Pamela Koehne-Drube

Written by

Pamela Koehne-Drube

9 February 2024


Genre Talk: Exploring the World of Paranormal Romance

Writing Paranormal Romance - Photo by for Pexels

Paranormal Romance is a genre that combines elements of the supernatural with the intricacies of romantic love. Often set in a world where the existence of vampires, werewolves, witches, or other paranormal entities is accepted as a part of daily life, these stories focus on the emotional and sometimes physical entanglements between humans and non-humans alike. At its core, Paranormal Romance is about the power of love to transcend the ordinary, to challenge the boundaries of reality, and to explore the unknown.

What is Paranormal Romance?

The term Paranormal Romance was first coined in the 1990s, even though it wasn’t particularly popular at the time. What we would now recognise as Paranormal Romance emerged predominantly in the 2000s, and is the contemporary offshoot of Gothic Romance, inspired by its often strong female protagonists, and dark and brooding men.

Christine Feehan’s Dark series, first published in 1999, was one of the cornerstone works that cemented Paranormal Romance’s popularity as a genre, with new books still being released in the series!

Paranormal romance merges the allure of love with supernatural elements, often drawn from fantasy, science fiction, and horror. These stories vary from classic romance in eerie settings to complex narratives with romantic subplots amidst fantastical or futuristic backdrops. They typically explore relationships between humans and beings like vampires, shapeshifters, and ghosts.

While creatures of the night are commonplace, the genre also explores love involving characters with psychic powers like telekinesis or telepathy. The genre has seen a resurgence with advancements in technology, such as the internet and e-publishing, becoming one of the fastest-growing subgenres within romance literature.

What are the key characteristics of Paranormal Romance?

To fully appreciate the allure of Paranormal Romance, it’s essential to understand its fundamental elements. These key characteristics are the pillars that support and define the genre, setting it apart from other forms of romantic fiction.

  • Supernatural elements: The defining feature of Paranormal Romance is the presence of supernatural creatures or abilities. This can range from werewolves and vampires to psychics and ghosts.
  • Romance at its core: Despite fantastical elements, the central theme of any Paranormal Romance is the romantic relationship between the protagonists. Love in these novels often incorporates elements of eroticism.
  • Deep worldbuilding: A detailed, believable setting where the paranormal is often integrated into society, or functions alongside it.
  • Conflict and suspense: In addition to romantic conflict, these stories often feature suspense or danger related to the paranormal aspects of the world.
  • Happily ever after or Happy for now: Most Paranormal Romance novels ensure that despite the obstacles faced by the protagonists, love triumphs in the end. That said, the journey there is often fraught with peril, and there may be a hint that there are threats to the couple’s happily ever after at some point in the future.

Paranormal Romance tropes and themes

In the world of Paranormal Romance, certain tropes and themes recur, weaving a familiar spell on readers, no matter the story. These motifs and tropes serve as touchstones for readers, promising the thrills and heartaches unique to the genre.

  • Mates for life: The idea that there is one perfect partner for everyone is a common theme.
  • Forbidden love: Relationships between different paranormal species or between paranormals and humans can be fraught with tension.
  • The Chosen One: Characters who are destined for some greater purpose often find love along the way.
  • Immortal love: Exploring the dynamics of a romance where one or both parties are immortal.
  • Redemption: Characters with a dark past will often find salvation through love.
  • Enemies to lovers: The ‘enemies to lovers’ arc is a classic storyline where characters who start off as adversaries slowly develop romantic feelings for each other.
  • Fated love: This romance arc is predetermined by destiny, often linked by an unbreakable bond that draws the love interests together regardless of the circumstances.
Purple rose on black background - writing paranormal romance - Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

How to write Paranormal Romance

Writing a Paranormal Romance novel is an adventure into the extraordinary, where the rules of our reality bend to the will of imagination. Crafting tales that intertwine the mysterious with the romantic requires a careful balance and a deep understanding of the genre’s nuances.

Develop a unique mythology

Create your own rules and history for your supernatural world. Your mythology should feel coherent and fully integrated into the narrative, offering readers a glimpse into a world that is both exciting and credible.

This could involve crafting unique abilities for your characters, establishing a hierarchy among supernatural entities, or setting up a system of magic with its own set of limitations and costs. Equally important is the backstory that explains the coexistence of paranormal beings and human society, which can add depth to your setting and the characters’ interactions within it.

Develop strong characters

Both protagonists and antagonists should be well-developed and multi-faceted. They should possess distinct personalities, flaws, and growth arcs. The interplay between characters can drive the plot forward and make the supernatural elements more relatable.

Consider how their paranormal attributes affect their interactions and personal struggles. Building strong relationships, whether romantic, familial, or adversarial, adds layers to the story and helps to create a tether between the real and paranormal worlds.

Keep the stakes high

The threat of danger or conflict should challenge the relationship and keep readers invested. In a successful Paranormal Romance, the love story is anything but calm seas.

Conflict, both internal and external, is the catalyst for growth and ultimately for the deepening of the bond between characters. Readers should feel the tension and stakes involved, which also means interweaving subplots that complement the primary romance, ensuring that the story is rich and full-bodied.

Balance the elements

Ensure a good mix between the romance and the paranormal—neither should overwhelm the other. The intrigue of the supernatural should match the emotional depth of the characters’ relationships.

Focus on pacing to maintain suspense and engagement, and don’t forget the importance of a satisfying conclusion, whether it’s a climactic action showdown or an emotional moment between love interests.

Build tension

Use the supernatural elements to heighten romantic tension. The allure of the uncanny can magnify the drama between characters, setting a stage for moments where their feelings are tested by otherworldly challenges.

Incorporating elements of mystery and danger that the paranormal aspect provides can intensify the connection between lovers, as they navigate through the twists and turns of a plot laced with magic, prophecies, or dark secrets.

Research or build a mythology

Take the time to do some research or construct your own mythology, legends, and folklore. Drawing inspiration from various cultures or coming up with your own myths can make your world stand out.

Consider how myths explain the existence or powers of paranormal beings, and think about how these elements can shape your characters’ destinies.

Recommended Paranormal Romance books

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