Blog Editor Note: Apologies to Loretta Rogers and the rest of the SSRA members for the delay in posting ‘Loretta’s Thursday Tidbit’
Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Romances
Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal (FF&P) romances have a growing number of fans these days. But, the lines do blur. Many people consider fantasy romance to be a part of paranormal romance. Also, many futuristic romances often take place in worlds that could be straight out of a fantasy novel, complete with barbarians and swordplay, while others include elements such as psychic abilities, which are generally considered a part of paranormal romance.
Have I thoroughly confused you? If so, maybe some definitions will help:
Fantasy romance covers a wide range of “things that could never be,” from elves and fairies to wytchfaes and mythical creatures to adventures taking place in invented worlds (think “Lord of the Rings” with the focus shifted away from the battles and toward Aragorn and Arwen), or real worlds combined with invented worlds (think “Mind Your Goddess,” by Flossie Benton Rogers).
Futuristic romance takes place in science fictional settings — think Star Wars and Star Trek.
Paranormal romance is where the creatures of nightmares lurk — vampires and werewolves and ghosts. But in paranormal romances, the creatures of nightmares often turn out to be the heroes! (think “Despite the Fangs,” by Dylan Newton).
Don’t Forget the Romance! Remember, you’re not writing a fantasy or science fiction novel or a horror novel. You are writing a romance.
- The romance has to come first.
- The romance must be what drives the book. You aren’t writing Bram Stoke’s horror novel Dracula.
Making the Happily-ever-after (HEA) Believable
You’ve got an immortal vampire hero. You’ve got a mortal heroine. They’re in love. Eventually, she’s going to die. He won’t. Uh-oh, now you’re in trouble. One of the main requirements of a romance, if not the requirement, is the HEA ending. Now what do you do?
When a man and woman in a normal romance fall in love, their path to love can be filled with disaster, but we know that once they work out their problems, they can be together without having to worry about spaceships, immortality, and the what-not.
In the FF&P romance, we know it won’t be so easy. If you’re writing an FF&P romance, you can run into huge barriers to the HEA ending. The hero and heroine may literally come from different worlds. How do you keep them together? The simple answer is Use your imagination. As with so many simple answers, that isn’t so simple, is it? On top of that, the “solution” you pick can actually make things worse for the hero and heroine. If that’s the case, go with it!
Whatever solution you use shouldn’t be the easy way out. OK, let’s say your hero is a werewolf. Do you remove the curse that made him a werewolf and give him a normal life? That’s not always the best solution. These days, many werewolf characters do not believe they have been cursed, and if you told them you were going to make them normal, they’d probably rip your lungs out. (Eeeek, that’s rather drastic!)
So what do you do–turn the heroine into a werewolf? If she’s willing, that might be the best solution. But what if she’s not? Well, then, you have conflict. As any writer knows, having conflict is a good thing!
Whatever you do, make sure the solution to your HEA is spelled out and filtered throughout the story. Readers will feel cheated if you suddenly turn your vampire hero into a human. Whaa? How did that happen? And double ‘whaa?’ It’s unbelievable?
World building is crucial to science fiction and fantasy novels. Some SF and fantasy writers put astonishing amounts of work into their world building. As an example, J. R. R. Tolkien spent years creating the backdrop of the Lord of the Ring trilogy. He even created languages and history and tales and songs — enough to fill several volumes after his death.
Luckily, the writers of FF&P romance don’t have to go to those extremes when they create their worlds. Most fans of FF&P romance wouldn’t have the patience for a world that detailed. Readers are not coming to you to read about a world so richly detailed that they will know the name of your heroine’s great-great-grandmother. Readers want to read about a hero and heroine in a truly exotic setting.
Still, just as an author of Regency-set historical romances would research the Regency period, so should the writer of FF&P romances work on creating a believable world. This doesn’t meant that you should go so far as to create a separate vampire language or write thousands of pages of mythology before starting your fantasy romance. But do try to create a world that’s consistent and logical. For one thing, the more work you put into the world building, the more that world building will pay off because you might find something there to help your plot or characterization.
And yes, even if you’re writing novels set on earth, such as vampire novels set in the present, there will still be some world building. Are you writing about a world where ordinary people know that the paranormal exists? If so, try to figure out ways in which the world as we know it might be different. Or is the existence of the paranormal hidden from most people? If so, try to figure out how to pull this off.
Whatever you end up creating, remember that there are many levels of world building, just as some historical romances have detailed settings and backgrounds, while others use the history as a wallpaper for the romance.
Keep It Real
Keep it real when writing about other planets or elves and fairies or vampires or werewolves? Give your story concrete details that readers can relate to.
That’s because those concrete details will help readers believe in your setting.
- What do your people drink?
- What do they eat?
- What music do they listen to?
- How does the world around them smell?
If you can create these details and describe them well, your readers will find themselves plunged into a brave new world.
Don’t Be Afraid to Break the Rules
We’ve all seen movies or read books where vampires, werewolves, and other creatures of the paranormal had to live under strict rules. For example, vampires can’t go out in sunlight, their reflections can’t be seen in mirrors, and so forth. Werewolves are cursed and only turn into wolves when the moon is full and always kill the one they love. Well that last one would be a downer in a romance, wouldn’t it?
So don’t be afraid to change those rules. Remember, many of those rules aren’t even a part of the original folklore — they were created by novelists or filmmakers and became part of our collective consciousness. So you can do the same. Make your own rules — especially if you can find a reason to do so. Chances are that most of the existing “rules” won’t fit the story you want to tell anyway
The Dark Side
Because of their very nature, FF&P romances often tread on the dark side. However, it is important to remember that as dark as the FF&P stories can get, they are still romances. The hero and heroine can tread the dark side, but they shouldn’t fall off the edge and plunge into the depths of no return. Instead, they should be there for each other in the end.
Also, keep in mind that most romance readers don’t come to FF&P romances to read about scary or overly violent stories. This is a romance, not a “splatterpunk” horror novel. Follow your instincts and avoid grossing out readers. If you must, keep the gruesome stuff off-stage.
A lot of writers (and their fans) have learned that the otherworldly and sex go well together. Heroes and heroines with something extra can bring that “extra” to their love scenes.
- Is your heroine psychic? Then maybe she can read the hero’s mind during sex. Wow!
- Is your hero a werewolf? Then maybe he is especially attuned to the scent of the heroine’s perfume.
- sex in the future might be in zero gravity!
But if you’re not comfortable with writing hot sex scenes, don’t write them–keep it sweet. And if hot sex doesn’t belong in your story, then leave it out. Just because a lot of people are writing FF&P romances with highly sensual love scenes, that doesn’t mean you should join them. Do what’s right for your book.
Latest posts by Loretta C. Rogers (see all)
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- Pacing Your Novel - November 17, 2016