Writing Paranormals & The Distinction Between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance (RWA 2010 Blog Series)

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The Paranormals panel held during this year’s RWA Convention featured authors C.L. Wilson, Kelley Armstrong, Jeaniene Frost, Colleen Gleason, Terri Garey,  and Juliana Stone.  There was a lot covered during this panel, so I’d like to focus on just a few things the authors discussed.

  • Distinction Between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance

Here are some of the authors’ thoughts on what separates UF from paranormal romance:

UF is written in first person POV, follows the same hero or heroine throughout the series, and may or may not contain romance.  Even if it does, traditionally if you take the romance away, the story still stands.

Paranormal romance is generally third person POV, each book features a different hero and heroine, and the romance is integral to the story.

The biggest thing I got out of this discussion is that the lines between the genres appear to be blurring.  Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series is written in third person POV, in both the hero and heroine’s POVs, but all of the books in the series follow the same hero and heroine.  In contrast, Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress is written in first person POV from the heroine’s viewpoint, but all of the books follow the same hero and heroine, and the romance is integral to the storyline.

So why does this matter?  Traditionally the classification meant the difference between being shelved in the Romance section or the Fantasy section of the bookstore.  But this seems to be changing.  Many so-called urban fantasies are now shelved in the Romance section, or sometimes even in both the Romance and Fantasy sections.

  • Writing Books in a Series

If you are writing multiple books in a series, the authors outlined the necessity for creating a series bible.  As the author, you can create whatever type of world you like.  So series bibles are important for keeping track of those important little distinctions that create your world.  If your vampires can walk in the daylight, or if your werewolves can only shift during the full moon, then that should go in  your series bible.  And then you need to stick with it!  I remember once (many years ago) reading a series story by an author who didn’t stick with the rules she had created in a prior book.  As a reader, I felt cheated.  That’s not the feeling you want your readers to have.  So if you are in the beginning stages of creating a world, think carefully about the rules you make, because you will be held to them.

So what do you think?  Do you agree with the authors’ distinctions between urban fantasy and paranormal romance?  And in today’s market, does it even really matter? 

On Friday, I’ll be talking about the “Romance That Snaps, Sizzles, and Pops” Workshop.



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