The Magic of Paranormal Fiction
By Colin Galbraith
What is it about readers of paranormal and magical fiction that keeps them coming back for more? As one of the most steady genres in fiction in terms of output, is there something that sets readers and writers of this particular form of fiction apart?
To answer these questions, I looked at my own reading habits: just what is it about stories with these elements that I find so interesting? Is it simply a genre that’s fun to read, or are there deeper reasons to it?
The first thing I realised is that I enjoy reading this type of fiction for the very same reasons I enjoy writing it, and I suspect, that goes for other writers, too.
It’s the ultimate “what if” fantasy; taking a reader into the unknown, the world of the paranormal where nothing is certain and there are no definite lines of physics or logic, and then manipulating that world to give the reader new and exciting stories.
Paranormal and magical fiction is a way out of every day life to a much more intense degree than, say, literary fiction. Both genres have their exciting moments, of course, but providing it’s done correctly, these forms of fiction allow the writer to create new stories far removed from everyday life, and for the reader to then live them.
One thing that particularly appeals to me with paranormal fiction, is when everyday life situations are enhanced by the specific elements of the genre. In paranormal fiction, the author can investigate new ideas, perhaps mix history and smudge it with what one sees outside the window, thereby bringing to life old and often forgotten tales and breathing new life into them.
Living in Edinburgh gives me a unique angle on this as it’s one of the most haunted cities in the world. Every street, building and pub, especially in the Old Town, has a resident ghost story (sometimes a resident ghost), so as a writer, I’m spoiled for great ideas.
In my debut paranormal book, STELLA, I took fictional characters and threw them into the ring with a satanic demon. Many people were shocked by this, but what I was trying to achieve was to take a more mainstream genre (a spy thriller) and turn into something new.
One of the successes of the Harry Potter series was taking a fictional character that everyone could relate to, and then giving him powers that made him stand out from the crowd.
What kid never dreamt they had a cloak they could hide behind that would make them invisible, or that they could perform magic at the stroke of a wand to wow their friends? JK Rowling created the perfect mix of dreams and magic.
Paranormal and magical fiction isn’t just about entertainment for entertainment’s sake, however, as it can also ask deep and meaningful questions.
Take God and Satan, two of the most well known lead characters in world literature. Do they exist? Are they one in the same? Did they come from the same place? Is there a Heaven and Hell? What happens when we die? All of these questions and more can be asked and explored through paranormal and magical fiction.
When the boundaries are less real, greyed out by what lies between life and death, it opens up whole new realms of possibilities for the reader and the writer. A writer can really go to town with experimentation in the paranormal and magical genres, and it is this, I think, that separates it.
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Colin Galbraith is the author of STELLA, a spy novel with a paranormal twist, as well as several books of poetry. Read more about him here: www.colingalbraith.co.uk