Sunday, December 15, 2013

Worlds Away: How do paranormals differ from traditional romances?

Please welcome Erin Moore to the blog today!

Worlds Away: How do paranormals differ from traditional romances?
 (And why are they still so popular?)

Admittedly, when Christina asked me to write about world-building in my paranormal romance novellas, I really had to ponder what that meant. Was my world-building any different from say, a “normal” romance? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the rules for paranormal world-building really are not so very different from traditional romances. Despite the multitude of different types of paranormal creatures (shifters, witches, vamps, weres, demons, elves, name your favorite), the only hard and fast rule for paranormals is: consistency.  If your magician is only able to use magic in the daylight, then he/she can’t then suddenly use it at night when needed  (unless, of course, she suddenly finds a new element which allows her to…). 
Obviously, where paranormal romances differ from traditional is the addition of some sort of supernatural/otherworldly creatures, abilities, or powers. And here is also where being consistent in developing rules within a specific world is so important – if you are going to use a stereotype (say, vampires will perish in the daylight), then you have to very clear as to why your vampires are different or the reader will be disappointed (see Twilight). But this is also what makes your vampire so intriguing – we do want a different “take” on the same story. 
For me, I am a “bottom-up” writer, in that my characters and their flaws/powers/abilities developed first, and then I created the world around them. For instance, in Kissed by Moonlight, the story of Morgane and Aelric as star-crossed members of opposing and very different werewolf/shifter clans came to me before I envisioned them in contemporary Budapest. I then started to think about what it would mean for ancient clans of werewolves and shifters to have survived for so long in an urban setting – what that would mean for both my characters and the humans around them. But the story between the two lovers was still the main focus. In my second novella, The Shaman’s Temptation, the idea of a shamanic shape-shifter came to me before I found him in Arizona, fighting against his feelings for a beautiful bank analyst. 
The opposite of this type of world-building is a more macro level, i.e. “top-down”, where the created world is imagined first, including powers of all of its inhabitants, language, culture, etc., and then it is peopled with characters (think Lord of the Rings). I personally couldn’t work this way, but it is probably very helpful for urban fantasy and epic fantasy writers to detail more of these aspects first. And, admittedly, it is always helpful to have a complete grasp of who/what/where/when/why in the character’s world before imbuing them with language. 
Why does any of this matter for the reader? What do we care about a macro versus micro approach to writing? Or why would a reader even pick up a paranormal romance over a traditional? It must be more than mere escapism that brings us to these (usually) darker and edgier stories. What is it that we are seeking out with our werewolves and vampires?
The reader wants to be inescapably drawn into the world the author has created, sure. The worlds these characters inhabit resemble our own in many respects, but with changes, of course -- the creatures that inhabit them can do extraordinary things, including living forever, in some cases. Why does that appeal to us? Yes, we want to escape, to be a part of this world the author has created. But we also want to see that the characters can overcome their darkness in order to find love, that the boundaries set by their species can be surmounted (or not, in some cases) by the enduring power of another being’s love. It is the age-old story of transformation or rebirth that is so integral to all human cultures: we want to be given a second chance for our earlier actions. And this is what paranormals offer us, regardless of how that world is built: a chance to live in a different world, where our choices matter deeply and we can find redemption.  And no one asks us to cook dinner. 
Now, time to go fold that laundry…

Thanks for having me, Christina! Love to hear thoughts! 

Thank you so much Erin for you thoughts.  Now lets take a look at your newest release.

A Shaman’s temptation could be the undoing of his people…
Madeleine Greenway, perfectionist and analyst for Surety Bank, has no place in her rigidly organized life for something as unpredictable as a man, much less a Native American shaman. Sent to the White Mountain reservation to help the tribe finance its new casino, she meets Tak, a proud, beautiful Apache, and finds herself surrounded by something magical in the Arizona desert. His touch becomes a passport to otherworldly bliss, and the strange coyote she sees makes her question what’s real. But it’s the amazing sex with Tak that makes Madeleine lose sight of her goal—to guarantee that Surety Bank’s investment in the casino won’t fail.

Last in a long line of shaman shape-shifters, Tak Nah-Kah-Yen has sworn a vow of celibacy to his gods. But Madeleine’s lithe body and honeyed lips compel him to forswear his pledge, claiming her for his own. His passion for her overshadows his link to his gods at a time when he most needs their help. Desperate to find funding for the casino and lift his people out of poverty, he’d accepted start-up money from less than savory sources who are willing to kill to guarantee their profit—the profit Madeleine’s bank jeopardizes… 

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