How to Write What You Know When You Write Paranormal

Posted on Oct 12, 2017 by   7 Comments | Posted in Blog

By Maureen L. Bonatch

In the early stages of my writing career I often heard the expression, “Write what you know”.  This bewildered me a bit. I wanted to write about extraordinary things that lived only in my imagination, not about the usual things in my life that I felt would be boring in a book. Plus I’m somewhat of a private person, so why in the world would I want to write about me?

How could I write what I knew when I wanted to write paranormal and fantasy? I didn’t know anything about magic except that it fascinated me and I’d never met someone not quite human—if you don’t count that weird guy I dated who claimed to be a vampire. Later, I discovered that wasn’t exactly what the expression, write what you know, meant and came to realize how to apply this expression to my writing.

Harness Your Emotions

If you ever kept a journal then you’ll already understand how cathartic it is to pour your heart out on a page. You can do the same with your characters without sharing personal details of your life. Simply explore the root of your emotion and insert it in your story in whatever situation you desire.

I herniated a disc in my back while working on my book, Evil Speaks Softly. This resulted in me writing and editing much of this story while lying prone. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, but I channeled much of the physical pain I endured into the emotional struggles of my character. Not by inflicted her with a back injury like myself, but instead by increasing the helplessness and emotional pain she felt about losing her mother at a young age. My frustration and anger served my heroine well as she faced down ghosts and demons.

Look Closer

Everyone has a little bit of extraordinary if you look close enough. Most writers have an extraordinary imagination. To me, writing what you know means make what you see in your mind real to the reader, or using the emotions from an experience, your observations of a person, or a setting, in your story.

Spent time people watching at a mall or a local event. Although the people may seem familiar and maybe dull to you, your vivid description will enable someone else to visit your hometown in their mind. Allow your readers to envision these ordinary people first, so when you sprinkle in a little paranormal your reader will believe the unbelievable.

Draw from Your Settings

I spend a lot of time walking or riding in the wooded areas around my small town. Most of my stories are set in these settings because I love to be able to add those little details. Granted, as far as I know, none of the trees around my house appear to harbor evil intent or move on their own accord, but it’s those little touches of magic that take the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Book Blurb from Evil Speaks Softly

They were never supposed to meet. Fame came easy for Liv by following in the footsteps of the female writers in her family. The cycle repeated for decades…until Liv changed the story. Her villain doesn’t like the revision—and he isn’t a fictional character. In his story, the bad guy always wins.

They were never supposed to find love. Liv never questioned her demanding nocturnal muse, or the strange incidents in her old, family home until she met Gage. His job was to watch her from afar, not reveal the truth about the curse and the stories of the dead. They’ve broken all the rules. Together they unravel secrets as they strive to stop the cycle. Liv’s ability to find love, and protect her loved ones, hangs on the fickle whims of the dead—and they’ve got nothing to lose.

Author Bio: Maureen Bonatch grew up in small town Pennsylvania and her love of the four seasons—hockey, biking, sweat pants and hibernation—keeps her there. While immersed in writing or reading paranormal romance and fantasy, she survives on caffeine, wine, music, and laughter. A feisty Shih Tzu keeps her in line. Find Maureen on her websiteFacebookTwitter 

7 Responses to "How to Write What You Know When You Write Paranormal"

  1. Comment by maureenbonatch
    October 12, 2017 12:53 pm

    Thank you for having me here today.

    • Comment by mariannehdonley
      October 12, 2017 5:01 pm

      Great post! “Write what you know” has always made me laugh. What I know isn’t interesting, but what I don’t know. . .now THAT always fascinated me.

  2. Comment by Ed Hoornaert
    October 19, 2017 12:24 am

    Putting the pain of your herniated disk into your book is a great example of using life experiences. Thanks for sharing, Maureen!

  3. Comment by Sorchia D
    October 19, 2017 10:51 am

    “Make what you see in your mind real to the reader” is the perfect way to say this! Nobody looks at the real world the same way and nobody has the same quirks in their imaginations. And thank the gods some great authors didn’t pay attention to that “Write what you know” nonsense–Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and even Agatha Christie, who probably didn’t actually murder numerous aging aunts, rich uncles, or despotic fathers, to name a few. Thanks for your post.

    • Comment by maureenbonatch
      October 19, 2017 10:55 am

      So true! Thanks so much for visiting!

  4. Comment by Sage J Winter
    October 21, 2017 12:40 am

    The line about “pouring your heart out into your journal” resonated with me. For years, I’ve been keeping journals, sometimes using different notebooks at once which explained why my journals didn’t make sense chronologically. It was cathartic like you said, but I stopped. When I started writing my stories, my characters’ emotion seemed lacking and that’s when I realized how personal emotions play into my characters’ emotions.

    May have to start writing on my journals again.

    • Comment by maureenbonatch
      October 21, 2017 12:35 pm

      That’s a wonderful observation, Sage. Thanks so much for visiting and sharing your thoughts.

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