Have you ever wondered about the process of world building for a paranormal romance? Most paranormal romances are set in the contemporary world that looks an awful lot like our own with a few exceptions. The twist in most paranormal romances is the presence of the paranormal. That requires a certain amount of world building.
Understanding the Rules
Readers and writers have one thing in common where new worlds are concerned. They need to understand the rules of that world. In Twilight, for example, vampires are created when one vampire bites a human and injects venom. If the human survives the venom’s effects, they become a vampire. If not, they die. No matter whether they transform or die, the process is excruciating and takes about 48 to 72 hours. This is important information for the audience because it’s a different take on the creation of the vampire.
In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the blood swap between vampire and victim is necessary and the victim must die. Then you wait to see if they rise again. Apparently, it doesn’t always happen. However, when the victim rises as a vampire, they are not that person as a vampire, instead the soul is gone and a demon moves in. Again, this is important information for the audience to know because it establishes the rules for that world.
Supernatural Out in the Open
In both of those examples, the supernatural elements are “secret” from the world at large. When you bring the supernatural out into the world, you open up a completely new can of worms. For Nancy Holzner’s Deadtown this means cordoning off part of Boston as the “deadtown” and giving Massachusetts the “Monster”chusetts nickname as well as making those supernatural creatures fight for their rights.
In Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson series, the openness of the fae communities led to new laws and reservations. When the werewolves came out, the subsequent society fall out is also documented. In both cases, their own laws and bodies of order govern each of these “paranormal or supernatural” societies.
In Holzner’s work, this is a three-person council made up of a vampire, a werewolf and a witch. In Briggs’ world, the Grey Lords oversee the Fae while Bran as Marrok rules the werewolves. While each of these drops of information are not always vital to understanding the actual story or don’t impact the direct story being told, they are important to adding texture to the world.
Understanding the Worlds Being Built
Almost everyone can name the President of the United States at any given time if they live in the U.S. Not everyone can name the Prime Minister of Britain. Probably even fewer can name the heads of state in France, Germany, Belgium and Japan much less in other parts of the world. These details aren’t “important” to our day-to-day lives. Yet when we are telling a story set in any of these places, those details are important.
When you visit another culture whether it’s through a book set in a contemporary world or a fantasy setting, you need to have enough information to navigate that world, but not so much that you drown in an encyclopedia entry. Most writers will eventually create a detailed “bible” of their world – think the guide to the realm of Wizarding in Harry Potter where you learn all the ins and outs of the Ministry of Magic. Small drops of that will appear in the works, the parts the readers need to know to make their way while they are visiting. The more time we spend in that world, the more we learn.
Therefore, when it comes to world building, paranormal authors have a lot to think about and paranormal readers are our best tourists. They don’t just read the road signs, they check out the sights too.
What are some of your favorite details in the worlds you have visited recently?