A few weeks back, we talked how-tos, wherefores, and what-nots of writing romance and chick lit. This week, it’s all about taking those sighs and heaving bosoms and transplanting them into your paranormal or fantasy romance.
The Sighs and the Heaving Bosoms
I have a good reason for linking to that previous article on romance. The reason is that I recommend you go read it. Since that one was all about the romance, for me to repeat it here would be exactly that: repetition. And I don’t think any of us want that. So go ahead and click the link and read the post. I’ll be here when you get back. I promise.
See? I’m Still Here
Toldja. ; )
The Ghosts, the Gnomes, and the Goblins
In order to find helpful hints on paranormal/fantasy romance in particular, I consulted my trusty sidekick, Ye Olde Google. The following are my favorite points from the two most informative articles I found, as well as my remarks upon them.
1. Solid mythology
This is worldbuilding, y’all. And it’s essential. In fantasy and paranormal anything, your world has to be believable. Yes, you’re making it up, but you’ve also gotta make up rules for it and stick to them. If you want your vampires to sparkle, fine–but give your readers a good background reason for it. On the other hand, if you want your vampires driven and bloodthirsty and vulnerable to sunlight, maybe you should make demonic possession of an Egyptian queen and king part of your world’s backstory. Tell a background story that has its fingers in all your foreground’s pies, and you’ve got a mythology your readers will believe.
2. Strong female lead
She might be a damsel, and she might be in distress, but that doesn’t mean she needs the hero to come swooping in to rescue her every single time. She needs to be active. She needs to know what she wants, and she needs to be able to go out and get it. Let her. Don’t hold her back, waiting for a man to come save her. Yes, he should also be a strong character who plays a role in answering the story question. But his character shouldn’t be so strong that his overshadows hers. Consider being bold enough to let her rescue him once in awhile!
3. Sex appeal (The Return of the Heaving Bosoms)
These characters must have their flaws. They can’t be perfect inside and out, because your readers won’t be able to relate to them.
BUT. In addition to having flaws, they’ve gotta be smokin’ hot as well.
Ahh, conundrum. How I do love thee.
Actually, I’m not kidding. The sexiest people I know? They’re physically sexy because of the little flaws. The cute little crooked tooth. The slightly hooked nose. The quirky upper lip. Symmetry is nice, but it’s kind of boring. Especially when you’re a reader and you have to read the word “perfect” over and over again.
Aside from physical smokin’-hotness, there’s the smokin’-hotness of personality as well. Don’t let a single one of your characters be just another pretty face (unless the character’s particular role is to be just another pretty face, and then you’d better have a rock-solid reason for writing them this way). Add depth and nuance to these people. Give them backstories. Give them inner paradoxes. Make your hero irresistible to your heroine because he says exactly what she needs to hear at exactly the right time. Make your heroine the kind of woman who demands that your reader sit up and take notice.
It’s about more than voluptuous curves and cascading hair and sweeping lashes. These people must have presence. That’s sexy.
3. Violence in service of the Greater Good
If your hero must be violent, then he’s gotta be the “good-guy” kind of violent. Protecting the innocent. Standing firm against all comers. Pursuing the evil. In romance, you want to avoid the hero who’s so flawed that he’s basically a bad guy doing bad things to worse guys. In romance, your hero can be violent, but only because he has no other choice; the Good will suffer if he refuses.
4. Think Aragorn, Arwen, and Éowyn
This article provides what sounds to me like the best definition of paranormal/fantasy romance:
think Lord of the Rings with the focus shifted away from the battles and toward Aragorn and Arwen (via Anne Marble).
I would add that if you drop a determined Éowyn into the mix for a love triangle, you’ve got a pretty good heart-throbbing set-up. How would LotR have turned out if Éowyn had refused to let Aragorn go?
5. Remember the romance.
This seems a rather duh statement, but for realz: When writing paranormal/fantasy romance, don’t get so involved with your ghosts, vampires, or elves that you let their otherworldliness overshadow the romance. The core of your tale is the relationship between two characters, or the triangle of relationships, if that’s what you’re writing. Who ends up together and why and how? That–and not the origin story of your vampires–is the heart of your tale.
6. Don’t forget the laughs.
Romance is funny. Sex is funny. Romance and sex between a human and a non-human (whether dead or undead or ghostly) has the potential to be downright hilarious. (Or gross. But that’s another blogpost.) Exploit the slapstick in your characters’ romances–which sounds a whole lot dirtier than it probably is.
7. Hot sex
Should you include hot sex in your paranormal/fantasy romance? Well, that’s really up to you. Be aware that sex is actually pretty difficult to write, at least if you want to write it interesting and believable (READ: not cheesy; also, see “potentially gross” above). You’ll want to be very clear in your own head who your audience is and what they’re expecting. If the sex you write is too hot, you might cross over from romance into erotica, and that might be a very different readership. So, as you consider “to sex or not to sex,” keep respect for your characters, your genre, and your audience.
But if you do decide to write the hot sex, have fun. ; )