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Perils of the Paranormal

I experienced two different stories recently that bugged the crap out of me. Why? They start with a story world where the paranormal was not recognized or admitted to, much less an integral part of the world.

Then a character is confronted with paranormal phenomenon and immediately embraces the paranormal explanation instead of being confused, intolerant of the idea, or terrified.

In the normal world, unless a character firmly believes in the paranormal to begin with, it would take repeated exposure to the phenomenon to convince them it was real. They would assume it was a hoax or search for a rational explanation. They accept the irrational explanation only after all other logical options have been dismissed.

To avoid this plot hole, ask the following questions.

1) Is the paranormal entity or magic status quo in your story world?

If so, make this clear in Chapter One. Don’t wait until a turning point to pull it out of the hat or at the climax to solve the story problem.

If not, then show some resistance to the idea.

2) How did it start? What was the point of origin?

Everything starts somewhere. Yes, you have to make this up. Once the “big lie” has been accepted, the logic has to track from there. If A is true, then B would follow, and so on.

3) How did it spread? 

More hard work. You have to create the history of your story world. Who was “patient zero?” What was the mode of transmission? Was it viral or carried down through specific bloodlines? Did several people develop their similar or dissimilar traits all at once? Why? How?

4) How does it manifest itself in the world?

You need to work out the rules. How does it work? What are its limits? What can it do? What are its weaknesses? What makes it difficult to defeat?

5) Who knows about it?

Is this the first encounter/episode or is there a history to draw from? If there is a history, then where, when, how, and why?

If there is a secret seething underworld, how does it remain hidden? If only a few people know about it, how did they find out? What kept them from sharing the secret? If this is news to your protagonist, you have to show him struggling to accept it, at least through turning point one.

Cue your reader in. Don’t leave them clueless.


  1. >> 2) How did it start? What was the point of origin? <<

    I'm working on a series now in which the characters themselves don't know the answer to this. Most just accept it and move on -- magic is a fact in their world, kinda like gravity but less universal -- but *I* need to know. I don't understand everything about how gravity works, either, but I know it influences everything in my world!

  2. Then the answer to the question is, magic, like gravity, has always been part of their existence. It isn't a new phenomenon. They may not know why some have it and some don't. That's an acceptable answer. Randomness creates its own share of potential plot holes. Do people spontaneously become magical for no apparent reason?

    I can tell you, as a rational thinker, if I see something I can't explain, a paranormal explanation is the last thing I'd believe!

    However, if people start becoming vampires, there is usually a point of origin. If there are witches are they all equally powerful? Do they have the same "talents?" Why or why not? Do different bloodlines have different specialties? If people are morphing into werewolves was there a first werewolf that got bitten/cursed?