Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What's Your Paranormal Type?

Vampire, lycanthrope or shiftshifter? Those are my top three supernatural beings. Of course, you also have ghosts, spirits, fairies, witches, wizards, time travelers and a few more I’ve no doubt left out. These beings can be found in any number of paranormal romances or urban fantasy stories that avid readers devour on a regular basis.

Paranormal romance done right reinforces the fact that the characters in these novels are people first and supernatural beings second. They may drink blood, sprout fur or transform at a moment’s notice but they are not invincible. They may be immortal but they’re also emotionally vulnerable. The blending of reality with the fantastic, the modern world with supernatural beings, adds a little extra something to a romance. The paranormal romance sub-genre allows for stories with darker undertones. It can also be light and comedic. Possibilities abound for writers looking to add a something different and other-worldly to their writing.

Take vampires, they’ve come a long way from the beings described in ancient folklore. What nasty creatures those legends described, then fast forward to the nineteenth century and Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula. I can’t say as I’d care to run into him either, but a member of J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood, show me a map and point the way. And now we have Stephanie Meyer’s Edward, a deadly but sparkly vampire adored by masses of teenage girls.

Then there is the creature known as loup-garou or lycanthrope or werewolf. The idea of the werewolf seems to stem largely from European tradition. You didn’t want to come across one of these beings lurking about in the dark either. They were not rumored to be friendly but menacing, insatiable beasts. I’ll take the werewolves in Lori Handeland’s novels any day or J.K. Rowling’s Professor Lupin.

Next we have beings with the ability to shapeshift. Almost every culture has some sort of transformation myth. We’ve read human-animal shift stories to our children, The Frog Prince, Beauty and the Beast and The Shaggy Dog, to name a few. In Native American legend a skin-walker is someone with the ability to change into any animal he or she desires. I’ve fallen for the term skin-walker. It brings all kinds of story ideas to mind.

I’ve recently started a new project. It’s paranormal romance that involves a largely secret vampire society known only to a select few in the human world. Its world building on a very small scale and the first time I’ve attempted to create an alternate existence set within contemporary times. It’s calling me over to the dark side and I’m fascinated by the possibilities. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that even though I’m dealing with the supernatural, the differing abilities of the characters still need to mesh within the confines of a believable relationship. It’s a romance first and foremost. Let’s hope I can keep that in mind long enough to get it done.

“We know a little about a lot of things; just enough to make us dangerous.” – Dean Winchester, Supernatural

Do you enjoy stories with a paranormal bent? Do you have a favorite supernatural being? A favorite paranormal romance author? Ever thought of writing one? Let me know your thoughts on anything paranormal.


Hayley E. Lavik said...

While paranormal isn't my primary draw, Karyn, damned if I don't love any whiff of the fantastic and any prospect of world-building or creating systems of magic. The prospect of developing your vampire society sounds exciting. Do keep me updated!

I'd be rather torn on finding a supernatural being to name my favourite, for one because there are so many incarnations. You can't say 'vampire' without calling up so many connotations, both the good and the truly terrible, and I'm very particular about the sort of werewolf appearances I like. It's rather like the pirate vs. ninja debate, honestly, how can you choose?

As for favourite authors, it's not a genre I've really read, contemporary, but my personal favourite would be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who is obviously not a paranormal romance author. I love his hints of the occult, macabre, and paranormal though, even though they're typically revealed as man-made spooks. Hound of the Baskervilles is a personal favourite for obvious reasons, as it's my fav folk tale by far, but the balance between logic and the supernatural is also excellent.

As for writing one, it's a thought that's crossed my mind a time or two, but I'd want to read a good deal of the genre first to pick out the common premises that have become tired and worn, so I don't think I've come up with something sparkly and new, hah. I've dabbled with ideas of taking the classic faerie ideas (Yeats, Shakespeare, or what have you) and putting them in a more modern setting.. but then that's become pretty common now hasn't it? I recall seeing an announcement of a book sale about faeries that wasn't in a modern setting. Still, Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan's take on Midsummer Night's Dream had me musing some interesting premises.

Also since you mention skinwalkers, have you checked out Faith Hunter's Skinwalker?

Rie said...

I love all paranormal, but witches in particular.

Karyn Good said...

Hi Hayley. I will keep you updated because I really have no idea what I'm doing and will need feedback! Although as I mentioned, it's very small scale but lots of fun to attempt.

Okay, now I'm curious as to what werewolf appearances you favor. BTW, pirates - no contest.

I've never read Hound of the Baskervilles but I may have to give it go. As for writing one of your own, you'd be great at it. As far as I can tell, while there is the tried and true familiar stories lines there is also room to be very creative and put your own spin on things. Midsummer Night's Dream is a favorite of mine and the idea of a modern take on that play, Hayley style, certainly intrigues!

Thanks for the link. I love that word 'skinwalker'. Imagine if your skin were your mask.

Karyn Good said...

Hi Rie. Witches, also a great choice. They're on my mind again, having just been to the theater to see the newest Harry Potter offering, which I enjoyed.

I enjoy the paranormal too. There's just something about the all the possibilities that appeals to me. The combination of nothing is for certain and anything is possible works for me.

Happy writing!

Suse said...

Hi Karyn, an interesting post. I find it amazing all the possibilities that a writer can take her story in. I'm probably too conservative or too stuck in my ways to go for a werewolf romance or an human-animal shift story (not that I've read any and therefore can only comment on my sense of how I would feel about such stories). I do, however, enjoy stories with time travelers, fairies, and perhaps ghosts.

A couple of years ago, I started a time travel story that I would like to go back to. The logistics of the world building has me at a stand still though as I need to take the time to do some research since my time travel is into the past and I must be sure that certain buildings, etc. were in existence at the time my characters have traveled back.

Have fun with your vampire story. Aside from building your world, I think the biggest challenge would be to make your vampire hero/heroine heroic. But that's the case for all romances, isn't it? As you said the romance is first and foremost.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Very interesting topic, Karyn.

Although paranormals aren't my first choice, I have read Lindsay McKenna's Cowboys of the Southwest trilogy. This was first and foremost a romance from Silhouette Special Edition but it introduced shape shifters to me on a very small scale. Enough to intrigue and scare me at the same time. The reason I say scare me is because I know there is a supernatural world out there and don't want to dwell on the dark side of it where every one is suspect of not being who you think they are. So, I try not to think about it.

I did kinda like Odo on Deep Space 9 though. (Much better than I liked the Farengies.)

And I have experimented with shape shifters in my writing when the challenge was given on the eharlequin Writer's Challenge board.

Karyn Good said...

Hi Suse. My number two book of all time has to be the Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I believe the movie will be coming out in the next few months. Such a great book! It's a very different take on time travel and if you haven't read it yet think about maybe picking it up. I think you'd like it!

Good luck on your research. I can see where research would be key in time travel, especially if there's more than one location travelled too.

It's all about the relationship and for me it's about creating laws to protect the innocent, a concrete sense of justice and a need to grasp at what makes someone 'human'.

Karyn Good said...

Hey Anita. Thank goodness everyone's tastes are different or the world would be a pretty small place. I've talked to many people who didn't get why anyone would read a book about a vampire or a werewolf or a skinwalker. It's escapism at its best for me.

Kudos to you entereing a eharlequin writing challenge dealing with shifters. I have to get back over there one of these days and make more use of it. I'm curious about the opportunity to enter some writing challenges.

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Okay Karyn.. you had to go combining skin with masks... now I'm going to be haring off on that theme for a while!

As for the werewolves... I've never liked those bizarre, elongated lanky wolves. Prisoner of Azkhaban was my favourite Harry Potter book (black dog myth? how can it lose!) but I wasn't at all fond of Lupin's werewolf representation in the movie. I prefer something a bit meatier, rather than looking so fragile. I was pretty pleased with the werewolf designs (especially for Hugh Jackman) in Van Helsing, although the vampires are painfully campy in that one. Love the werewolf themes behind Ginger Snaps, but the final transformation was most definitely low budget. It's still a good movie. I also like just classic human-to-wolf transformations, as in The Company of Wolves... which also has one fantastic transformation scene:

Also a fan of ghost stories and the like, and there's an Irish tale Yeats collected from his wanderings about the country I've always wanted to find a good premise for.

Karyn Good said...

Hayley, I absolutely agree! I was thinking of his human form and like it much better then his werewolf form. My favorite tranformations are back to complete animal form. So you're right Serius Black - much better example.

Loved the youtube link. I'd never heard of The Company of Wolves or Ginger Snap. Hum, will have to investigate further. What do you think of the Underworld movies?

Came across a wonderful Yeats quote yesterday. I'll have to see if I can find it again. I hope you find a premise, I'm very interested is see what you'd do with his tale.

I thought of you as soon as the mask correlation popped into my head.

Ban said...

Karyn, you know I'm waiting to hear what you've got on your story !!! And, you know what I think about paranormals/urban fantasy !!!
Funny you should bring up skinwalkers too - I've got an aside dealing with them - the Yenaldooshi & Wendigo(i for plural ?) I've always had a soft spot for native american folklure.
Oh and I'm picky about werewolves too - I prefer the man-animal adaptation. Used to watch the show Wolf Lake (I believe that's it) and if you like that sort of thing I'd suggest Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson series !

Karyn Good said...

Hey Ban! I've got the first chapter and the start of the second. They're short chapters because the whole thing will be 15,000 words max. But what I've got done by July 31st will be in your inbox on August 1st waiting to be read!

I agree, Native Americans have some beautiful legends, art and a gift for storytelling.

What are you sending me on August 1st? Wendigo and Yenaldooshi, hum, when do I get to read that part of your wip? Happy writing!

Silver James said...

Karyn, you know how I feel about paranormals! Even my non-romance mystery has a psychic/ghostly connection in it. In my Penumbra Papers series, I open up the preternatural world full bore - vampires, werewolves, fae, witches, gargoyles. In the Delta Ghosts series, the otherworld is a little simpler - ghosts.

I can't wait to read this WIP of yours, fyi! I'm excited that you've come over to the shadows. *bwahaha*

Ban said...

the native american aspects will appear later in the paranormal WiP and will lead to a spin off - sort of - in the same 'world'.
I've only got 600 words on my first chapter. I've never counted before !!! or used wordperfect to do so ... :)

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Hmm, Underworld. It's been a long time since I saw the first, and never did see the second. I love their overall atmosphere, but I think I'd need a second viewing to decide how I feel about the whole Matrix-vampire fashion they seem to be acquiring. Loved the costumes in the third for their older style... actually reminded me a bit of Van Helsing. But I enjoy Kate Beckinsale, and Bill Nighy is excellent in anything (although I have a hard time picturing him as a villain in a movie about talking guinea pigs...)

From memory, I like the werewolf designs, not horribly lanky, and the vampires are equally badass. I've always found niceifying (heh) vampires a bit dry though... like drinking artificial blood instead of killing people, or surviving on the blood of animals. I like the way Anne Rice handles the 'blood hierarchy', that feeding on animals should be considered a horrid last resort, like boiling one's boost ;)

Wandering another direction, I love the vampire portrayals in the Hellsing anime series. Very bizarre style, and painfully intriguing.. I have so little info about all the stuff lurking behind the plot so far. Also interesting tension between true vampires and 'manufactured' vampires. Then there's the concept of the damphir (various spellings), the half-breed, which I originally new from another anime, Vampire Hunter D, but seems to be everywhere now.

Not sure if Company of Wolves is around very much, but a friend kindly sent me a copy I can watch on my laptop. It's like a twisted Red Riding Hood story, very fairy tale. Ginger Snaps is a Canadian movie, and on every Hallowe'en pretty much, so you should be able to spot it. There are three, but I'm not fond of the sequels, as they're basically just redoing the story. The first is great, mixing 'girl turns into monster' and 'girl begins to menstruate', so that you wonder whether the werewolf or the menstruating woman is what you should fear :p

Karyn Good said...

Silver, I have to say - I'm loving the shadows.;) Oh, I forgot gargoyles! And banshees!

And you'll see some of it Sunday on BB. I'm looking forward to seeing what you think

I don't know what's wrong with me, I keep thinking about your Royal Seducer and wondering...

Karyn Good said...

Ban, looking forward to those 600 words!

Karyn Good said...

Hayley, I've got the third Underworld downloaded to my ipod but still haven't watched it. Maybe tonight!

I, too, like the dark and edgier stuff. A vampire is a vampire is a vampire! Know nothing about anime so can't comment but sounds intriguing and I did youtube it. Certainly unlike anything I've ever watched before.

As to The Company of Wolves storyline, I've never met a werewolf but have experienced the other and that's definitely scarier.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Karyn,
I'm not as committed a fan as you guys to the vamps and werewolves etc. I'm more paranormal "light". In my novella "Burning Love" I have angels whose job it is to match soul mates on Earth. I'm working on a new story with one of the angels. She is in Heaven University and her class project is to give a mortal a second chance at love. She finds Frank Brennen and takes him back more then 60 years in time, to 1944 on the eve of the D-Day invasion. This is the time he loved and and lost, and Angelica the angel is trying to set it right. I haven't quite made it over to the dark side yet!


Karyn Good said...

Hi Jana! I can't wait to read your novella "Burning Love" coming soon from Wild Rose Press!

For sure we need the "light" paranormal too. And Heaven University!?! I'm very curious about that. I think whether we choose to write dark or light the possibilities are endless and fun to explore.

I hope your new story is going well. It sounds like you have a very good handle on the story. Is it almost done?

Captain Hook said...

I adore paranormal romances! In fact, for about 3 years, I read them exclusively.

JR Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Christine Feehan, Kerrilyn Sparks, Christine Warren, Rebecca York, CT Adams and Cathy Camp, I could keep this list going for ages. I still read every one that comes out form these authors.

One thing you forgot to add in your list of the paranormal - psychics. Kay Hooper has an awesome series about a psychic FBI unit that I adore.

As for my writing, both of my WIPs that are in edits deal with paranormals - psychics and witches.

(BTW, sorry I got to this so late. Life's been insane.)

Molli said...

Hello from lurkland, Karen. I like your take on this. I'm always of two minds when I see a paranormal element: I believe there's a lot more out there than we know of, so no scoffing please, but if the portrayal in the book is too fantastic it just seems more like a cartoon to me. For example, with respect to shapeshifting, be it werewolf, vampire, or anything else, I get hung up on the physics of it--it may be possible to pack a 180 lb man into the shape of, say, a bat, but unless you're doing it in some other plane of existence how the heck is the poor thing expected to actually fly? (Okay, I know I'm being picky, and we are talking fantasy, or fantastic, fiction here, but still....)