By Lynn Crandall
They do exist. And they’re not going anywhere.
My tag line for my Fierce Hearts series suggests something unknown lives among us and these unknowns belong on the planet just like other forms of life.
In the case of my books, what exists are were-lynxes, a colony of them. Each of the ten were-lynx shifters live and work in the world of humans. From physicians to private investigators and schoolteachers, to investigative reporters, bankers, receptionists, and architects, each were-lynx works, lives, plays without detection of their secret identity.
The “undetected” is of supreme importance. Keeping their true selves secret is mandatory, enforced by an ancient law among the were-lynxes in the world, and for good reason. History tells the colony that when anything “different” is discovered, humans feel threatened and typically destroy the threat. So the colony members create a family of their own making. This concept is a way to explore what makes a family, one that is truly supportive and promotes growth as an individual. The concept challenges the notion that biologically linked individuals need each other and provide a safe space. It’s not true for many of us and reading about paranormal characters who help one another no matter what, suggests there is family for everyone if we expand our definition.
In paranormal romances set in the present in our own world, secrecy is a common aspect of the characters. That secrecy can wear on the characters as chronic stress. This stress is something to consider when doing characterization. Even though not human, paranormal characters face similar challenges as humans and can be highly relatable characters. Even though paranormal characters are different and commonly have special abilities, they deal with not only problems peculiar to their species, but to things like insecurity, loss, grief, brewing anger at past experiences, and more issues readers can relate to. But just as with many humans and perhaps more acutely, they fundamentally long to be seen and loved as who they really are. Often they’ve learned so thoroughly to protect themselves from being discovered, they present a range of defenses, perfect character traits for flawed, relatable, and interesting characters who engage readers. But more than that, they can challenge readers’ beliefs about the world and open them to new ways of seeing it.
I want my books to entertain. But I also strive to write books that offer a model of personal growth. In creating believable, interesting paranormal characters there is no shortage of ways a character can present in his or her world. An empathic character could potentially help others process difficult emotions. But that same character most likely would be so sensitive that she would suffer from the cloud of free-floating emotions that follows her everywhere. How does she manage all the input she gets without losing her mind? It’s not a far-fetched dilemma for sensitive people to relate with and perhaps learn something new about themselves or a sensitive friend. Or how does a character who’s a genius but socially awkward navigate relationships, both paranormal and human? How does a telepathic character find peace when complex human thoughts bombard him all the time? These inner conflicts are grounded in our reality but when presented in a paranormal character can prompt awareness in a new way. This experience in my own reading of paranormal romances has been eye opening and rich.
For me, paranormal characters offer new opportunities to explore themes of diversity, self-doubt, faulty beliefs, mindless defenses, broken hearts, and how individuals triumph or falter. A beautiful and apparently self-confident were-lynx can manage her life being truly different. But what happens when memories of the pain of her molestation as a child get louder when she tries to develop a love relationship? She can shift into her were-lynx form and race on all fours through a dark meadow, the sounds of nature soothing her soul. But that only takes her further from engaging meaningfully with her true love. Her fictional character can illustrate how coping mechanisms take us over but can’t heal our brokenness.
Characters that are strictly human can illustrate the story of a lonely heart or a deep-seated anger and do it well. But I feel paranormal characters are expressly equipped to entertain while also presenting food for thought in a very easily digestible manner and in so doing can also encourage self-acceptance and imagining a better life. It’s happened to me while reading about half-demon heroines who struggle with her innate traits, and a group of shifters who provide meaningful friendships and help one another become true to themselves.
As with all characters, paranormal characters need inner conflicts as well as exterior conflicts. When you’re a shifter with special abilities, you can employ them to deal with exterior conflicts. But you’re still different and live under the threat of discovery. Paranormal characters are dealing with a lot of stuff. Such characters offer authors opportunities to explore inner turmoil in ways readers can see themselves and challenge their status quo.
Is your fiction reading something you do simply for pleasure or have you learned things about personal growth, too?
If you're interested in stepping into my were-lynx world, visit Lynn Crandall Website and leave a comment to be entered into a giveaway for my short story Finding Finn.