Monday, October 22, 2007

Creature Features: Build Your Own Gnome!

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Phillip who?
Phillip my bag with candy!

For the next two weeks, the Diner's going spooky! In honor of Samhain and Halloween, we're going to be discussing ghouls, goblins and fallen angels, maybe even some dragons and shapeshifters. We even have a guest on November 3 to wrap things up, erotic futuristic author SJ Willing (, who may or may not be tackling harpies. (They're kind of hard to tackle in mid-air, after all.) To kick off the creature features, I’m going to talk a little about taking paranormal creatures and making them your own.

A lot of times on loops I'll see people ask things like, "How long can vampires stay out in the sun?" or "When werewolves change back into their human form, do their clothes change back with them or are they naked?" "What are the rules?"

Inevitably, they'll get three types of answers. One -- straight answers, based in whatever mythology is available, often with links to internet sites that contain much mythological information. Two -- promo answers. Author A will share what his or her vampires do, taking the opportunity to do some stealth promo. And three -- I guess you'd call them crooked answers. Needless to say these would be the ones I myself have the tendency to give. Essentially, these are the people who say, "You can have whatever the hell rules you want, as long as your world is consistent."

There's no reason you can't take the mythological information your research turns up and stick to it like glue. Of course, you're going to find conflicting information out there, even about well-established paranormal entities like vampires, but there are still commonalities, especially when one takes into account modern media interpretations. Wonderful works of both screen and literature remain obedient to the "rules", even though the "rules" have changed over time.

If a writer chooses to write her book further out in left field, she still will need to consider the fact that certain "rules" are going to be familiar to her audience. Like, if her vampires aren't long-lived, she'll need to explain that -- without infodumping, of course -- because her audience is going to be expecting a tortured 200 year old soul with fangs and a lust for hot human blood. She can also dub her creatures something other than vampires if she wants to avoid the burden of expectation.

Now here's some stealth promo on my part, which isn't exactly promo because I'm going to talk about a book of mine that isn't for sale. In this book, I have fairies, who do not have wings or wear pastel dresses, and gnomes, who are not quaint woodland creatures with a fondness for toadstools and beer. In fact, the gnomes I wrote in that particular world are pestilant, feral, foot-high monsters (albeit with cute little red hats) who eat fairies whenever they get a chance, and barring that, they'll munch on cats, leprechauns, fish, humans, dogs, and so on. They are called gnomes, but aside from their appearance, they hardly resemble the gnomes written about in, say, the charming book Gnomes: 30th Anniversary Edition,which comes closer to encapsulating the common idea of the gnome. The prevalence of garden gnomes in stores and landscaping supports this image, something I touch on in my book. I knew what my future readers' expectations of gnomes would be, and I toyed with those expectations to, hopefully, give added depth to my vision of the (nasty) little buggers.

(By the way, I DARE you to click on the gnome and watch him carefully!!)

Whatever you choose to do when you write paranormal creatures, the only "rules" everyone needs to follow are consistency and believability. By believability, I mean the creatures need to be convincingly written so that the reader can suspend disbelief in your world and maybe want to visit it again some day.

Hope you get some great paranormal creature ideas in the next two weeks' worth of posts!

Jody W.
So much cyberspace, so little time! *

PS: I feel obliged to also tell you that you can get some free paranormal romance short stories over at, the blog of Samhain's paranormal authors, including one by me in which the paranormal creatures that appear are a werewolf, a werecat, a ghost and a goblin. We're giving away a free PDF with all 8 stories on November 1 or thereabouts. Other creatures included in the various stories will be vampires, succubi, werehorses, satyrs, wizards, dhampir, and a few hapless humans.


  1. I haven't looked at garden gnomes the same since reading your story.

    Can't wait to read the next round of posts!

  2. Wow, your gnome story sounds intriguing.

  3. Creatures sure come in all shapes and sizes!

  4. Wow, I had no idea gnomes could be so nasty! Although I did trip over one once and could have sworn he did it on purpose. *G*

  5. Thanks, everyone! I may have just sold this sucker, so you all will get to experience the horror that is my gnomes.... More details to come!