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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Making Your Paranormal Lover Lovable

Please welcome guest blogger Nancy Gideon

Most paranormal romances hinge upon a well established plot device: the Beauty and the Beast story rewritten with a darker twist. Whether vampire, werewolf, warlock, or ghost, you are asking the reader to love the unlovable, to accept beyond the boundaries set up for a normal relationship. Nothing is predictable when you can make the impossible believable. The trick is in bringing that elusive reader with you. If they can't make that leap of faith, you've lost them. The writer has to set up a world outside reality that will suck that doubting reader into it along with the resisting heroine. To do this, I've come up with what I call the Three R's of writing supernatural romance: Make the plot Reasonable, make the hero (or heroine) Redeemable, and remember it's a Romance.

Now, about that Beast... Convince the reader by convincing the heroine that this dark, dangerous male who's bringing threat into her life truly does exist by giving him a past, by showing how he's managed to fool others into thinking he's normal or how he's been able to walk a parallel life without making himself known to mankind. These guys don't just drop out of the Twilight Zone onto page 28. If they exist in your book, give them a place to exist in real life.

Don't forget what kind of male you're dealing with. These are men who exist outside the acceptable, and have for a long, long time before the heroine enters the picture. They are going to be affected by this alternate lifestyle whether it be by a curse of baying at the moon, or drinking blood, or having no corporeal self. This has got to weigh on this poor guy's self-esteem. How he relates to this otherworldly existence is something you have to decide right up front because it's going to guide his motivations throughout the book. Was he an unwilling victim, was he duped by promises that weren't kept, did he trade a human existence for the sake of revenge or misguided love, and how has he adjusted since? Kicking and screaming, brooding, resigned? Pick one and develop it, but whatever you do, don't make him indifferent to these monumental changes that make normal life impossible.

Okay, you've got yourself a hero who's pining away because he can never have a normal love relationship and what do we do but drop a tempting heroine in his path. How they react to one another and deal with the differences between the worlds they live in is the basis for your book. The external factors and internal conflicts are what's going to make your story strong and stand out as a supernatural romance.

This is more than a boy-meets-girl-loses girl-gets girl tale. I guess you could call it ghoul-meets-girl. Immediately you have to take into account a rocky courtship. At some point in the story, your heroine is going to have to come to terms with what the hero is. The more she resists the truth of his true existence, the more involved the readers becomes in the heroine's mental struggle to accept what should not be. The heroine has to know this man can destroy her, but will he? Can he help himself? That's tension. There has to be that sense of danger with her acceptance of what he is. And with that comes the hopelessness of their situation.

The success of any supernatural romance rests upon the writer's ability to portray the Dark Hero as someone the heroine could conceivably fall in love with. To the normal world, your hero would appear a monster, evil or even damned. In order to make him a hero, you have to prove otherwise. That's why Dracula, no matter how sexy Frank Langella might be, is never the hero, or Anne Rice's novels could never be considered as romance. Lestat doesn't feel any horror in the way he lives nor does he want to be redeemed. A romance hero has to be a good guy. He has to have heroic qualities that separate him (or make him want to separate) from the alleged villainy of his kind. He has to develop reader empathy or he never makes the transition to hero. If the reader can't love something about him, how can the heroine? The fact that he's dark and dangerously sexy isn't enough (though it's definitely one of the better parts!) She's not going to go off the deep end for some dead guy who haunts houses unless you give her a darn good reason. Again, threat is very compelling, that external factor that pushes them apart, but also together. Classic examples, he comes to her for help, he saves her life, they have to team up to defeat some greater evil; some reason to form a bond. She needs to depend upon him, to see good in him. The writer can express these qualities either in his heroic choices and actions or by making the reader (and ultimately the heroine) privy to his POV.

Consider the type of woman who would fall in love with an unnatural creature; a woman who is strong--not a victim. She's usually a loner; in jeopardy or flaunting traditional avenues in her lifestyle with a reason to bond with or be accepting of someone else who is an outsider, and therefore will have a willingness to risk her life in a walk on the Dark Side with the one she loves. Passivity is not acceptable here. She must be willing to take action to save not only herself, but him from the threat her world imposes upon him.

Don't get so caught up in the supernatural mystique that you forget you're writing first and foremost a romance. And this means the obligatory happy ending. It's up to the writer to come up with some acceptable way for the natural and unnatural world to combine so hero and heroine can share a future together. He has to love the heroine enough to want to be worthy of her. The yearning for a normal future is much more powerful than caving in to the darkness unless it's done in such a way that there's no way around it, or the author can make it seem as though the romance transcends the moral issues, or it is for the betterment of others. It's up to each individual writer to come to terms with this in a way that satisfies the reader and is consistent with the characters...and again, is believable. No "and then a miracle occurred" cures on the last page. If he's reverted to a human existence or she is to give up mortal life to have him, it must be set up solidly within the story to build to that moment where the happily ever after is now a reality.

And this leads to my 4th R: REWARD. What's in it for me? What's in it for the hero if he's going to give up shape-shifting and wreaking havoc to settle down to domestic bliss? What's in it for the heroine if she's going to leave all that's familiar for the wild side with a man who may only exist in dreams? What's in it for the reader who's spent their time and their $7.99 to suspend belief? Trust. And with trust comes the reward. The hero and heroine form a bond, a trust wherein they will love and protect and provide for one another so that their outside worlds no longer hold an exclusive appeal. They're BOTH giving up something to have one another and this sacrifice brings them their reward.

Sex. Whether it's sensual, spiritual, metaphysical (think how sexy the Ghost and Mrs. Muir was and there was no physical contact!) or down right hot, hot, hot, the writer needs to establish that reward in a way that satisfies the H/H and the reader. When you're dealing with the supernatural you can bend reality, tap into the sharing of thoughts and feelings that deepen the bond between the H/H until they actually become one heart, one soul. Soar beyond the boundaries of time and shape and physical presence to make what the H/H have together something spectacular, something unique, something worth the sacrifice so that when he rolls over in his coffin and asks, “Was it good for you?” both the heroine and the reader should reply, breathlessly, “Hell, yes!” That's the reward: Undying, untouchable and eternal love, and what woman doesn't want that? And the reward for the reader? A great book. Never leave them with less.

Though readers are hungry for more of the supernatural, it has to have an extra hook to snag their attention; a unique plot twist, an unusual combination of supernatural elements and darned good writing! The "oh by the way he's a vampire, werewolf, ghost, etc" angle isn't enough. Know your craft. Do your research in the area of myth, folklore or science. Go beyond well known fact to develop deeper character. Blend genres. Don't stop at legend. Dig deeper into the actual rational explanations behind those old beliefs. Combine folk superstition, Hollywood hype, Christian tradition and medical logic, or contrast them in ways to create tension and your own unique twist to a familiar tale.

“If you mix Romeo & Juliet with Beauty and the Beast you would end up with MASKED BY MOONLIGHT. Humongous obstacles and unfathomable problems make this an outstanding story with mega conflicts. Sexual chemistry sizzles on the pages, and all the while you read, you are wondering what will happen to these two strong-willed characters.” Coffee Time Romance

“MASKED BY MOONLIGHT is more than a scary werewolf tale. It is a steamy romance; a whodunit; a story of intrigue and power.” Romance Reader at Heart Top Pick

My new dark paranormal shape-shifter series for Pocket Book debuting this month with MASKED BY MOONLIGHT, is unique in that it follows my hero and heroine through the first four books of the six book (so far) series. And what a pair they make: fierce, self-sufficient loners drawn together by dangerous circumstances and held by a passion both irresistible and frightening. He's the shape-shifting right hand of a New Orleans crime boss who's searching for his past and she's a dedicated detective hiding from demons of her own. Risking his life to save hers threatens more than just his heart. It could expose his darkest secret. Torn by loyalties and tortured by the love that sustains them, they fight for an unexpected chance at happiness against odds impossible to beat. Reasonable, Redeemable, and Romance. And the Reward? The first three books come out back-to-back-to-back in June, July and August.

Visit me and learn more about the series at www.nancygideon.com and for a taste of MASKED BY MOONLIGHT, take a look at my sizzling book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyawnTxvAuo&feature=player_embedded

Nancy Gideon is the author of over fifty romances ranging from historicals to paranormals and romantic suspense. She works full time as a legal assistant and harbors an addiction for Net Flix.


Unknown said...

I was reading through this article and found myself caught a bit by one of the major premises of it: that only the hero is "other", and the heroine is presumed to be "human", or "not other." Presumably the story hinges around her being brought in somehow into that "other world" that the hero inhabits.

This is a slowly changing trend - I know I've been seeing some books now where the woman is the "other" creature and falls for a human of some sort or another.

I can think of only a handful that goes with the idea that "others" getting together with "others" (Laurell K. Hamilton & Kim Harrison leap to mind), but those lean more toward Urban Fantasy than outright romance.

Anyone got book recommends that might be other/other or woman other/man human?

Taryn Kincaid said...

I just love this article. I think many aspects are constants and can be applied across the board to other genres. How to make an unredeemable inveterate Regency rake acceptable to a prim and proper heroine, for example? How to get a loan wolf cowboy on the rodeo circuit to the point where he can settle down behind a picket fence?
Paranormals are fun because you can let your imagination soar to get your characters where they need to be!

Anonymous said...