Per Webster’s Dictionary:
para·nor·mal adjective \ˌpa-rə-ˈnȯr-məl, ˈpa-rə-ˌ\
1 : not scientifically explainable : supernatural
2 : not understandable in terms of known scientific laws and phenomena
ro·mance noun \rō-ˈman(t)s, rə-; ˈrō-ˌ\
1 a (1) : a medieval tale based on legend, chivalric love and adventure, or the supernatural (2) : a prose narrative treating imaginary characters involved in events remote in time or place and usually heroic, adventurous, or mysterious (3) : a love story especially in the form of a novel
b : a class of such literature
2 : an emotional attraction or aura belonging to an especially heroic era, adventure, or activity
3 : love affair
Per Romance Writers Of America (RWA):
- Paranormal Romance: Romance novels in which the future, a fantasy world, or paranormal happenings are an integral part of the plot.
Most people hear the words ‘Paranormal Romance’ and visions of sparkly vamps and bare-chested wares seeking virginal human mates spring like crack-addicted leprechauns from the recesses of their minds. While these have certainly been the topic of many a novel **cough** Twilight **cough**, there are so many more topics joining the ranks of Paranormal Romance today. Among them: Shapeshifters—half-human, half-animal beings with the ability to transmute between forms on cue, Angels, Demons, Nephilim, Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, Ancient Greek mythology, and even the occasional Ghost or Alien thrown in for good measure. And I would be amiss in not mentioning the perennial time-traveling, kilt-wearing highlander with the rippling biceps and the heart of gold. His broadsword isn’t the only steely thing about him, if you know what I mean.
If this weren’t confusing enough, there are new sub-genres of Paranormal Romance sprouting up as well. Divisions such as: Urban Fantasy, Time Travel, Futuristic, Post-Apocalyptic, Extraterrestrial and Dystopian. There are also distinctions made based on the age of the readership, such as adult versus YA (young adult, tweens and teens) or new adult (college age to early twenties).
Distilled down to its purest form, Paranormal Romance is any romance story in which paranormal elements play a key role in the plot of the story. A good question to ask: If the paranormal elements were removed from the plotline, would the story still work? If the answer is no, then you have a Paranormal Romance on your hands, my friends.
Still, with all of these definitions floating about, how is a writer supposed to decide which category best fits their work and readership. More important, should they try?
In today’s ever-changing publishing world, it’s important to keep our authorial eyes on the one constant prize. Writing good material. Everything else is secondary. Study craft, improve your technique, learn from those that have gone before you. Once you get to the point of submitting your finished work to agent and editors, then worry about genre. Pick the one or two best categories and run with it. My current novel, Seal of Destiny, crosses several genres—namely paranormal, urban fantasy and suspense, but also appeals to readers of dystopian fantasy and post-apocalyptic works as well. In the end, broader readership means more success, which makes everyone happy.
We love hearing from readers and writers. What are your thoughts on genre? Please share!