On Paranormal Romance

As I mentioned in a previous post, paranormal romance has been given a bad rep because of girly wish-fulfilling books like Twilight. Yes, I’m basing all the bad stigma following paranormal romance on Stephanie Meyers. And all the books she inspired.

When a genre comes with a stigma, does that mean it’s inherently not good? Horror comes with similar feelings. The poor genre will forever be haunted by the ghosts of Friday the 13th past. But there is still plenty of good horror fiction out there. So why can’t we suppose there is plenty of good paranormal romance, if we go looking for it?

What Makes Paranormal Romance Good?

Two words. Paranormal. Romance.

I like a good love story as much as the next girl. I devour each new version of Pride and Prejudice that I find and am only slightly ashamed that I’ve seen every single episode of Gilmore Girls. Pair that girly giddiness with dripping blood, faceless screams, and that creepy crawly feeling in the pit of your stomach and you’re in for a whirlwind of emotions.

Love and fear are thought of as being at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. Ever notice how they tend to produce similar physical cues, sweating, shaking, quickness of breath, but in very different ways? Both of these emotions, when experienced in high dosage, can be intense enough when just experiencing one! How much crazier can it get when experiencing both back to back! (Totally not what I meant. Get your mind out of the gutter!)

No wonder this genre is targeted at teenage girls. With all the insane hormones that run though our brains making us wonder some days which way is up, what better way for a publisher to ensure regular sales? Teenage girls crave this kind of high. Especially when we don’t have our own love lives in which to experiment with it.

Going Deeper

Of course paranormal romance is about more than just high emotional content tearing readers breathlessly through 70,000 words at a time. Being two highly emotional genres blended into one, it has the amazing chance to explore deeper themes than many other genres.

Horror, in my opinion, is the best way to explore moral quandaries in fiction. With it’s raw, abrasive nature, it’s easy for authors to walk the line between good and evil, taunting their readers to stand on the edge with them. Then the author either grabs her reader by the collar, pulling him to safety, or jabs him the back, casting him into the deep chasm of dark unwholesome thoughts. Either way, once the book is closed, memories from this horrible tragic story brewing in our minds, we realize that through this gut wrenching process, we’ve learned something about ourselves and how maybe we’re more evil than we want to be.

Combine that type of power with the very specific themes and plot devices of a romance and a paranormal romance can be one of the most exciting roads to self-discovery that you’ve ever taken!

Why I Read It

Because it’s good. I despise when people decide to hate on a particular genre. A smart author can write anything well. It really isn’t a matter of genre that makes a book or series good or bad, it’s what the author does with it. Granted different genres have different strengths and weaknesses. In my book the only weakness of paranormal romance is the horrible, cliched girl craze that follows this emotional roller coaster.

7 comments on this post.
  1. Parker:

    I really enjoyed reading this!

    Just the other day I was talking about how twilight kinda started this whole trend of ‘high-school’ paranormal romance. I don’t see anything wrong with the ideas at play at the heart of it, vampires and humans capable of love. I just hate the high school part of it… it’s also everywhere right now!

    I remember a pretty good (more like pretty bad) movie I watched about a very wealthy vampire count that kidnapped a woman so he could devour her later. Well turns out they just loved each other and made it appear like she was dead so they could live happily ever after.

    But nothing tops Warm Bodies. Whether or not it was a book, that story is basically the zenith of the current ‘high school’ paranormal romance genre arch in my opinion. You can’t get worse (or is it better?) than necrophilia.

    I always just imagine this exchange,

    “I just love you so much!”

    http://tinyurl.com/m8od8an

    “Oh you!”

    http://tinyurl.com/nzc62on

  2. Bryan Kelly:

    Interesting post! Yeah, it’s very easy to categorize something by its setting or genre. If I’d gone with that gut instinct, I would’ve missed out on some of my favorite stories of all time. Hate the author, not the genre. (Actually, try not to hate either, but you get my drift. ;) )

    I have yet to read any paranormal romances; I don’t think it’s a particular stigma, but I’ve just never really heard of any that captured my interest. (Or many beyond the aforementioned Twilight; evidently I’m not looking in the right places. ;) ) Any that you’d recommend trying?

    Also, are there any genres you’ve stayed away from due to a stigma, or that you’ve never found an author write well?

  3. Bryan Kelly:

    I actually used to have a problem with the high school setting for those sorts of works as well; seemed trite and kind of pandering. (Probably didn’t help that I never went to a traditional high school, and thus couldn’t really relate.) Then I saw it written really, really well in a work and it completely changed my mind about it. I think high school is like horror and romance in general, in that the high amounts of emotion and drama inherent in it make it really easy to do poorly. Lots of easy ways out to offer shallow satisfaction to readers. But the idea itself still has merit, and can be done exceptionally well.

  4. Abigail Endsley:

    I think the only reason I don’t like the high school setting is because it’s overused now. I’ve read some good high school paranormal romance… well.. a good high school paranormal romance. It all depends on the strength and maturity of the protagonists!

    Bryan has a point: It’s very easy to mess up a high school setting. Often times I think it’s the lazier writers who aim for it and they end up falling into all kinds of stereotypes and paper-thin characters.

    And I still can’t figure out if I love Warm Bodies or hate it. That movie was such a good social commentary… I’m going to have to blog about it. :)

  5. Abigail Endsley:

    I’m still working on building up a good repertoire of paranormal romances. So far, The Divine Trilogy is the best I’ve read.

    As far as genres I’ve stayed away from: It took me a while to get into Sci Fi, actually. My sister read a lot of Timothy Zhan books when we were younger, but I was so stuck on girly YA that I never branched out. Isn’t that sad?

  6. Bryan Kelly:

    Tragic! Heart-wrenching! Really unhappy! Though, all that said, I never got into sci-fi much either. Though admittedly not because I was stuck on girly YA. It was maybe the lack of ever stumbling upon or trying a definitive work that pulled me into the genre. (Unless you count Star Wars, which I don’t. And not just because it’s a movie, not a book. ;) )

    I still have that issue; though I haven’t tried much, I still haven’t read any sci-fi that makes me crazy excited to try more. I bet that work’s got to be out there, though… I probably just need to keep trying to look for it.

  7. Bryan Kelly:

    Oh yeah; high school is full of lazy stereotypes that “everyone” can relate to. You already have a story written *for* you, in a lot of ways, which is one reason it’s such a target for writers who don’t want to do that work themselves. ;)

    I’ve never heard of this before! Sounds like I’ll need to read the book and then watch the movie if you end up doing that, so I’ll know what the heck you’re talking about. ;)

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