Writing the Supernatural Thriller: How to Turn Old Fables into New Tales

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My fascination with all things supernatural started at an alarmingly early age. I remember staying up way past my bedtime, huddled under my comforter, glued to the pages of a Christopher Pike novel. Scavenger Hunt was my favorite. As I aged, my thirst for edgier plots took me, naturally, to Stephen King. Christine scared the bejesus out of me. Later in life I discovered Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Kim Harrison. When thinking about why I love all of these different authors, I realized all of them had something in common; they were able to take classic folk tale characters and give them a twist, making them fresh and exciting.

This guest post is by Dana Leigh. Leigh is an American author of supernatural fiction. Dana was born in Northern Colorado in 1979. She was raised in the rural town of Pierce. Dana attended college in Northern Colorado and East Texas, where she studied history. In 2011 she moved to East Texas. While there, she worked in law enforcement. In 2015 Dana moved back to Colorado where she currently lives with her only daughter and continues to pursue her dreams of being an author.


Follow her on Facebook and @danaleigh_79.

When it came time for me to write Covina I really had to sit and think about what kind of experience I wanted for my readers. I knew I didn’t want was a book full of tired mythology that’s been done and re-done a hundred times. I had to create supernatural characters that would make readers of the genre raise an eyebrow.

The first thing to consider is the setting of the story. Covina is set in modern times, so I had to decide how my supernatural characters were going to interact in a world where everything is logically, technologically and scientifically grounded. A character developed in a historical setting is going to behave differently than a character that has been developed in a modern society.

In the case of Covina, immortals, witches and angels all had to find their niche in a modern world where normal humans do not regard the creatures as anything more than mythical. A fantastic example of adapting characters to fit the story setting is exhibited in Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series. She adapts every supernatural being ever conceived to fit in modern Cincinnati, Ohio. The same could be said for Charlaine Harris’ characters in her Sookie Stackhouse series.

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The second thing to consider is the conflict. In the case of Covina, the conflict between good and evil manifests itself as conflict between law enforcement and criminals. With my background in law enforcement, I knew I wanted Covina to have that element of conflict; I just had to decide how the supernatural characters would fit into that dynamic. When constructing the supernatural elements of the story, ask yourself, “How can I incorporate supernatural elements into the conflict”. Stephen King used a predator and prey type conflict in the book Christine. King portrayed the predator as a possessed 1958 Plymouth Fury, and the prey as two unsuspecting teenagers. The result was terrifying in this author’s humble opinion.

The third thing to consider is the theme of the story. When considering the theme, consider how the supernatural elements of the story reinforce the theme. Covina follows the moral that good conquers all. The good in this instance is a group of immortals who double as law enforcement agents in a small town. The evil is the crime syndicate of witches known as Covina. When crafting the characters, think about how their supernatural traits will benefit the theme.

Finally, when writing your story, have fun with it! Always keep in mind that this is the realm of the supernatural and anything is possible. These characters can live and act any way you’d like them to live and act. The sky is the limit. Be creative! If you want psychic leprechauns and homicidal fairies in your story, do it! If the elements are all there and you can make the story intriguing, the readers of the genre will love it.

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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer's Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

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