When writing about an overused supernatural creature?

by Kida
(Virginia)

Question: What with Twilight, True Blood, and their many carbon copies nowadays, a lot of people are feeling tired of vampires, werewolves, fae, and witches. But I've had a thing for werewolves since before Twilight came out. How can a writer make their spin on a classic supernatural creature unique or draw people in?

Also, a common theme in urban fantasy with more than one supernatural creature is mystery. Usually there is either a supernatural detective or a random civilian who gets caught up in some paranormal mystery and if it is a series, then each book has a different plot. I like stories like Harry Potter or His Dark Materials that have plenty of side quests and stories but one overall goal and plot. How can I make this work in urban fantasy with a female werewolf main character?

Answer: It may be a bit unfortunate that you're coming in at the end of a trend. However, there was also a time when publishers believed there was no market at all for books about werewolves. Things change.

Honestly, you can't worry too much about what's popular now because...

a) By the time you have your book written, revised, sold, edited, designed, published etc. years will have gone by and new things will be popular.

b) If you can write a book that's outstanding, there's always a market.

I can't tell you how in a nutshell to make your book unique and special. All I can say is that you need to do it, because a unique voice is one of the things that will draw readers in. There's no formula for unique voices; that's why they're unique.

Same thing with your second question. Yes, you must have a sound plot with a story goal. If you're writing a series, the series will have an overarching goal and plot, plus each book will have it's own separate goal and plot. But it's up to you to decide what these will be.

Of course, there a few basic techniques. You named one: mystery. Another is to create a main character the reader will care about. Doesn't matter if she is a werewolf or an apple, as long as you can give her problems and feelings that the reader can empathize with. Also, if your plot structure is sound that will help involve the reader emotionally. Start with the 8 Basic elements (on the "Write a Novel" tab).

Finally, if you find yourself having written a great story, but are faced with a market that simply doesn't want another werewolf book, there is one thing you can do. It may seem impossible, at first, but it has worked for many writers. The trick is to change the supernatural creature from a werewolf to something else - maybe a new supernatural creature of your own creation. Yes, it would mean some rewriting of the superficial details, but you'd be surprised how much can stay the same. Werewolf...alien...creature from another dimension...normal human with anger management issues... the real story lies in the underlying emotions, ideas, and attitudes. The fangs and fur are just the costuming.

Comments for When writing about an overused supernatural creature?

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Jan 31, 2012
!
by: Anonymous

Love the rewriting trick, Glenn, and your point about costuming.

Oct 17, 2012
Hey! I had the same question!
by: Vida

It's so true!

When I first approached my WIP, I knew I wanted to write a story in the paranormal genre; however, I don't particularly care for vampires and approach werewolves and all other supernatural creatures (e.g. fairies, witches, shapeshifters, fallen angels, demons, etc.) cautiously.

Still, I didn't want to use a completely obscure creature; hence I wanted to stay within the framework of North American-recognized legendary creatures.

Anyways, I think it also all depends on whether you want to write a story that sells, or a story that you love, or you could aim for the best of both worlds.

You want to sell it: you write a creature that your audience can recognize, not one that requires back story (although you can try, it shouldn't matter because you just want to sell, right?)

You want to love it: you write what you want--at least you give yourself the time to research and play around with what you want

You want to sell and love it: probably the hardest one--but also the most rewarding path. maybe you'll write about vampires, but you add your own twist to the classic bloodsucker structure. or maybe you're brave enough to write about an obscure mythological creature because you want to.

Dec 19, 2013
In my opinion
by: Anonymous

Sticking with the same overused creatures is boring, you should use other creatures like Vrykolakas, Aatxe and Lamia for once to break the worlds habbit to overuse some creatures (dragons, werewolves, griffons and most of all vampires and zombies) and give other (much more special creatures) a chance to become just as famous (while still not overused)

Really werewolves, zombies and vampires had their fame, now move on to Popobawa, Wendigo and Aswangs.

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