Guest Post with J. Bennett
Please welcome to the Nest the fresh voiced J. Bennett, the author of Falling, the first book in her Girl With Broken Wings series. I hope y'all enjoy her as much as I have!
Anatomy of an Angel
Thank you to the lovely ladies of Reading Lark for hosting me and for supporting so many talented authors. Since this blog is geared for savvy and passionate readers, I thought it would be fun to write about one of the most rewarding and challenging aspects of writing paranormal fiction. Without further adieu…
“It’s a legitimate question,” my sister insisted over the phone.
“Is not,” I shot back.
“Well….if you don’t know the answer…”
“Of course I know,” I snapped at her. “It’s just…does it really matter?”
“It does to me. Maya doesn’t eat human food; she feeds off human auras, so… does she poop or not?”
Writing my first novel has been an amazing adventure. I knew it would be hard. I knew there would be plot holes to fill, dialogue to carefully craft (and then re-craft and re-craft and re-craft…), and pacing knots to patiently untangle. Did I ever think that I would spend several days contemplating whether or not my main character poops?
No, but that’s both the fun and challenge of writing in the paranormal genre. You can make your characters do the most unbelievable things…as long as it’s believable.
What I mean is that the paranormal elements must work; there must be some rudimentary foundation of logic, some master plan or map that the author has built behind the scenes.
Let me take a step back and provide a little context. I recently released my first novel, Falling , book one in the Girl With Broken Wings series. Falling is a paranormal adventure featuring Maya, a college sophomore who is abducted and changed into an “Angel”. My angels aren’t of the fluffy-wing, harp-wielding variety. They are a group of genetically-enhanced super humans who possess extremely keen senses, reflexes and strength. Additionally, they can see emotions as colors in the auras that each human exudes. Angels feed off these auras, making humans their number one snack of choice.
When I created Maya as a character, I had to develop her unique voice, define her motivations (easy – she mostly just wants to find and kill the one who changed her), and figure out how her new body worked. It was kind of a cool process. Not only did I need to chart the mechanics of her new abilities, I also had to demonstrate how this change affected her life.
I spent a lot of time imaging how Maya interacted with a world in which she could hear the other end of a phone conversation from across the street, run a sub-four minute mile and lift three hundred pounds overhead easily. Then there was the hunger. Enhanced senses are great, but I also had to describe what it was like for Maya to live every day tempted to feed off the energy of the humans around her (including her two vigilante rescuers who also happen to be her half-brothers).
Probably the most difficult aspect of creating Maya was figuring out how the auras worked and defining a consistent system wherein different colors, movement and brightness all helped Maya read the emotional patterns of the humans around her. It didn’t help anything that I decided everyone’s aura was slightly different or that one of her half-brothers, Tarren, starts catching on to Maya’s abilities and locks down his emotions.
I have a whole color chart that correlates to emotions. My sister has a habit of peppering me questions like, “what color is angst?”, “what about hubris?”
Hubris? Seriously? I need to have an aura color for hubris?
The easiest paranormal element for me to write was the actual way in which Maya feeds. It’s kind of funny how some things can be so very clear, and other aspects are a struggle to define and develop. Maya’s feeding as definitely on the “very clear” side of things. In fact, it was almost the first part of her I ever saw.
Like most of the things I write, Falling started out as a single scene that materialized inside my head and then wouldn’t leave. I imagined a young woman approaching a bed where her brother slept (this would eventually turn out to be Gabe). To her enhanced eyes, he is cloaked in a beautiful blue aura. She hungers for that aura, for his energy. The addiction is so strong that she cannot fight it. As she drifts closer to the bed, the skin peels back from her palms and vein-covered bulbs lift out of each hand. Unable to stop herself, she reaches out her hand, ready to attach her feeding bulbs to his aura and drain him.
This scene eventually became the prologue of the novel, and I built the angel feeding mechanics around that central vision of the skin peeling back from Maya’s palms and the bulbs slowly lifting out. I added more details and even drew up an “angel anatomy outline” for myself, but the essentials remained the same.
I think readers may be interested to know how much thought writers put into all the background details of how paranormal elements work in their stories and how many reams (electronic reams now) of charts, anatomy outlines, lists of aura-color correlations never see the light of day.
I wonder this myself when I pick up a new paranormal novel (by “pick up” I mean download onto my Kindle). I’m sure it varies from author to author. I imagine some authors are obsessive like me (must make more charts), while others put more faith in the reader’s ability to suspend belief. Personally, I really like when I can really visualize how a certain element works.
I love details. I love feeling the story in my bones, and I love it when readers come to me with questions like “Does Maya need to brush her teeth?” “Can she get pregnant?” But even I have my limits…which is why the poop question will remain unanswered!