On Genre

Divas On Genre: Paranormal/Supernatural

What is the paranormal genre to you? To me it involves anything to do with non-human beings or characters who have non-human like abilities such as telekinesis and other powers usually within a single person or grouping of people. Like for instance vampires, demons, werewolves, ghosts, zombies, witches, warlocks, aliens, and superhero types. But this isn’t what drives the genre, adding romance to the mix does. One can argue that the paranormal edge is enough to carry a whole book, which it can but for the sake of this discussion romance is the central theme to this subgenre.

Romance has many subgenres but paranormal/supernatural romance became quite popular in the last decade due the success of such books as Twilight, The Mortal Instruments, The Black Dagger Brotherhood, The Hush Hush series, Fallen series and the Beautiful Creature books, just to name a few. From adult romance to YA, readers are still clamouring for this genre.

What makes this genre so popular? Jordan J. Hawk has some interesting insights here. Hawk explains that readers want three things when reading paranormal romance: To live outside our everyday lives, to exercise our imaginations, and for a limited time become something special. These are some very great reasons why paranormal romance has stayed popular for many years. But you also have to factor in what the romance brings to the dynamic and not just the paranormal elements.

The key demographic of paranormal readers are women between the ages of 18-45. Hawk also explains that the reasons that draw readers to a paranormal are the same that attracts readers to romance. Readers get to live outside their comfort zones, use their imaginations, and feel special. Combining these two genres is a natural fit.

What makes it paranormal romance? A couple of things. The story has to have a strong female and male protagonist and an obvious antagonist much like other genres. There also has to be a palatable conflict to the story to either threaten the romance or propel it. The typical male protagonist usually is an alpha male of some kind. See my article on alpha males here. The female protagonist is either headstrong, a damsel in distress, or the opposite of the male. For example if the male is a vampire, the female is human or some other paranormal creature.

World building is another big aspect of the genre. Take The Black Dagger Brotherhood for example. J.R. Ward sets her vampire world inside the human one but the layers and description she gives to her vampires lives and their history are very rich. The obvious conflict or the antagonists is The Lessening Society. Ward’s world is as equally rich and has depth. Another good example is Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. Not only does she write in such an inventive way, but the world her characters live in is described so well. The reader sees a clear view of a dystopian society within a paranormal romance. The layers of the worlds in both books are very deep and complex. It gives an added imaginative believability to each world.

Paranormal romance is a genre that isn’t going anywhere. Clearly, no author is inventing the wheel in this genre when the market is saturated with vampire trends but what’s popular tends to come and go time after time. With a grander scale of publishing taking place in the independent market, more and more titles are appearing on the virtual shelves. As long as there are paranormal authors, there will be readers.


  1. I’ve still yet to read a good book about how to write paranormal romance. I’m already published in the genre but I always like to read good craft books. What surprised me is I can see on goodreads that a lot of young men bought my paranormal romance which I didn’t expect. Men like paranormal romance too it seems. When talking to some writer friends they said that many men have discovered it and had the reaction “sex and paranormal stuff what’s not to love?”

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