The Psychic Realm–The Inception of A Great Fantasy Ride

As a fantasy/paranormal reader, what makes you “buy” into a story’s alternate reality? As a fantasy/paranormal writer, how do you earn that commitment from your fans? How do you, like in Book 1 and 2 of my Legacy series (or the movie Inception), take concept like dream theory and spin an alternative world (in my case, a Psychic Realm) out if it that’s so real, a reader could see it as her own?

As for me, let’s start with some of the more obvious techniques I see out there:

1) Cool! Fantasy/paranormal readers crave the cool factor in their entertainment.  As a writer, do your research (I have an entire shelf and a full “favorites” browser folder of dream research). If you veer toward sci-fi like Inception and my Legacy series do, understand the science behind the concepts your manipulating as best you can. Then ramp it up several levels.


Go for the new (which I thought I had four years ago when I started writing Dark Legacy). Then we saw Inception last year and I sat through it saying, “Cool!” over and over as the same lucid dreaming techniques and “psychic’s manipulating reality through dreams,” and “dreamers losing control of the physical world because they’re not sure when they’re dreaming or not” concepts I used play out on the screen in an even more vivid way. Go for the cool.

Those of you who saw Inception, wasn’t the levels within levels concept and the way the scientists tried to manipulate the dreamer and the dreams and how they left themselves an “out” to be sure when they were awake or not, but still by the end of the movie you were left wondering if the protagonist was still lost in a dream loop TOTALLY COOL!

2) Really? Fantasy/paranormal readers above all others, IMHO, want you to stretch the bounds of credibility to, but not over, their breaking point. Especially if you’re writing contemporary fantasy. At least the kind of contemporary fantasy I love to watch and read  and write. Take the research and science and whatever “out there” nugget struck you as so cool you just had to create around it, then take it to the next level. And then the next. Don’t just deal with what might be, but take the leap. Go all the way to what can’t be, then be creative about how to short curcuit a reader’s possible scepticism or disbelief so she’ll come along for the ride.

fantasy guy

Readers, am I right? Did you want them to make it out of the dream loops in Inception, even though there were plot and dream theory holes you could drive a semi through? Those of you who’ve read Dark Legacy (and didn’t hate it because the overabundance of fantasy and sci-fi elements and “under abundance” of heavy breathing romance and vampires and bloody battles that you’d find in urban fantasy, which DL never was but some reviewers just couldn’t accept that fact…not that I’m bitter), did you find yourself scouring each repetition of the dream symbols, each new evolution of the visions, for clues and trying to puzzle out who the wolf and raven really where and which was the ultimate villain of the story?

If you did, in both cases, you got lost in the creator’s fantasy world and went for the “cool” over the more intellectual, “this is just too out there for me.”

3) More! Once a sci-fi/fantasy fan is believing, then wondering, about your world, you want them begging. Once they’re hooked, don’t let them go. I’ve been reading more fantasy than thrillers lately, because my mainstream novels are clearly moving in that direction as I write them. And the one thing that struck me about fantasy, more than the paranormal romance/urban fantasy hybrid I first thought I was writing, is how the ending of these books leaves readers gasping. Turning the page and wanting the next scene, and the next.

magic girl

It’s appropriate for the sci-fi/fantasy genre. Not so good a fit for romance, as my editor warned me over and over as we re-crafted the end of Dark Legacy, especially since Secret Legacy wasn’t yet written. And she was right. Some reviewers and readers hated that the dreams science was only just taking form as a “reality” in the world of my first book. That they’d have to read Secret Legacy to see a world fully embracing my psychic twins’ gifts, the Brotherhood of watchers and the council governing the twins and other psychic family lines like them, and the government research center full of “evil” scientists closing in on all of them.

Readers, however, who loved the tendrils of sci-fi/fantasy I’ve woven even stronger into Secret Legac,y embraced Dark Legacy’s ending. It left them  demanding more after the last page, too, but with anticipation. They were loving the fact that Dark Legacy’s ending was a cliff hanger. More than a tease, it was the genesis of a new story. Secret Legacy, literally, picks up exactly where DL leaves us (a  few months later, but dealing with EXACTLY the same elements and conflicts and escalating danger and confusion as the not-so-resolved resolution of the first book in the series).

Readers who love this sort of thing accept/expect that each new story or introduction of a fantasy/scientific element is merely a prelude to it being taken to that next “cool” level. They like being puzzled. Stumped. Teased, if you will. If you get it right, they’re dying to know more, even if they have to wait for it a bit.

So, as a reader, give me Cool!, Really?, and More!, and I’m a happy camper. Turns out, when I’m writing something paranormal and not quite “real,” those are exactly the elements I went for in my Legacy novels.

I’ll be talking more about the fantasy and sci-fi psychic elements and the exciting dream theory evolution and the Psycic Realm in Secret Legacy in coming weeks. But for now, paranormal and fantasy readers and fans out there, did I get it right?

What do you look for in your favorite books and movies and series?

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2 Responses to “The Psychic Realm–The Inception of A Great Fantasy Ride”

  1. Angie T says:

    I think you got it! I want to be entertained. I don’t want to have a complicated ‘world’ contructed that distracts me from the story. I don’t need a lot of romance, although I do love it! I like to see relationships built and a setting that I can suspend disbelief and think, “Hey, it could happen”
    There are some authors that I expect the romantic stuff from! It is just part of their style and I am a die-hard series reader!
    I have read your romances, but I have not read Dark Legacy. Now I am intrigued!

  2. Mary Preston says:

    I want to lose myself, be drawn in. I want to be entertained & learn a little something new.

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