Thursday, October 8, 2015

Writing Psychics Can Be Fun...But Also Really, Really Hard! Here's Why

Posted by: Angela Campbell
I’m not sure when my fascination with psychics began, but I think it probably ignited when I saw the movie Fear starring Ally Sheedy way back when I was in high school. I know. Anyone else probably would have credited Carrie, but not lame-o me. For me, it was Fear. Anyone else ever seen it? For some reason, I think it premiered on the USA network as a made-for-cable-TV movie, and I watched it on its premiere night. I don’t know, because according to IMDB, the movie released in 1990 and I can barely remember where I parked my car yesterday. I was a teenager who was raised on John Hughes movies, so I was all over watching anything with Ally Sheedy in it. Honestly, I probably didn’t even know what the movie was supposed to be about. Don’t judge. It happens. I'm also certain by watching this trailer on Youtube that it was cheesy and badly acted and I would laugh my head off if I watched it now, but hey. When I saw it, back in 1990, it had impact!

Basically Ally Sheedy plays a psychic who works with the police to catch killers. In this particular case, she's trying to help the police catch a serial killer they called Shadow Man, who it turns out (spoiler alert) is also psychic, and better at being psychic than good ole Ally. In fact, he used his psychic abilities to stalk and kill his victims without getting caught. So a thrilling game of cat and mouse began in which he taunted Ally and then targeted her, too, because of course. I haven’t seen the movie in…decades, but I remember it well because I thought, wow, what a plot twist that the killer is also psychic! It's psychic vs. psychic! Keep in mind this was 1990, back before that became a thing. At least, I’d never seen or read that plot before.

Needless to say the trope of psychics hunting bad guys stuck with me because, well, that’s what I write about these days. Whether you believe psychics exist in reality or not, you can’t deny what fun characters they make to read, and in my case, write. Personally, I like my psychics to be a little bit quirky. After all, imagine if you could see the future, talk to dead people, or move objects with your mind. I’m sure that would make me more than a little quirky, too. As fun as they are to write, I’ve also encountered some problems by making my characters psychic. Here are a couple of examples:

Problem: Hey! He can read minds so….wait a minute. Shouldn’t that instantly solve the mystery? D’oh!

Solution: The mind is an extremely complex bundle of shifting emotions and memories and awareness. I know! My hero doesn’t know what he’s doing and has flaws and stuff. Yeah, that’ll work.

Then I decided to write a series, with each book in it readable as a standalone and featuring a different hero and heroine.

Problem: This psychic hero really knows what he’s doing so….wait a minute. Shouldn’t that instantly solve any mystery? D’oh!

Solution: This is where my non-psychic characters come in. They’re smart, too. Smart enough to have learned how to defend themselves against the hero’s psychic mumbo-jumbo. Bingo. Now, I have some world-building happening. Yeah!

Anyway. Writing psychics is fun, but it can also be hard work. I mean, I'm still trying to fill in plot holes I've created in the fourth book in my psychic detectives series (yes, I'm still writing it), but I also just finished a novella — unrelated to my series, but still featuring a psychic hero — that I think is pretty good. Maybe. I dunno.

If I had psychic powers I would know if you would like it or not, but I don't, so I guess I'll just have to wait and see. Fingers crossed.

Angela Campbell is the author of the psychic detectives series from Harper Impulse. Learn more about her and her books at Looking for a psychic mystery that's great for this spooky time of year? Here's a recommendation (it's Book 2 in the series, but it can be read as a standalone):

Something wicked this way comes…

All homicide detective Dylan Collins wants is a few hours of pleasure to take his mind off of the case haunting him. A serial killer is stalking the streets of Charleston, SC – a killer who calls himself The Grim Reaper. When the woman he'd just spent the night with turns up and offers her services as a psychic consultant on the case, his ardor quickly cools. Last thing he needs is to get tangled up with a con artist.

It doesn't take long for Dylan to realize Alexandra King is the real deal – and the killer's next target. Dylan's protective instincts battle his reluctance to get too involved with a woman he isn't sure he can trust. As they get closer to finding the killer, they also grow closer to one another, but will Alexandra's secret agenda destroy their chance at happiness – if the killer doesn't strike first?

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