Three of my books are for readers who like a little quirkiness with their paranormal. Although they are not considered “horror stories” some are spooky, & some are quirky, some were inspired by classic fairy tales, but they are all supernatural fun!
Jaclyn’s Ghost: Ghosts, Mystery and Fashion. Can this diva solve her own murder? Or will she be stuck in limbo forever?
Silverweed: Granny, a werewolf, and three teenagers trapped in a spooky old house in the middle of the woods. In this Little Red Riding Hood inspired supernatural fairy tale, the roles of prey and predator are blurred.
Supernatural Fairy Tales: Paranormal short stories inspired by Fairy Tales. A warlock’s indecent proposal, vengeful ghosts, pill-popping wolves, merfolk (Are they just misunderstood?), trees in love, a bratty princess, a vampire strolling about town doing lunch, fairy dust, and more!
I have used a lot of different methods to write my books over the years. The technique depends on the story and if I already have an idea or not. One tactic is to build inspiration upon inspiration, like a house, from the ground up. Creating a novel in phases not only gives you a jumpstart but also challenges your imagination. It’s an in-depth way to really get to know your story, plot, and characters. The process is slower and more laid-back than others. If NaNoWriMo is a sprint, then the Building Method is a marathon. However, I’ve written four novels this way, so I know it works.
Foundation: Find inspiration. Purposely seek out something that you can use as an initial starting point. This can be a picture, a song, a childhood memory, a dream or a combination of things. Write it down, pin it on a bulletin board, think about it, and do a little research until a story idea begins to form. For me, when I use this method, fairy tales plus a supernatural element are my inspiration.
Framing: Write a short story. To support your idea, expand your inspiration into a short story. The trick is, you must get it out your mind that this will be used for a novel. Just write the best short story you can. Under 3,000 words should be a good word count goal. Then edit and give it to readers to critique. Then sit on it for a week or so.
Exterior: Outline. Use your short story as inspiration to plot your novel. (The short story might only be used for the backstory, plot, setting, moral, etc.) Whatever your outlining style – detailed chapter by chapter, pre-rough draft, one sentence chapter summaries on index cards – by the time you’re finished, you will have a few or a lot of recognizable details from the short story, but it will have developed into its own unique design.
Interior: Write. Fill in your outline with a rough draft. This is your sit-your-butt-at-your-computer-time and write and rewrite. I think having either a word-count or an hours per day goal is essential. Write your first draft using whichever style you prefer: don’t look back or edit and research as you go. And then write your second draft, and your third … until you are sure your story is solid.
Final Walk Through: Editing. Time is one of the best editing tools. Distance will give you a better perspective. Work on something else for a month and then edit. After that, hand it out to your readers and then edit some more.
Closing: Submissions. Find the perfect buyer. And don’t forget, you also have a short story.
Love and Laughter,
by Dorlana Vann
It felt as if the castle walls were closing in on me. With each passing moment, my eyes grew heavier, as did my head, as I struggled to keep watch. But my thoughts must be enough to keep me awake till dawn, for the dragon had escaped its chains and until its capture, I am the princess’s night keeper.
The fair maiden, with her golden hair sprawled upon the pillow, was only beautiful while she slept. Otherwise a creature, one may dare say, more horrifying than the one I stand guard against. However, this minor detail makes no matter, I must protect all the same.
Her, under the deep velvet blankets, snug against the wintry wind which steals in through the cracks. And I, standing with my hands so frozen that they barely hold the weapon I am meant to defend with. However, I can’t let the bitter cold distract me either. I am to be strong and heat myself with my inner strength.
But my legs had forsaken me hours ago and had fallen asleep, and the relentless tickle of tiny thorns haunted my numb feet. But I mustn’t move an inch which may disrupt the princess’s sleep.
Suddenly, the clamor of a thousand drummers with the rumble of a thunderstorm arose in the darkness. I knew my time had come. Adrenalin swept through every inch of my body as I rushed the window and came face to face with the notorious dragon. With one mighty thrust, I lunged my heavy sword into the beast. The heat from his breath knocked me clear and only after I regained my wind, could I look up to see my enemy.
The princess was sitting up now, her screams muffled by the dragon’s wail. With only one eye visible through the window, the dragon searched until he spotted his prey.
In a frantic state, I ran toward the princess’s bedside. However, before I could reach her, the dragon’s sharp talons came through the window and seized the princess with a swift swoosh.
I watched in horror as the dragon brought her up to his mouth and swallowed with one significant gulp.
He then flew away, my sword still in his side like a pesky thorn, his appetite cured for the night.
I fell to the cold stone floor, pounding my fist, hard at first … and then more gently as I gazed up at the warm soft covers. I crawled on my belly, like a failure should, and slowly lifted my weary self upon the bed, near tears, and then sank into the sound sleep of a princess.
The Guard is one of the short stories from my collection: Supernatural Fairy Tales.
When I was writing the rough draft for The Trouble with Scarecrows, I received comments back from a critique partner. It was clear that she hated my main character to the core. Of course, I defended my reasons as to why I had given Brenda a Scrooge personality. For one, she is actually the antagonist in the first book so I had to stay true to her character; and two, I thought I had managed a deep character arc.
Then I received comments from a second critique partner. She didn’t show such disdain, but still she’d marked certain places where the character made her feel uncomfortable and where she’d thought she’d gone too far … pretty much saying the character was mean.
I had spent a year with this character (on just this book) and it was hard to think about making drastic changes. But I had no choice but to really pay attention now. So the first thing I did was just add an extra clear “remorse scene,” one where the MC poured her heart out saying how sorry she was for all her wrong-doings.
I was satisfied with that for a little while, but my nagging brain wouldn’t let it be. I knew it wasn’t enough. *Sigh* The character was the heroine, not the antagonist anymore, and even though she was feisty, tough, and determined, I also had to make her likable. So I went through the novel, softening her up where needed and only having her feistiness appear as reactions to situations.
But I still had this feeling that something was missing. Finally, during the rewrite, a writing concept I had forgotten all about popped into my mind: Save the Cat. If you are a writer, you have probably heard the term. It is a concept and the name of screenwriter’s how-to book by Blake Snyder.
Here is the writing rule from the book Save the Cat: “The hero has to do something when we meet him so that we like him and want him to win. A screenwriter must be mindful of getting the audience ‘in sync’ with the plight of the hero from the very start”
Even though this information is in a screenwriter’s book, I think it applies to novels too. It makes sense and it certainly applied to my story. Even though I was fixing the character in later chapters, I needed that initial scene so that the readers would sympathize with her immediately. It didn’t take me long to find the obvious spot for this in my first chapter. (A shout out to my honest and tough critique partners!)
I wrote down the three little words and posted it to my bulletin board with my other two important writing reminders: “Emotion, Thought, Decision” and “A scene is never about what a scene is about.” It will sure save a lot of grief and time if I remember to “Save the Cat” before I start writing my next rough draft.
Love and Laughter,
A scarecrow is the opposite of a wingman, a dating decoy used to scare away any “crows” who are giving unwanted attention, making it difficult for the right man to have a clear shot.
Thirty-year-old Brenda Fisher believes the best way to get over her ex is to face her past and find a new guy. She knows the type of man she needs in her life … and the type of man she does not, which includes alpha males like Neal Parker.
Neal Parker’s friend and former boss, Larry White, had been gracious enough to let him stay at his old apartment rent-free while Neal pursues his culinary degree. But now the owner of the multiplex–Larry’s high-strung ex-girlfriend, Brenda Fisher–is threatening to sell it out from underneath him. Brenda is possibly the sexiest woman Neal has ever met. Nevertheless, he’s aware of her past destructive relationship with Larry and knows it’s best to stay clear.
When Neal finds out Brenda might be in need of some help in the romance department, he tries to trick her into an exchange: scarecrow services for the apartment. Brenda does not appreciate being manipulated. She ups the stakes, and if Neal wants the future he’d planned, he’ll have to play by her rules.
I’ve been using fairy tales to inspire my paranormal short stories and novels for many years. Instead of a straight retelling of the classic tales, I love using them as a stimulus by borrowing elements, capturing the mood, or using them as a backstory, etc., to write contemporary interpretations. Sometimes I even use a formula: classic fairy tale + paranormal element = supernatural fairy tale. I also often add a fun challenge.
Here is a list of my favorite methods that I have used over the years for you to try:
- Have someone list all the words which they associate with a fairy tale and then write a story, using the fairy tale as your muse, but without using any of the words on the list.
- Add another element: I usually use something supernatural, like werewolves, mermaids, vampires, etc.
- Pick a genre (mystery, romance, sci-fi) before you read…
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by Dorlana Vann
Vivian stood beside of the lake. Her bright hair waved like the water as the wind graciously blew in from the south. She inhaled and then looked down at her newly acquired engagement ring. She had said yes, but she knew that wasn’t what she meant. Everyone had been there, watching them, watching her with anticipated excitement.
And since she did love and respect Scott, she didn’t want to humiliate him by saying no.
But it was just too soon. She didn’t want to marry the first guy she loved. She wanted to experience life and to be free to travel. She hated—for him—that she wasn’t ready to settle down.
She stared at the ring, the massive diamond sparkling in the sunlight. A diamond that must have put Scott back a couple month’s salary. A diamond that said, “You belong to me.” She only wanted to belong to herself. “I wish …”
Vivian sighed wearily before everything seemed to happen at once: a gust of wind, her name softly spoken, and her ring vanished from her finger.
“Oh no!” she cried and dropped to the ground frantically searching. She pulled at the grass, ripping it from the dirt, turning in circles, tears wetting her face and plopping on her hands and knees. She didn’t stop until she had examined every piece of earth the ring could have possibly landed on.
She crawled toward the lake. If her engagement ring had dropped in there, it would be gone forever. How could she tell Scott she wasn’t going to marry him and that she had lost the ring? She placed her filthy hands on her face and cried for herself. Soon her wails could be heard for miles, and her tears had washed her hands clean.
“I can get your ring back,” said a masculine voice.
Vivian gasped and scrambled to her feet, heavy breaths flew from her mouth. But no one was there; nothing but a weeping willow swaying in the wind by the lake, green and lush with early summer. She wanted to run; her thoughtful time by the lake had turned strange. But she couldn’t leave without the ring.
“All I ask in return is but one small favor.”
“I’ve lost my mind,” she whispered as she desperately turned this way and that way, looking again for the speaker.
“I am but a lonesome tree, weeping in the mist of time.”
“Who’s behind there?” She ran around the tree, ducking inside its leaves, searching in the shade and up into the branches. When she made it back to where she had started, she said, “This isn’t funny.” She thought maybe she should go and get Scott; they could come back to look for the ring together. Maybe marriage wasn’t the worst thing that could happen.
“All I ask is seven days of your time whenever I request.” At this, one of the trees branches stretched toward her and would have touched her shoulder had she not jumped back.
She stared up at the tree: breathtakingly beautiful, alive, and sad.
“Just say the word, and your ring will be returned to your finger.”
Vivian was positive that her distraught over losing the ring had caused her to hallucinate. Therefore, it wouldn’t hurt to say okay? And if some extraordinary supernatural event was happening to her—maybe she wasn’t aware that trees could talk because they never had anything to say to her before—what would be the harm in saying yes? It was a tree for goodness sakes, and trees were rooted in the ground.
Her confusion and desperation collected as she cried new tears. “If you get my ring back, I’ll do whatever you want.” When she felt a slight tingle, Vivian immediately looked to her hand, and there her ring sat as if it had never been lost. Without another thought about the tree or her promise, she ran home.
A few months later, Vivian sat at a coffee shop sipping her espresso and writing an e-mail to her mother who lived faraway.
Scott hadn’t taken the breakup very well. He had cried and told her he forgave her but would never forget her, nor would he stop pursuing her. He swore that she would eventually be ready to get married.
She felt a presence and glanced over her laptop and across the table.
“Is this seat taken?” the guy asked. His eyes blazed amazing green, and his facial features were symmetrically perfect.
Vivian could only shake her head, trying not to smile too widely.
“You are not an easy one to find, my dear Vivian.”
“Do I know you?” She closed her laptop.
“You no longer wear the ring.”
“No, it didn’t work out. Are you a friend of Scott’s?”
“I am friends with you.”
“No, I’m pretty sure I would know if you were my friend.”
“We met months ago by the lake. You said you would spend seven days with me if I retrieved the ring.”
“Is this some kind of joke?” But she had told no one about what had happened because she really didn’t believe it herself.
“No joke. You made a promise.”
“I made you that promise?” She put her hand on her face and gently scratched her cheek.
“I am the tree, cursed by the lake many centuries ago.”
“Really? If you’re a tree how is that you sit across from me now?”
“Since you promised to spend time with me, I am temporarily released from the curse of loneliness.”
“So you’re saying that being a tree isn’t the curse.”
“If you go back on your word my roots will go back into the ground, and I will have to endure another century alone. And I doubt if I waited twenty centuries, I would ever find a creature as lovely as you on land, sea, or soaring in the air.”
From that day on, they were inseparable. She spent her mornings listening to him tell of times before her own and spent the evenings wrapped in his arms. She grew to love him from her fingertips to her toes, from the depths of her soul, from there until eternity.
And she also believed him.
On the seventh day, her heart was filled with sadness. Would sitting under his branches be enough for her.
The ceremony was small, just the two of them, and at the place where they had met. As soon as he placed a ring of twine and twigs on her finger, his curse of loneliness vanished.
Two blissful willows swayed in the wind by the lake, green and lush with early summer.
Weeping Lake is one of the short stories from my collection Supernatural Fairy Tales: Fairy tale inspired paranormal short stories. It was inspired by Brothers Grimm’s The Frog Prince from Children’s and Household Tales. Germany: 1812, and the legend of Merlin the Magician.