Is it easier to write paranormal, as opposed to contemporary romance? Once upon a time (right about the time I decided I wanted to write paranormal), my gut reaction to that question was a resounding yes.
I mean, come on. A world with no rules? A world I get to create? I can do anything I want, anything at all, just so long as it… is believable.
That’s right. That’s the kicker. It can be all made up in your head, not a shred of what one would consider normal, but— and this is a massive but, the size of Mt. Rushmore but — it has to be believable.
So what does that mean?
Well, let’s talk contemporary romance for a minute. When writing a contemporary romance, your characters are based in today’s world, in a real (even if it’s fictitious, it still has to be real) town, living in real houses, dealing with real people and real situations. One of the best aspects of writing contemporary (I think) is that you can take very real situations and turn them into novels. The best romance writers take some pretty horrible real life stories and figure out a way for their main characters (and often secondary ones too) to experience a happily ever after.
In contemporary romance, you can exaggerate, make up some things (three orgasms in one night? Yes please!), but very little. Your dog cannot talk. He can cant his head to the side, bark and wag his tail, giving your hero the impression that the pup understands him, but animals absolutely cannot talk. Your readers will accept that your hero believes the dog understands his angst over losing the love of his life. Your readers will accept that the hero is convinced the dog helped lead him back to that love of his life, thus resulting in a happily ever after for dog and humans alike. But your readers will not accept that the dog can talk. Why? Because dogs can’ttalk.
Switching to paranormal romance, one of the many beautiful aspects of that genre is that your readers do not have many preconceived expectations, at least not specific ones. They expect, like they do of all romance novels, that there will be a happily ever after at some point, whether that is the end of that particular book or the end of the series. And they expect that the story will not be based in reality. Other than that, paranormal readers often dive into a book fully expecting… the unexpected.
Talking dogs? Of course!
But only if you help your readers make the unexpected believable. This may sound like it is bordering on oxymoron territory, but truly, it isn’t. Think about some of the most popular paranormal books. For example, one of my personal favorites, the Song of Fire and Ice series. For those of you who have read the books as well as watched the HBO series, tell me that when you met a new character or saw a new land that you did not think, that’s exactly what I envisioned it would look or act like?
Why? Because George R.R. Martin created such believable worlds with his words that you have bought into it, you believe Daenerys really is the mother of dragons. You believe that Wights exist and they are scary as hell and if you are anywhere north of the wall you should carry fire and dragon glass everywhere. You believe.
It’s not unlike the concept of Santa Claus. As Christmas approaches each year, what adult doesn’t want to believe, doesn’t want to become a kid again? All those stories, all those movies (Polar Express, anyone?), they are just so…believable.
Since I used the Song of Ice and Fire as an example, let me ask you this: do you think it was easy to write those massive, incredibly detailed, deeply emotional and dark, dark, dark books?
If it were easy, we’d have the sixth book by now. Heck, we’d have all seven.
But it isn’t easy creating a world from scratch. A world that your readers are willing to buy into, over and over, each time you offer them a new book. A world your readers eagerly anticipate, and create fan clubs around or wiki websites about (You know you’ve made it when…).
When you write contemporary romance, the world is already built. You have to describe it, of course, but that can be accomplished by looking out your window and writing down what you see. And then you have to make your characters fit into that world, make them multi-dimensional and believable and likable (or hatable; maybe a little of both?), follow the rules and write them into their happily ever after. When you write paranormal, you have to do all that and build the entire world too.
So to answer that question… No, writing paranormal isn’t easy. Even if you simply kill off all of your characters at the end… Just kidding, George! Please don’t…
Tami Lund writes both paranormal and contemporary romance. She also wins awards and drinks a lot of wine. If you’re curious about what kind of wine, follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TamiLundAuthor