Making the Supernatural Believable
by Gail Z. Martin
Inheritance, which is part of my Deadly Curiosities series, has ghosts, curses, demons, witches, supernatural creatures and haunted objects. I love writing about spooky stuff, and I do my best to make the paranormal elements believable so that readers get an exciting thrill ride of a book.
For me, the first step in making the supernatural believable is to research the lore, urban legends and ghost stories of an area. My urban fantasy books are set in real cities, most of which have a long, reputedly haunted past. Those stories arise from an area’s history and the people who came to live there, so understanding the history of a place is also important.
My goal is to make the location of a book so much a part of the plot that the story couldn’t happen in the same way anywhere else. That requires research into the culture, and how the people who live there see themselves and their heritage. Of course, those elements wind back to the supernatural, because people tell stories about their ancestors, the people who settled the area before them, the rogues, scoundrels and criminals, the people most likely to have their spirits stay behind when their lives end.
Magic is always a part of my urban fantasy books, and to make magic believable, it has to have rules and come at a cost. People with magical abilities need to have limits, or they become super-powered and so there’s no suspense. Rules are important so that magic doesn’t just conveniently solve all problems. Also, since I draw from real-world belief systems around the practice of magic, I do my best to be faithful and respectful to those traditions and represent them and their practitioners accurately.
I research the urban legends and ghost stories of a place because those are rooted in the area’s unique history, the people who settled there, and the physical nature of the location. The real legends provide wonderful plot bunnies for ways to incorporate some of those old stories and elements into my new stories, so that the tale feels organic, arising from its location.
The other key element is consistency, which comes back to rules. If creatures act a certain way in one book, or magic has certain abilities or limits, then that has to remain consistent throughout unless you provide a very good reason. That also helps with believability, because the supernatural elements shouldn’t solve every problem easily so they don’t feel like a cheat to get the characters out of tight situations.
I love writing spooky stories and weaving in supernatural elements—and I’m thrilled that readers like to read about ghosts, magic and haunted places. For me, getting to research and write paranormal plots is the best job ever!
Cassidy Kincaide runs Trifles & Folly in modern-day Charleston, an antiques and curio shop with a dangerous secret. Cassidy can read the history of objects by touching them, and she teams up with friends and allies who use magic and paranormal abilities to get rid of cursed objects and keep Charleston and the world safe from supernatural threats.
Caribbean ghosts terrorize Charleston and start racking up a body count. Then Beckford Pendlewood, the heir to a powerful family of dark warlocks, shows up raving about a bound demon locked in a lost box and begs sanctuary. Can Cassidy and her friends find the demon box, stop the killer ghosts, and break the Pendlewood curse before Beckford’s murderous cousins and the vengeful demon destroy them all?
Available at: Amazon
An Excerpt from Inheritance
“I have a problem antique I’d like you to take a look at.” The man on the other end of the call sounded rattled. I recognized his name—Alfred Stone, from Stone Auctions—but I didn’t think we had ever spoken, let alone met.
“What kind of ‘problem’ does it present?” I asked. A number of possibilities came to mind. “Questionable provenance? Not sure how to authenticate?”
“I think it’s trying to kill me.”
Well, damn. That kind of problem. “All right, Mr. Stone. Try to stay calm.”
“I just told you, it’s trying to kill me. I heard you…know…about these things. Please, help me.”
Across the store, Teag Logan glanced up to make sure everything was all right. I nodded, and he went back to helping a customer.
“I can come now. Are you at the showroom?”
“Yes. Thank you. And…please…hurry.”
I ended the call and sighed. This might be the first time Alfred Stone had an antique try to kill him, but that made it just another day here at Trifles and Folly.
I’m Cassidy Kincaide, and I own Trifles and Folly, an antique and curio shop in historic, haunted Charleston, South Carolina. The shop has been in my family for more than three hundred years. While we’re known as a great place to buy high-quality antiques, the shop is also a cover for the Alliance, a coalition of mortals and immortals who save Charleston—and the world—from supernatural threats. I’m a psychometric, which means I can read the history and magic of objects by touching them. Teag is my assistant store manager, best friend, and sometimes bodyguard—and he’s also a talented Weaver witch. Sorren, my business partner, is a nearly six-hundred-year-old vampire. Together with some other friends with very specialized abilities, we do our best to keep the world safe from dark magic and things that go bump in the night.
“Problem?” Teag asked when the customer left.
“I’m not sure,” I replied. “Alfred Stone just called—from the auction house. He says he’s got an item that’s trying to kill him.”
“You want me to go with you?” Teag pushed a lock of dark hair out of his eyes. His skater-boy haircut and skinny jeans made him look younger than his late twenties. “Maggie can handle the store.”
On cue, Maggie—our lifesaver of a part-time associate—waved to agree from the other side of the store. She was sporting a new bright pink streak in her short gray hair, and it matched her sweater, a reminder—as if I needed one—that she believed in taking risks and living large.
I reached up to slick my humidity-frizzy strawberry blond hair back into a ponytail and shook my head. “Let me go see what the problem is, and I’ll figure out what to do from there. It’s not far away, in case I need to give a shout.”
About Gail Z. Martin
Gail Z. Martin writes epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books, Orbit Books, SOL Publishing, Darkwind Press, Worldbuilders Press and Falstaff Books. Recent books include Convicts and Exiles, Sellsword’s Oath, Inheritance, and Night Moves. With Larry N. Martin, she is the co-author of the Spells Salt & Steel, Wasteland Marshals, Joe Mack and Jake Desmet series. As Morgan Brice, she writes urban fantasy MM paranormal romance including the Witchbane, Badlands and Treasure Trail series. Recent books include The Rising, Flame and Ash.
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