Building a supernatural character with some basis in reality can be fun, but it is also very complex.
When one does research for a book, it is, in many cases, to answer questions. I found that this can be a useful way to build a character as well.
And while you are answering questions about a character, you can extrapolate a hypothesis from the known facts. Find something, even if its something small, that would connect the character to something supernatural. Perhaps its something common, and it works best if it is. Perhaps it is something from their ancestors, or about the place where they live, or something that they did as a young child. It can really be anything.
But, in this case, you really need to know your stuff when it comes to the supernatural to be able to tie it in well. If you're writing the sort of book that has these beings, your going to want to learn. It is possible to pull it all out of thin air without knowing any of the folklore or mythology or history. I would not advise it, and I know one famous case that did it (I'm not mentioning names) but unless its contemporary I wouldn't advise it.
Because that's the thing about history. The beauty in the small things.
A few of the things that I just mentioned came from Jack Whyte, a hsitorical fiction writer that my mother has read for a very long time, and who I admire greatly. I went to a lecture where he was talking about his new book 'The Forest Laird', and he has this brilliant theory that the Robin Hood legend was actually based on William Wallace (yes, the Mel Gibson Braveheart. But I did not know until then that someone else actually carries the name Braveheart, not William Wallace). That in itself blew me away. And then he said these things.
Do research to answer questions.
Extrapolate hypothesis from known historical facts.
The exact little things, small but brilliant ideas, that I needed to weed my way through the mountains of potential research. Now, I start with a list of questions of things that I need to know about every aspect of what's going on in the book.
I think its a mantra for life, actually - find beauty in the small things.
That was something I had to learn, and took a long time, because I was so worried about the big picture life was passing me by. I was so worried about having that '5 year plan', like most people my age have, that strange things started going on in my head. When I realized that, whether I like it or not I'm not going to be like everyone else things got easier. I started making realistic goals for me, and stopped thinking about what other people my age are doing. I put everything into my writing and the books and stopped worrying about buying a condo. If its supposed to come, it will. Enjoying now and preparing for later is important, but it needs to go in that order.
And apparently I like the post title Beauty In the Small things - perhaps I should make it a reoccurring topic?