My thoughts on Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Romance (Part 2)

Whew! Big weekend! I went to Osfest, sat on two panels, hosted another one and, oh yeah, Katie and I put a bid on a house that was accepted! **Continuously dances** No, I’m not telling you where, you creepy internet stalkers. I’m watching you. But not, y’know, in a creepy way. (I’m totally watching you in a creepy way.)

Annnnnywaaaay…awkward.  I’ve got more news coming about WordKeeperAlpha but things are probably going to slow down on it for the next couple months, since we’re going to be moving and I’ll have less time for development.  Trust me though, the next update is going to be HUGE and you’re going to love it.  Not only am I (again) revamping Goals, but Projects too, and a fair amount of the backend.  All that is going to lead directly into the social upgrades that I’ve been promising for so long, AND blog integration.  Also, faster performance.  It’s going to be super spiffy.

Completely ignoring the fact that I used the word “spiffy” in a blog post, lets get back to talking about Urban Fantasy vs. Paranormal romance.   Once again, full disclaimer, I personally don’t care much for paranormal romance.  My word on this is not law, I’m not calling you stupid for locing the crap out of it.  This is just my personal taste and things that I’ve noticed while sampling (often unwittingly) novels in the genre.

On the surface, paranormal romance and urban fantasy look exactly like the same genre.  Both usually feature bad ass (or potentially bad ass) main characters, magic, vampires and or werewolves set in a (mostly) modern setting.  I think the key difference (big surprise) is the focus on the romantic aspect.  I know, duh.  But really that’s all that separates them, or seems to be.  And that, is probably what I don’t like about paranormal romance.  The question of “Will they, won’t they” is given more precedence than “Dude, that evil wizard is just one sacrifice away from turning the world’s cows into insane werecow super-predators.”  Or, it will completely leave out the werecow plot (which is just wasting a terrific idea) and focus on the forbidden love between a completely normal woman and a super-hunky but dangerous angel-werewolf hybrid.  I’m sure that the latter story is fascinating to some people, but I really want to see what happens when the werecows start eating raw people burgers.

No, I’m not letting that drop and it will go into one of my books someday.  “Invasion of the Werecows,” New York times #1 best seller!

Another, in my mind, failing that crops up in paranormal romance is the thrice damned romantic triangle.  Seriously…how many times does the beautiful Mary Sue character really have to choose between the mysterious vampire hottie and the brooding werewolf hottie?  Vampire and werewolf are completely interchangeable as well.

Once again, its not that romance in the story is bad, or that I hate all romantic triangles.  I’ve read urban fantasies where both are handled expertly.  Take the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, for instance.  The first few books deal quite a bit with the romantic traingle between Mercy and two different alpha werewolves, which, just typing it makes me a little queasy.  But none of the books focus on that.  Its always a side plot to the main conflict in the book, in some books bigger, in some smaller until eventually it becomes a non-issue.  Mercy’s main problem in those books is often keeping herself or those she cares about alive, something that she has serious problems with.  Mercy is a kick-ass heroine who has a well defined character, a standing in the supernatural that makes her believable and relatable and mundane problems to match her supernatural ones. I just wish she didn’t get the shit kicked out of her so often…but that’s kind of what defines her.  Mercy can take a hit just as well as any of her supernatural friends, sometimes far better.  Their respect is earned, not magically given because Mercy is just so naturally talented.  She’s a bad ass, because she can be half murdered, and think herself out of the situation leaving her friends to wonder just how she survived AGAIN.  Her enemies are fools to mess with her, not because of her power, but because of how many threats she’s not only survived, but dealt with decisively.

Maybe I’m just talking about good writing versus bad writing.  Once again, I’m not well read in the official paranormal romance genre, but I’ve come to associate PN with writing that glosses over important character building to focus on the romance aspect instead of the paranormal aspect.  Is it possible to make the romance the main thrust of the plot and still have it be interesting?  Yeah, probably so, but I think that would take a defter hand than mine.  Also, I’m sure that there’s plenty of people who don’t care and just want Bella and Edward to bone in their awkward, completely not messed up way.  And the people who like that are just fine.  They know what they like.  I know what I like.  Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop ragging on Twilight though.  You can only expect so much acceptance and tolerance from me.

 


My thoughts on paranormal romance / urban fantasy.

Here’s the mix: Take one private investigator, add city, mix with magic, vampires, werewolves and three tablespoons of fae.  Shake vigorously and let stand for three hundred pages.  Sprinkle generously with interesting personalites and serve with a side of sweet violence and sexual tension.  Feel free to substitute the first ingredient with a druid, necromancer, or whatever you have on hand.  Add grimdark to taste.  Enjoy!

Personally, I cut my teeth on Anita Blake, advanced to Harry Dresden (who just isn’t showing up as regularly as he used to), walked planes with Atticus O’Sullivan, with side helpings of anyone else who could keep my interest for a few books.  While I wouldn’t say that my taste is indiscriminate, I have sampled pretty widely in the genre.  Where there are series that I wait all year … sometimes multiple years (I’m looking at you Butcher!) for the next book in the series, there are others that just don’t catch me.  Maybe its the tone? Maybe its world?  Usually its the main character.  We’ll get into that.

Then there’s … paranormal romance. On the surface it looks like urban fantasy.  The book blurb on the back reads like it, but you probably know what you’re getting by the fifth chapter.  I know, I know…plenty of people love paranormal romance… but thus far I haven’t been able to make it through one.  I’m not saying that the genre’s bad.  Just like the corset and lace romance genre isn’t bad, in and of itself.  It just isn’t for me.  But, I’m a human being, and as such, I have … opinions.  And why have a blog if I don’t use it to toss an opinion or two out into the wild, where it can hurt some unsuspecting reader, here from WordKeeperAlpha?

So, paranormal romance, why can’t you keep my interest? Tropes.  You are just drowning in your tropes, and they make a hot sticky mess.  First and foremost: is the Perfect Female Protagonist’.  I don’t mean strong, I mean perfect, also known as a Mary Sue character.  Does the main character start off as a mousey nerd, but inside of six months is challenging established power houses within the world, making her a badass?  Does she master the katana (has to be a katana) in a short amount of time? Win the instant respect of beings who are ages older than her?

This isn’t even about the protagonist being female.  I LOVE me a kick ass woman main character.  Like I said, I got my start with the first five novels of the Anita Blake series.  All I ever wanted was Anita to stick around being a bad ass, killing monsters, taking names and … well, things got weird.  I had to start reading other books.  This isn’t a “I don’t like women as main characters thing” this is a “I don’t like main characters who are unrealistically perfect”.  

If further fairness, Anita Blake both spoiled and ruined me.  Ever since I hit that weird point in Anita Blake I’ve been looking for a main character who can take her place.  As a result, I’ve looked into a lot of series that, on the book synopsis, looked like urban fantasy, but turned out to be paranormal romance.  There is no disappiontment so harsh as expecting Anita Blake and getting Bella from Twilight.  Does she have a last name?  Bah! So, please, consider PFP to also be PMP, because I’m sure those are out there….probably angels or alpha werewolves of something.

Anita was great because she started off scared of so many things.  She knew that, even though she was a badass, compared to what she hunted she was pretty weak.  That means she had to be smart … or insanely brave … or have friends to back her up or just to scrape out no matter what.  Dresden’s kind of the same way.  He starts out a little fish in a very big pond, and some of the other fish that … ok, the fish metaphore is weird in this case.  Both Dresden and Anita are both their best when they’re out of their depth and if they get any respect it is grudgingly given.

The PFP/PMP enters the world of the paranormal either already Wolverine (the best at what he/she does) or as little Annakin (look at the MIDICHLORIANS on this one!).  Neither one of these is bad in and of itself…but when title character is already the best, there’s no where left to go.  Unless you tear them down to their roots and let them start again (this statement is in no way indicitive of what I’m writing now).  Its why I’m not a huge Superman fan, at least not classic Superman.  He’s been too good.  Too perfect.  And that’s just boring.

Wow…ok. So that went on for a bit longer than I thought it would.  I’ve got other things to talk about that seem to run rampant in paranormal romance, but if I went into them now, I’d be here all night.  Sounds like we’ve got the makings of a series!  Finally, something to talk about on my blog that’s actually writing related!  **does a little dance**  **falls**  **dies**

So, I’ve probably angered some people.  Here’s your chance to prove me wrong. Do you know a good paranormal romance book?  Something with a great MC, male or female, who just makes the book or story for you?  Leave a comment and I’ll try it out.  Really, just because I haven’t found my cup of tea yet, doesn’t mean it isn’t out there.  Educate me.

Honestly, I just want someone to leave me a comment.  I’m so lonely here.  So quiet and alone.