Doing Research for Your Paranormal Romance
Legends are alive and numerous, coming from every part of the world and constantly evolving as they are passed down through generations and around different cultures. Paranormal creatures morph and change from culture to culture and location to location, and because of this, you will always have an abundance of avenues to explore when researching your chosen paranormal creatures.
The level of research you should conduct for your book depends on how traditional or informed you want your paranormal creature to be. If you want your creatures to follow their own rules of existence, with none to few of the traditional myths, then you don’t really need to do any research. But, if you want to follow traditional myths for your paranormal creatures, some research may be called for.
Maybe you want your vampires to be very traditional—no sunlight, sleeping during the day, and an aversion to garlic, crucifixes, and holy water. You might not need too much research in that case, but it wouldn’t hurt to review the classic vampire mythology. Or if you’re writing about shifters, maybe you want your werewolves to follow their own rules of existence, but your main character is the historian for the pack, so she has to know the myths and history for werewolves. More research would definitely benefit your novel to write this story. For instance, in this case it would help to know that the origin of the myths that a person becomes a werewolf through a bite, a werewolf can only be killed with a silver bullet, and that a man can change into a wolf during a full moon is the 1941 movie The Wolf Man.
Once you determine how much research you need to do, it’s time to find the information you need. Not surprisingly, there is a plethora of mythology out there from many sources. This means the best place to start looking for what you need the story is in sources which provide a broad timeline and summary of general mythology. There are lots of sources which could provide this such as History.com, Mythology.com, and even LiveScience.com. Another great place to start is Wikipedia; from there, you can follow the sources used to gather more information, and you can compile a list of topics you wish to explore further.
One of my favorite things about researching paranormal lore is that you are often led to sources that are more interesting than just facts on the page, such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and The Wolf Man. Though this book and movie are considered popular fiction pieces, they are great sources for vampire and werewolf lore.
Another fun aspect of conducting this kind of research is that you can often find information that might add a new aspect to your story that you had not previously planned for. You could discover an uncommon myth to incorporate into the story, or you could discover a myth or terminology related to the location of your story that would be particularly helpful, such as knowing that in Florida another name for Bigfoot is Skunk Ape. While this information might not be essential, it will help to add authenticity to your story.
The great thing about paranormal romance is you as the writer have a lot of leeway. But, as with anything you will do, you have to know the rules before you can break them. This is why it is important to check out some myths before you change them; in doing this, you will be able to tip your hat to other myths while having fun creating your own.