Sunday, November 11, 2012

Random thoughts on (paranormal) romance

I think I'm drawn to writing paranormal romance because it's easier to break conventions. For example, in historical romance the heroine is always* a virgin. This is why Karen Marie Moning's Beyond the Highland Mist is classified as historical rather than paranormal romance, despite the fairies and time travel.

It's conventional in romance too for the heroine to be smaller and weaker than the hero. He's usually broad-shouldered and muscular; she's dainty and needs some kind of protection or security the hero can give her, even if she doesn't think so.

But in paranormal romance there's no expectation that the heroine be a virgin. And it's completely possible to have a heroine who's a vampire, werewolf, fae or whatever who's stronger than her human male counterpart. The romance between Selene and Michael in the first Underworld movie is an example of this.

Communicable diseases are also something you won't see in romance. But here's another convention that paranormal breaks, for what are vampirism and lycanthropy if not communicable diseases? This is as close to a sexually transmitted disease as you'll likely get in a romance.

Perhaps these various conventions are on my mind right now because of what I've been writing lately.

In October I took the Lawson Writing Academy workshop "Getting Serious about Writing a Series," taught by Lisa Wells. It helped me turn my attention back to the Lilly Frank series, which I hadn't really thought much about since finishing the first book this summer. But I want to write the second book this spring, and so I needed to get my head back in it. As a result of the workshop I have greater clarity about how the books fit together and what needs to happen in the second one. I'm still not entirely clear on what the main conflict will be. I have a villain, but I'm not sure yet whether he shows up in the second book or the third one.

I also need to figure out which characters from the first book (beyond Lilly and Torren, obviously) carry over to the second and how the first book's events create ripples in the second and/or third book. My fear is that it'll piss people off if the majority of the characters from Awakening are just gone—poof—but at the same time I kind of feel like they’ve served their purpose already. So what am I supposed to do?

I've also given myself the added challenge of basing some of my characters on real people, as per my earlier post. This is a completely different way of approaching my writing process. Rather than starting from Lilly's story and discovering the characters that populate her world as I go, I'll be starting with some characters she'll need to interact with and watching how their interactions affect the plot. Very different process for me. But good. Shakes things up.

But now I’m also writing this other novel...which is to say I don’t actually know if I’m writing it but I’m writing some of it, which is cool. It's a contemporary romance. You could have knocked me over with a feather when the idea came to me and I got excited about it. I generally don't read contemporary romance anymore; there's something exotic about historical settings and super-humans that I prefer to romance set in modern day society.

Anyway, I'm considering which conventions of contemporary romance I want to break in this one. Of course the primary advantage to self-publishing is that I don't have to conform to a publisher's idea of what's desirable in a romance. On the other hand, I assume that publishers' standards have come from extensive market research, which I have definitely not done nor have the resources to do, so it is scary to take that leap and hope people will like it even if it is quite different from what they've come to expect.

*True in my experience, but there may very well be exceptions. If you know of any, please draw my attention to them! I'm always on the lookout for fellow convention-defiers.

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