Saturday, February 9, 2008

Paranormal Romance

It's a difficult genre to write in my opinion. Not because of the writing itself, but because of the category. For one thing, it's not exactly romance. Sure, some of it can be romance, but most paranormals don't fit the standard definition as set by the industry.

The word paranormal itself simply means something out of the ordinary. And romance just means that at some point a relationship is involved. Something else that is common in paranormal romance is what is called the "happy for now ending." This is becoming more and more common in the industry, however, some readers are confused by it.

A lot of people feel that romance should have the traditional happily every after and that everyone should ride off into the sunset with his hair gleaming in the light and her blue eyes sparkling with newfound joy. Why am I suddenly picturing Prince Charming from Shrek? LOL

I'm sorry, but no one runs across a field of wildflowers in my stories without having an allergy attack.

I was reading an article recently that made a lot of sense to me. It was talking about paranormal romance and the "in-between" genre that it is. Essentially, what a paranormal romance novel consists of is an adventure for women. Women just happen to consider a relationship part of the adventure.

The word part is the key. In most paranormals the relationship isn't the entire focus of the story, it's a side line. I believe that every story should have a satisfying resolution. That doesn't necessarily mean that the main character gets married or ends up pregnant, or that all of her dreams come true. To me it means that her dreams now have the potential to come true. She is one step closer to her goal, whatever that may be.

For example, I write a series. In that series, there is a resolution at the end of each book, but not necessarily everything is "perfect." Though the series has been largely received in a positive light, someone said that book one left them, "sexually frustrated."

My first thought was, "This is a novel, not a jerk rag, why the heck are you reading it if that's what you were looking for?" Of course, I didn't say that. In fact, I didn't respond at all. I just feel that many people's perception of romance is wrapped up in sex. My series gets more sexual as the story goes, but it is labeled as "not a traditional romance." It is also not labeled as erotica. Certainly if it were sold as erotica and had very little sex in the first book, I could agree with the comment.

Don't get me wrong. I write about sex. In the last book I wrote, there's quite a lot of it. However, sex is not romance. And romance is not always a perfect love story. Life isn't perfect, so I don't feel that stories and characters should be either. I realize that many people, myself included, read to escape reality. However, if a story is too far removed from reality, to me it loses its believability. Bad things happen to good people sometimes. It's called conflict. And if a story doesn't have conflict, then what is it about? Why should we read it? Why should we care?

These are just my thoughts and opinions. You don't have to agree with them. However, I write the kind of stories that I would want to read. I like strong women and men who are looking for an equal, someone to challenge them, not just to mate with them. I like something to challenge my mind and make me look for extra batteries. LOL

To me paranormal romance is truly an adventure for women and I look forward to writing more of them.


Scifibookcat said...

I'm an avid reader (20+ books/week) and a bookseller who reads romance, scifi, fantasy and mystery. I adore paranormal romance. Give me vampires, witches, psychics, shapeshifters of any kind, men from another world, or set it on another world and I'm a happy camper.

I think paranormal romance is often the victim of reader expectations. Many readers expect that if a books is listed as romance it will follow certain unwritten rules and they get very upset if they feel like the author has broken the rules (like HEA). I’ll accept certain events/developments in scifi/fantasy which I would dislike in a romance.

Since I work in a bookstore, I see books that are (to my mind at least) misclassified and many more that are so cross-genre that they could have been classified in either scifi/fantasy or romance. Sometimes the difference is a matter of percentages, how much of the story is about the development of the romantic relationship and how much is the adventure/conflict. If the romantic percentage falls below 30%, then it probably belongs somewhere other than romance.

Sometimes the fault for the misclassification falls with the publisher and sometimes with the bookstore. I’ve seen books classified as romantic suspense that have so little romance that they really belong with the thrillers. I’ve seen several books reclassified at the bookstore level (Lilith Saintcrow moved from romance to SF/F, Diana Gabaldon from romance to Lit, Vicki Pettersson from horror to SF/F, L A Banks from Afr-Amer Fict to horror). And many more should be moved.

Your concept of HFN (happy for now) works for me, at least in the short-term, but generally speaking I want my HEA (happily ever after). It doesn’t have to be at the end of every book if it’s a series, but within a reasonable time. It doesn’t have to mean a fairy tale ending with no more conflict or differences of opinion, just an acknowledgement that the two people involved have made a real commitment to each other and they have the hope of a (relatively) happy life. If it doesn’t have either a HFN or HEA then it doesn’t belong in romance, it belongs in scifi, fantasy or even general literature.

BTW, I enjoy your books :)!

Tracey H. Kitts said...

Thanks:) Your comment helps to illustrate what I'm talking about with classification. I couldn't agree more.

And I am THRILLED to hear you like my books:)