The infamous “they” always say to write what you know, but sometimes that’s easier said than done. Take me, for example: I write paranormal romance. Ghost of a Threat, the first book in my Betty Boo, Ghost Hunter Series, follows Betty “Boo” Boorman, who works with The Savannah Spirit Seekers as a paranormal investigator. She falls in love with a handsome—and possibly dangerous—demon named Maxwell.
And let’s face it: I know absolutely nothing about dating a demon (bad ex-boyfriends don’t count). I do, however, know a thing or two about ghost hunting.
After writing Georgia Spirits and Specters, a collection of Georgia ghost stories, and getting my own ghost hunting fix with groups like West Georgia Paranormal, creating a character who is a ghost hunter herself seemed like a natural choice.
Many of the experiences Betty and other members of The Savannah Spirit Seekers have are based on experiences of my own. In one scene, Betty is sitting at the foot of a staircase and hears a crash from the hallway upstairs. I can relate: during an investigation at a private home, another investigator and I were sitting in the master bedroom when we heard a clatter from the master bathroom. We went in there to find a bottle that had been thrown to the floor from its perch on the shelf. The shelf was perfectly sturdy and level, and nothing else had been disturbed.
Sometimes, the experiences I drew from for Ghost of a Threat were far from ghostly. While investigating a haunted law firm, Betty’s rival ghost hunter Carter Lansford gets excited over what he thinks is a specter floating toward him. As it turns out, it was nothing but…well, I don’t want to write any spoilers. Let’s put it this way: in my own experience, I have, possibly, been known to mistake a completely ordinary object for something paranormal. My only excuse is that I have an extremely vivid imagination.
If you’ve ever watched a ghost hunting show on T.V., it seems like there’s something unexplained happening every minute. That’s all thanks to the editors, who cull hours of footage and put a whole night’s work into one thirty-minute program.
In reality, there’s a whole lot of quiet, boring and sometimes downright frustrating time at an investigation. I’ve been on investigations where absolutely nothing happened, and reviewing video and audio recordings afterward didn’t reveal a single scrap of paranormal activity.
The challenge, then, is how to portray those inevitable slow investigations in a book without losing the reader’s interest. One option is to keep the scene incredibly short. Another, though, has a lot more potential: use that “down time” to build the characters. A conversation between two investigators might develop their relationship, or a character’s wandering thoughts might give some insight into her background.
On the opposite end of that, there are scenes in Ghost of a Threat in which all hell breaks loose—paranormally speaking, of course. These are the scenes in which I took a great deal of creative liberty. After all, good writing is about entertaining the reader. While the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction (yes, I once saw a book move on its own), fiction should always be more entertaining than the truth.
Beth Dolgner is the author of the Betty Boo, Ghost Hunter paranormal romance series. Book one, Ghost of a Threat, is now available in e-book format from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes. Keep up with Beth at http://www.BethDolgner.com. You can also follow Beth on Twitter at @BethDolgner.
From Pure Textuality: A big thanks to Beth for the guest post! Love the subject of paranormal investigation and it’s fun to get the perspective of someone who does it and the chellenges of putting the experience on the page. Fantastic post! Thanks again!