My guilty pleasure is TV shows about the paranormal, and I love novels featuring mediums and ghost hunters.
I finished a book about a medium a few days ago, and the worldbuilding and plot choices which were created without regard to the current research brought a question to mind. When is it time to use the research on the subject instead of making everything up?
Science fiction writers really don’t have a choice. When scientists realized that Mars couldn’t support human life, writers stopped writing about Mars with humans without space suits roaming around the planet. Now, writers use hard science fact when they want humans on Mars.
Parapsychology isn’t an accepted science for many, and some scientists will never accept any form of proof that ghosts, psychic ability, etc., exist because it is against their materialistic worldview. The same is true of some non-scientists and those whose religious faith denies the existence of the otherworldly that is not part of their faith.
Yet, many people do believe in the paranormal, and many watch shows like GHOST HUNTERS and GHOST ADVENTURES. These shows and paranormal research have certain accepted facts in common like the kind of electrical energy that is generated by ghosts and the use of EMF meters to detect it and that spirit voices the human ear can’t hear can be heard on audio recording equipment.
So, the question is should you make everything up or should you use the established research to write your paranormal story?
The first thing you should consider is your readers. Most people who read paranormal novels have a working knowledge of the current information on the subject, if for no other reason than they’ve read enough stories to pick up the basics. There’s also the real possibility that someone who enjoys a good ghost story may also enjoy GHOST ADVENTURES or THE DEAD FILES. Making it all up may annoy these readers.
However, it’s your story so you can make it all up.
If you decide to create your own paranormal world, your first consideration is that you must create a reasonable set of rules for your ghosts and their interaction with the living.
If your psychic character is experienced, she should know those rules completely and not dotter around like an idiot.
Most knowlegable readers will forgive you if you create your own understandable world of spooks and the people who chase them.
They will not forgive you if you break your own rules for plot expediency.
A middle ground is to use most of the common knowledge then add elements that are strictly of your own invention, such as mediums can only see spirits from a specific period.
This is another situation where it’s best to understand the rules/current common knowledge then decide the direction you choose rather than being a lazy researcher and doing it your own way.
SOME AUTHORS WHO DO IT RIGHT USING CURRENT KNOWLEDGE OF THE PARANORMAL:
Victoria Laurie in her "Ghost Hunter” series. (Author is a psychic intuitive.)
JL Bryan in her “Ellie Jordan: Ghost Trapper” paranormal mysteries.
AUTHORS WHO USE CURENT KNOWLEDGE AS WELL AS CREATE THEIR OWN RULES:
Robin D. Owens in her “Ghost Seer” paranormal mystery novels.
Darynda Jones in her “Grim Reaper” comic urban fantasy series.