Romance Author University: Straddling the Line Between Paranormal Romance and Horror by Kelli A. Wilkins
Greetings Romance Lovers!
It’s October, and Halloween is right around the corner. At this time of year, horror movies are extremely popular and everyone is focusing on the supernatural. Werewolves, vampires, and other “creatures of the night” seem to be lurking everywhere, just waiting to leap out and terrify an unsuspecting heroine…
But sometimes the heroine isn’t terrified. Sometimes she’s attracted to that vampire and can’t wait for the sun to go down so they can roam the night together, like any couple. That is, any couple in a paranormal romance.
Paranormals are a unique genre in the romance world. (Where else can a woman make love to an undead creature and not face criticism?) They straddle the line between traditional romances and the supernatural/fantasy/horror realm. And to create a convincing paranormal romance, the author has to do a bit of juggling in all of those worlds.
One of the most important elements in writing paranormal romances is to invent a believable universe where shifters, vampires, and other types of “otherworldly” characters are very real. Sometimes these creatures interact and coexist with “normal” humans (everyday people accept that vampires and shapeshifters exist), but most times they stay hidden in the shadows.
Whatever the basic premise, readers need to suspend their disbelief and lose themselves in the world the author has created. The writer has to establish a realistic paranormal character (or several) and take the reader on an exciting journey with the hero and heroine as they fall in love. After all, this is a romance!
The type of paranormal character that stars in the story is key to the plot, and can vary from nearly human to full-fledged monster.
For example, suppose the hero was once human and has been cursed to live as another creature (such as a Bigfoot, or a gargoyle). Can the curse be broken if he finds a human woman to love him? How does he go about that? Does he retain his human memories? Is the woman repulsed by him at first? Do they make love while he’s in his altered state? Variations on this “beauty and the beast” theme have been used in many paranormal romances, and usually there is a happy-ever-after ending for the couple.
But maybe the hero is an undead creature (a vampire) or turns into an animal (a werewolf or a werepanther). How does this change his personality and way of life? Does he resent humans and live with others of his kind? What does he do when he’s not transformed? How (and why) does he transform? What happens when he reveals his true nature to his beloved? How do they live happily-ever-after?
As you can see, falling in love with a non-human can create a lot of conflict and difficulties for the couple. And sometimes it’s a challenge for the author to make the “monster” into a romantic lead.
Even though the hero isn’t human, he must have a special appeal that makes the heroine overlook this fact and fall in love with him. Basically, the hero-creature has to remain true to his paranormal status and still be attractive to humans (and human readers), just like a traditional romance hero. (If not, then he’s the lead in a horror story, and that’s an entirely different realm.)
If the author doesn’t create a believable paranormal hero, readers won’t buy into it, and there certainly won’t be any sparks flying in the romance. Writers must make the “monster” as real as any other human character and flesh him out completely with a backstory, goals, motivation, and conflicts.
Another challenge for the author is to keep a balance between the paranormal elements and the romance. There needs to be realistic supernatural details added to the love story, but the author can’t gross out (or turn off) the heroine… or readers.
If a paranormal romance includes too much violence or gore, it could turn into a horror story. (In fact, with a little bit of rewriting, practically any paranormal romance could be transformed into a dark and disturbing horror tale.) To avoid this, the author has to find a way to deal with the bloodier or unpleasant aspects of being a monster, while still keeping the hero attractive.
For example, if the hero is a vampire, he’ll have to feed at some point during the story. The writer and the other characters must address this. How does the heroine deal with her boyfriend’s need to drink blood? Does she accept it? Ignore it? Does he feed “off page” where she can’t see? Does she ever let him feed off her? What if he loses control and goes wild?
These are all crucial things the author has to consider when developing characters and plotting a paranormal love story. Readers want to fall in love with a “safe” creature and live vicariously through the heroine as she navigates the paranormal world. But the monster/hero shouldn’t be dull or boring, or too predictable, either.
It’s always refreshing when authors break patterns and have paranormal characters go against stereotype. (Why do all vampires have to be suave, live in large houses, and dress well?) When I wrote my paranormal romances, I always tried to give readers something unexpected, turned a cliché on its ear, or used a different point of view to liven up the story.
In Killer in Wolf’s Clothing, my “werewolf” didn’t turn into a four-legged animal; he became a super-aggressive Alpha male. Beauty & the Bigfoot is a paranormal comedy that explores the legend of Bigfoot through quirky characters (and some hot love scenes!).
Rothgar, the hero in The Viking’s Witch doesn’t believe that the heroine has supernatural powers—until she proves it. Confessions of a Vampire’s Lover is told in first person from the hero’s point of view and takes place at the beach—and that’s not where you expect to find a vampire.
As Halloween approaches, take a closer look at the “monsters” and other supernatural creatures you encounter. But don’t be afraid… you might just fall in love with one of them!
Kelli A. Wilkins
Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 19 romance novels, and 5 non-fiction books. Her romances span many genres and heat levels, and she’s also been known to scare readers with her horror stories.
In August 2018, Kelli released her first online course through Teachable. "Fiction Writing for Beginners" is perfect for anyone who wants to learn how to write. Visit the course page: https://kelliwilkins.teachable.com/ for more details.
Kelli’s historical romance, "Redemption from a Dark Past", was published in June of 2018. This full-length Gothic novel is set in the kingdom of Hungary in 1723 and blends a sensual romance with mystery and suspense.
If you like horror fiction, don’t miss her latest novella, "Nightmare in the North."
Kelli posts on her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKelliWilkins and Twitter: www.Twitter.com/KWilkinsauthor.
Visit her website www.KelliWilkins.com and blog http://kelliwilkinsauthor.blogspot.com/ to learn more about all of her writings.
The Viking’s Witch
Scotland, 803 A.D.
About to be burned at the stake by her fellow villagers, Odaria does what any betrayed witch facing certain death would do. She calls down a curse. Within seconds, rampaging Norsemen raid the village, capturing everyone except her.
But her reprieve is short-lived, and Odaria lands in the clutches of the Norse leader Rothgar. Can she remain true to herself and fight her growing attraction to this domineering man, or will she fall under his influence and be used for his ambitions?
After Rothgar witnesses Odaria’s powers firsthand, he strikes a bargain with her. The raven-haired beauty will use her magical abilities to help him with his quest in exchange for safe passage off the isle. But can this cunning woman be trusted, or is she using him to exact vengeance on her village?
Together they must fight bloodthirsty villagers, battle a mutinous band of Norsemen, find a missing Norse ship, and learn to trust each other . . . before time is up.