Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Alphabet Soup

My sister actually came up with the title for today's blog post. We were talking about our favorite paranormal/UF books and the discussion came around to books with large casts of supernatural characters. Hence, alphabet soup. We like our books to be crammed with supernatural creatures from A to Z.

When a story is brewing and percolating in my mind, I already have an idea of who (and what) my major players are going to be. And since I love to write series, I have to be really careful not to paint myself into a corner. A small cast of characters can be the kiss of death to a series.

I need variety. I can't settle for just vampires. Or just vampires and werewolves. I want vampires, werewolves, fae, goblins, ghouls, demons, and as many otherworldly creatures as I can think of. Now, you don't have to cram all of these creatures into every single scene. But, these fringe creatures should be introduced at least once, so they can be brought into later scenes or later books with ease. A series is only as good as its individual stories. And no one wants to read seven books about one creature. That's not what a typical urban fantasy reader is looking for. Neither do they want to read about every single supernatural creature under the sun hanging out in one book. That's just too much, and it's easy for the story to spiral out of control. Not to mention the burden of world-building that the author has to pull off in order to keep the story believable.

But by introducing a large cast, you can have one book that focuses on one creature, another book that focuses on another, and so on. Your world-building is only as good as the creatures in your world. And the story options once they're there, is limitless.

How about you? Do you enjoy an alphabet's worth of supernatural characters in the books you read, or do you prefer to focus on a specific creature? And does the lack or excess of either affect a good series?


Shain Brown said...

The more the merrier. Throw them all in. By adding more paranormal characters the lines of normality begin to fade, and that's where the fun begins.

tracey garvis graves said...

I like several types of supernatural creatures. I think it's interesting (and I also think you're spot-on)when you say it's good to introduce them early, but not necessarily focus on every one of them in an entire book or scene. You make a valid point because sometimes it's confusing to keep track of all of them.

But I say, bring 'em on. And to echo Shain, the more the merrier.


Katrina L. Lantz said...

I've seen this kind of alphabet soup done really badly, but Kiersten White's Paranormalcy changed my negative opinion of the hodge-podge otherworld approach. It was just so fun having all those creatures there, and with a different spin on each one than you might expect. Like vamps just hanging out in graveyards because the entertainment industry made them feel like they should.

In Mortal Instruments, I thought it was well done, too. She kind of eases you into this world where there are more things than just the demons and the shadowhunters - exactly like you said.

But I actually don't mind reading a paranormal or urban fantasy about one species. Those are the stories I can really get lost in and *almost* believe. Like in Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater.

Fun topic!

Rane Aria said...

For me as a reader less is more. I find that when a writer focus on one or a two type of supernatural creatures and molds them or even when they create something brand new it draws me in deeper into the story and their world their writing - on how the said character effects the world around them and how their effected by what or whom they are.
When an author brings to much to the table, it's like an overload of a little to much and the dish can't be savored, but if you bring this amazing plate before the reader I feel it's a meal (book) more enjoyed