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Bouchercon: Day Two

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 26, 2015

Friday, October 9, at Bouchercon started out with the Sisters in Crime Breakfast. Here we heard about all the wonderful programs this organization offers.

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Then I attended a panel on Paranormal Mysteries with Heather Graham, Alexandra Sokoloff, Lorena Peter, Toni Kelner, and Rochelle Staab as moderator.

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Disclaimer: These notes are based on my interpretation and any errors are mine.

The definition of paranormal includes any phenomena that is beyond normal experience and scientific explanation.

Is there evil in the world? Do we believe in witches? This question of belief is part of the mystery. Some elements used in the speakers’ stories include witches, energy vampires, skeletons, and ghosts. Ghosts are more possible than other creatures, Heather said. We want to believe in the afterlife. Alex agreed people like to be scared. Lorena admitted that family experiences and personal stories influence her books. Tony was inspired by TV shows, such as Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. Heather liked The Twilight Zone.

Alex said the scariest things are what people do to other people. She has to scare herself as an author, note the experience, and then scare the reader. Heather suggested the scariest things are what we do in our own minds. Lorena delivers messages from spirits. “They are out there.”

Why do people read these stories? They want more control over their lives. They like to have the powers. The little bit of magic is appealing. Ghost stories relate to the history of sites. Heather mentioned residual versus active hauntings. Alex likes the sensual thrill of the unknown with a slow build to an exciting climax. As for ideas? They are all around. Keep a dream journal. And listen to people with interesting stories.

Besides these authors, check out Maggie Toussaint’s Gone and Done It series with a psychic sleuth.

Preventing a Mystery Series “Jumping the Shark”

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Panelists included Nancy J. Cohen, Candace Robb, Lisa Unger, Laurie R. King, and Francine Mathews as moderator.

We spoke about how we keep a series fresh and then fielded questions from the audience. Ideas that I spoke about included:

The relationships between recurring characters should evolve and change like in real life.
Switch locations every few books but not too often.
Learn something new that excites you for each story.
Bring in new characters or focus on a different secondary character for a change of pace.
Also consider having a continuing personal thread that isn’t resolved right away.
If you really need to step away for a break, think about doing a short story or novella, either with your main characters or from the viewpoint of a secondary character.

Coming Next: Mysteries for Young Adults

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