just like every person is different, every magical character a writer creates needs to be different as well. In order to create unique characters, the author says that first and foremost it is important to create a distinct personality, and then you can “mix in the magic.”
The author says that in terms of species, writers can start with generalizations, however, in order to create three-dimensional characters, specific traits need to be included that other characters don’t have. Cookie cutter characters need not apply.
Tip #3 - Mix up the way you write villains
First, Galenorn points out that not every villain needs to be really, really evil. She says she has written her antagonists at all levels. Right now, her Otherworld series is focusing on a psychotic demon lord with no redeeming value. However, the demon minions are a different story all together. The author revealed that recently, “One minion actually turned and joined the sisters.”
So what should you absolutely remember about making a good villain? It’s simple. “The most interesting villains,” says Galenorn, “are the ones who can fool you or try to turn you to their side. Logic and truth are the best weapons and they can use that to appeal to what a person needs. It is almost like a con man.”
Tip #4 - Make the sex scenes realistic
Galenorn’s number one tip for writing a sex scene is that the author needs to make sure it is physically possible. “You wouldn’t believe the sites I have been to, to see if what Camille and her three husbands do can be done,” jokes the author.
As for the romance aspects in the story, Galenorn reminds the audience that “emotional doesn’t have to be sappy. A glance, a catching of the breath because you are with this person. That can be the most romantic of all.” She points out that writers must make sure to always engage in the emotional as well as physical in order to make it believable to the reader that these characters are truly in love. But this does not mean using purple prose. “The throbbing manhood has had its day, and now is gone,” says Galenorn. But that doesn’t mean writers have to be clinical, she says it is important to be artistic. “Make sure to use all five of your characters’ senses (or six or seven if they have them).”
You can see Galenorn’s advice in action in her popular Otherworld Series. Want more from your favorite paranormal and urban fantasy authors? Visit our Everything Paranormal & Urban Fantasy Page.