Thursday 29 March 2012

Picking The Paranormal - Keith Pyeatt

My guest today is fellow paranormal author, Keith Pyeatt, whose books are scary, original and unputdownable. I love them!

Here he talks about his writing and how his books have evolved. Over to you Keith:
My novels are hard to pigeonhole, but each one is driven by a strong paranormal element. I like the freedom a paranormal element gives my imagination to come up with unusual threats and creative ways to torment my poor characters. The result is that my novels are a bit...different, which is never more apparent to me than when I hear from old friends who I haven't been in contact with for years. After they get around to telling me they enjoyed reading one of my novels, there's a pause. Then they ask something along the line of, "What kind of weird crap happened to you after you left Texas?"

Strangers and newer friends and acquaintances tend to be more subtle, but the gist of the question I'm asked more than any other is the same: "How do you get ideas for your novels?"
Keith Pyeatt and - friends

My short and snappy answer is to say I'm a scary guy. Maybe I'll make a face to prove it (or make them suspect that I'm also insane), but if someone seems genuinely interested in knowing, my answer is that I start by picking the paranormal. I also pick a broad theme, usually something I can define with one word, like "confusion" or "addiction" or "imagination." I pair up various combinations and see what excites me.

For example, for my most recent release, Above Haldis Notch, I chose the afterlife as the paranormal element, and I paired it with "vengeance" as the one word theme. I brainstormed ideas until I had something more specific, a premise.
 A spirit seeking vengeance against a group of people threatens to kill them and then destroy their souls.

Immediately I saw how I could play up the unusual threat. Not only must my hero protect the lives of her loved ones, she must protect the essence of life that's meant to live on after our bodies give out.  

Then I gave it a setting and began fleshing out my characters and their motivations until I had a developed concept. The hero, Jenna, would be a clairvoyant young mother who recently lost her own mother. Jenna is grieving, but she takes comfort in her clairvoyant certainty that spirits move on to something better. Then she discovers her mother's spirit, along with other departed loves ones, is being destroyed in the afterlife. Only Jenna is equipped to save them, but how? (I already know how at this point, but I'm not telling you. hehehe)

With a concept in mind, I defined my antagonist and protagonist, decided on a setting, added urgency, developed twists... Themes began presenting themselves, and everything worked together to help shape the characters, who shaped the novel... Tada!

See how smoothly that works? Another example: In my novel Struck, the paranormal element is a supernatural power thrust into a common man. The theme-in-a-word is "acceptance." I picked a fascinating setting, found my threats and challenges, and took off from there, much as I did in Above Haldis Notch, in a nice, smooth progression.

So all my ideas just grow effortlessly into novels, right? Wrong!
 Struck became too expansive in the writing of it, and I had to pare down the story and throw away a huge chunk I'd already written.

In my novel Dark Knowledge, I didn't have to throw away written text, but there was plenty of re-plotting and re-outlining involved. I'd picked a personal fantasy world as the paranormal element and paired it with the broad theme "temptation." That pairing led me to create a mentally challenged protagonist with a scary world in his mind that lured him in by offering him the thing he desired the most: intellect. So far, so good. But this theme of "good and bad together" -- highlighting how in life we can't always separate the two things and so must accept the bad with the good -- popped into my head before I finished chapter 1, and I couldn't shake it out. It changed my entire plans for the novel.
 In both cases above, I'm glad the novels changed, because I love the results. Complications happen. Ideas evolve. Unseen opportunities (or problems) suddenly stand up and wave their arms. So I can't always control how I go from a germ of an idea to a premise to a full fledged concept with a theme (or two) running through it, but I always start by picking the paranormal.

Now you know the long answer to the short question about how I come up with my ideas. Aren't you lucky?

A million thanks to Catherine Cavendish for having me here (and for providing me with some excellent entertainment through her novellas). For more information about me or my novels, please visit my website or blog. I'm also on Facebook and Twitter, and I even have a newsletter you can sample.

Struck, Dark Knowledge, and Above Haldis Notch are available at online retailers, and a good way to find the format you need on a site you like is to start here.


  1. I hate the question "how do you get the ideas for your novels?" I just tell people that I pluck them from the Idea Tree in my backyard.

  2. Thank you for joining me today Keith

  3. I like that Adonis! Reckon your Idea Tree has been blossoming beautifully for some considerable time now...

  4. How intriguing Keith, to go from such a broad premise with two words to a plot. I'm guessing from what you said about re-plotting that you're not a pantser. Do you do a broad outline of the plot or do you detail chapter by chapter?


  5. I laughed so hard at the line above when you mentioned the reaction of old friends from Texas.

  6. Thanks again for having me, Catherine.

    Jianne, I do a broad outline and keep it flexible so I can change it as needed while writing. I tried the detail chapter by chapter way once. I stuck to the script and had limited fun during the writing process. And I didn't like the result.

    Thanks, Brinda. I've had several versions of that question. "My kids want to know what happened to Uncle Keith," "My wife wants me to drag you out of Vermont" etc. Ha.

  7. Wonderful post!

    I have only been asked this once, though I'm sure it will get worse as I publish more works. And I do have a few answers. lol. Each story has its own beginning. My favorite is to look at submission calls. I will take ideas from the theme that is called for, and if I feel I can't write it for that publisher, then I will write for a different one. Some of these stories still sit in my archives. The subs are like a challenge, I see one and say, "Okay, how can I tell a story with this idea? No, no, I got nothing." Then some character will pop to life, and suddenly in a crisis based on the sub call.

    And it is different for every writer. A lot of times, it's an idea here, and an idea there. And the muse brings them together, and tells me to make it into a story.

  8. Thanks Dale. It's always interesting to read about how other writers find their ideas.

  9. I love the description of your process! So interesting. It is so different from mine. I almost always start with a character and let that character tell me the story they are involved in. : )

  10. I might try that too, Dale. Thanks! I love it when a couple (or more) different ideas that have been rolling around in my noggin come together in one novel.

    Tara, I tried starting with a character, but I couldn't get him defined without a story idea. Once I start writing, the characters have plenty to say. Plenty as in too much sometimes. I ended up killing one to shut her up, and durn it if she didn't come back as a "cold spirit" a few chapters later.

  11. My ideas bubble away and I'm afraid to say it, but I'm a complete pantser. How lovely to see how you work - and I have to admit it sounds a lot more efficient than my way. That way of pairing two ideas sounds brilliant (why didn't I think of that?) What a fabulous cover Dark Knowledge is, I bet you're proud of it. Excellent post, Catherine and Keith.

  12. Love reading about your process, Keith. I've always thought ideas are the easy part. I've got a million of 'em. Sitting down and doing something with them is the hard part.

  13. Thanks, Susan. I may not be daring enough to be a pantser. I particularly need to know my ending, even if the middle is hazy. I love the Dark Knowledge cover too. A perk is that if you look at the gargoyle on the far left in the picture of me and my buddies, he's got the same face as on the cover. I had nothing to do with that. Ha.

    Hi Ute. I know what you mean about ideas. Mine tend to evaporate if neglected in my mind, so I make notes in an "idea file."

  14. LOL, Keith, yes we are lucky. Very nice post. Thanks for making it and thanks to Catharine for hosting it.

  15. I love all your books, Keith. And I love how your mind works. It seems like just yesterday when we switched manuscripts and dreamed about having our books in hardcopy. Them was the days, hey, and look at us now. I hope nothing but good fortune for you, my dear friend.

  16. I really enjoyed this post. My WIP really started making progress once it deviated from my plan, and I like it much better now.

  17. I don't know what I'd do without you, Joylene, and I don't want to try.

    Thanks, Sheila. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who *likes* it when characters and action take off in unplanned directions (even if I've had to chase them down and redirect a few times).

  18. I just sit back and let them take me where they will, although I do agree that sometimes they go places they really shouldn't!