Monday, April 20, 2009

Paranormal Beef

We've read a lot of great paranormal romance around here and even though Sinead is on paranormal romance hiatus and Maureen is loving urban fantasy - I'm still reading paranormal. But, I'm beginning to not love it. I think the subgenre is jumping the shark for me because recently, every paranormal romance I pick up - messes up the romance.

All these subgenres - paranormal, romantic suspense, romantic comedy, historical etc...etc... work for me and millions of other avid romance fans because the machinations of the subgenre make the romance better. More poignant, more exciting.

The alpha males and danger of paranormal romance, make the romance taste better. The internal conflict that the characters have to get over to be in love is made worse by the fact that they are a demon, or a demon hunter or whatever...

But suddenly it seems like not only are there too many of these kinds of details muddying up the world, but what the characters have to do to truly be in love comes as a huge surprise in the third act. Instead of just overcoming all the internal stuff - which is what we all love romance for- they also have to kill the demon and embrace their vampire side and mate in a pool of fire - but we didn't know that from the outset. It's like the writer changes the rules of the world, or didn't tell us all the rules, or becuse of all the external plot drama they've put in the book - a simple I love you doesn't work anymore -- and I hate that. I really hate that.

If the big premise of the book requires a huge suspension of disbelief - then the romance needs to be simple. Ward, Liu, Cole - simple romances. Really simple. And I think that's why it works - that, of course, and the characters. But when everyone starts jumping on the sub genre bandwagon, they get so distracted by the shiny elements - the things they can do with plot and external conflict and world building, forgetting that in the end, it's still always about characters and it's still always about romance.


Kimber Chin said...

Ohhh... I wish you had been at Saturday's meeting. A bunch of us in the back row were talking about how surprises shouldn't really be surprises in romance. How a very careful reader should see the surprises coming.

That was my big improvement in Invisible, my second novel, over Breach Of Trust, my first. In Breach Of Trust, new things were introduced all through the novel. On the other hand, there was nothing in the last few chapters of Invisible that hadn't been woven in long before. Readers did an 'of course' but were still surprised.

A 'then magic happens' solution is, in my opinion, lazy writing.

Sinead M said...

The excitement with the paranormals was the lots of stuff happening, sexy alpha heroes, kick ass heroines and they felt different from the romances I'd read in the past, faster paced, tense, exciting, but lately they are all starting to blend into one and I can tell what will happen and when..
The same way I'd been feeling about historicals a few years back..

Yep, definitely on a paranormal break... just to cleanse my palate..
Am looking for a great contemp..

Amy Ruttan said...

Other than Lover Avenged which I have right now, yeah I'm not really reading a whole lot of anything.

But I think the market is so flooded with paranormal. What I want is more historicals set outside of England and Scotland and that's not just because I have one set there. LOL!

It's just I'm tired of reading regencies and historicals set in England. Also tired of vampires, demons etc.

There are a few paranormals I read from authors I know and trust won't skunk me in the end with weird surprises.

Okay backing away, it appears my crankiness is coming through on comments. LOL.

Anya Delvay said...

I think half the problem (to me anyway) is that authors seem to feel they have to re-invent the wheel. The books have to be more complex, more cross-over, more detailed, more everything, and they're forgetting what they need, at the core, is a solid romance.

Don't get me wrong...I love a book that will surprise me along the way, but I read romances because I love the development of the relationship most of all. So I'd rather have a simplified plot peopled by complex characters trying to make it right between them than an intricate world with characters I suddenly realize I don't care about, or can't figure out what they need from each other.

And any story with a dues ex machina/'then the magic happens' ending gets tossed in my garbage can...

Maureen McGowan said...

I think this is a great insight, Molly.

To stand out on a crowded shelf, or even get onto that shelf, new paranormals have to be different, they have to reinvent the wheel to a certain extent.

But that "different" stuff is better kept to the external plot and the world building. Keeping the romance about the romance is smart.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Great post. I just sent out a different proposal to my agent to get her opinion on the next "American" Romance that I want to do.

There is a little paranormal element. A little intrigue element. And as I re-read the synopsis I got worried. Is it BIG enough? Is it pushing the boundaries enough? Oh my gosh it's too simple of a love story...

And I realize I'm hooked on the idea that unless you're turning everything on its head it's not going to sell.

So it will be interesting what she says - but I think I'm going to continue to write it with that in mind.

It's not about the paranormal, not about the suspense, not about the hot sex. It's just about the couple. The couple and how, when and why the fall in love.

Thanks for the reminder DWT.


Marcy said...

OMG...when I read the title of this post I thought "Hmm, I wonder what paranormal beef is. Strange cows?"

Excuse me while I have my 'duh' moment.


Maureen McGowan said...


Vampire shapeshifting cows. The next big thing. Trust me.

Amy Ruttan said...

Actually I with Marcy in the fact that the title made me hungry.

I've been craving beef all day, I wonder how paranormal beef tastes? I'm thinking teriyaki. LOL!

Anonymous said...

Yes, to "stand out" each plot has to be more and more unbelievable. It's so not for me. I've read a couple of "ghost" type paranormals but I'm so not into vampires and other creatures. I can't wait for this trend to die down. But now it's sweeping the young adult world. Okay, I admit it - one version of my young adult ms has some slight paranormal elements but not creatures. Everybody's human. :)

Molly O'Keefe said...

But lots of paranormal authors are making lists and doing quite all right - Gena Showalter was all over the news this last week with Harlequin. I think we've just hit that point when editors are tired of the same old same old, just like readers.

the reinventing the wheel thing -- I feel like I've read three books in a row (actually I didn't finish them I picked them up) and it's the same wheel, same demons meet vampires, meet slayers meet WHATEVER - but the rules are different. I want a new world. I really loved the premise of Larissa Ione's Demonica books -- and underworld Demon hospital, and the way she handles the world building really really worked for me. Not a bunch of explaining, just there we are with vegan demons.

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