What in the BLEEEP Do I Write?

Thursdays Bite (on Friday)

a paranormal blog

Due to the added post on Tuesday for the first challenger of the Third Writers Platform-Building Campaign (click HERE for post) Thursday’s Bite has been delayed till today (Friday). Thanks for your understanding!

I say I write paranormal fiction, but is that exactly true? After reading Is it Paranormal, Supernatural, or Preternatural? by author Elijana Kindel on Paranormal Freebies I began to wonder. I write twisted Fairy Tales, like Little Red Riding Wolf and The Queen’s Huntsman. I also am currently writing a darker non fairytale linked series of werewolf stories. Do these qualify as paranormal by Elijana’s definitions.

PARANORMAL…that which lies outside the range of normal experience or scientific experience.

SUPERNATURAL… anything above or beyond what one holds to be natural or exists outside natural law and the observable universe.

PRETERNATURAL…that which is outside or beyond the natural and is believed to have a rational explanation for its occurrence.

Are werewolves and elves and witches outside the range of normal experience. I’d have to say yes. Are they outside natural law? I asked Elijana about werewolves and vampires and here is what she said:

“Weres and Vamps would actually fall into the Preternatural camp. Because they’ve got a finite range of abilities and they have (if the paranormal world is built correctly) a rational explanation for their existence. It might be genetic–or magical–or whatever, but there is a reason why they exist.”

So why do we call it “paranormal” fiction when it is really about preternatural creatures?

Here is my view:

It’s because of the universe. If you use our basic universe and our basic rules, stay on our planet and stay (mostly) in our time period. We label it paranormal, because it is within our normal range of experience.

If you go to other worlds without reference to our modern normal world, its fantasy. And if you go to other planets and too much in the future, it’s science fiction and you need to have reasonable solid science (okay, not perfect science, but believable within the worldbuilding).

So when is it urban fantasy?

Here is Wikipedia‘s definition:

Urban fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times and contain supernatural elements. However, the stories can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods. The prerequisite is that they must be primarily set in a city.[1]

Doesn’t that sound like paranormal? When I looked at Wikipedia’s definition of paranormal fiction it sounded like it included urban fantasy, not that they were separate and distinct genres.

Which leads me to believe that even though my twisted fairy tales have werewolves in a modern setting, as do my newer WIP’s, and even though I write about elves and witches and magic. I can cover it all by calling myself a paranormal romance author.

What is your view? Do you have a distinct idea of what paranormal is versus urban fantasy? Do you only read one or the other or do you read a wide eclectic variety like me?


Filed under roots of paranormal romance, Thursdays Bite, Werewolves and the Fae

10 responses to “What in the BLEEEP Do I Write?

  1. I write preternatural fiction but since so few people seem to know what that is I just tell them it’s paranormal.

    So many of these terms are bandied about interchangeably and we have yet to reach a consensus in the reading community. For instance I’ll gladly read something labeled paranormal, but add the words urban fantasy and I’ll hesitate.

    • It does seem to me that the definition of urban fantasy that I gave, doesn’t really cut it. Urban fantasy seems to be edgier paranormal, frequently with a romance theme that goes from book to book. Kelley Armstrong, Jeanne Stein come to mind. Love them both, but certainly wouldn’t call them paranormal romance!

  2. Sadly I cannot help you there, because I am quite helpless at defining any genre that isn’t quite obvious and even then I might often not be right.
    For example, I would have put any fairy tale version into fantasy and not paranormal, just because there usually are stuff like magic or talking beasts etc.. Ok, with the exception of those fairy tales where there is no magic at all and it’s basically just a tale of how people behave (like King Thrushbeard, one of my favourites). Hm, besides … isn’t “fairy tale” some sort of genre, too?

    I have, however, wondered about the difference between fantasy (especially such stuff as “urban fantasy” or “magical realism”) and paranormal, too.
    I guess, it’s easy to agree that any story with elves etc. is fantasy. If it’s main-setting in a (modern?) city it most likely would be urban fantasy.
    I always considered ghosts and curses etc. as paranormal, because they might be real or not. There is not real proof for the one or other in our world as far as I know, and sometimes not even in such a story.
    The same could be said about vampires and werwolves, but they just seem more unlikely than ghosts, so I would put them into “fantasy” … or give them simply a genre of their own, I’m sure “vampire-romance” is a genre by now 😉

  3. Jessie, you know my writing, so you know I don’t write any of the above. I do, however, enjoy reading paranormal. Yours included.

    I have my own issues with genre identity crisis, but my decision rests on a broader line. (Less if-and-then-but-then-and-skip-to-top. ;-)) I write single title. CHECK! I write romance. CHECK! My decision tree has only two branches.

    Am I Romantic Suspense, or Contemporary Single Title? Beats the bleep out of me!

    As a reader, the genre doesn’t sway my decision to read, buy, like, or recommend. It’s the quality of the story that creates a fan of the author if not the genre.

    • There we go! Genre doesn’t sway you, but does it help you find the author in the first place? Maria said she stays away from Urban Fantasy, and she might miss out on someone she might like because they end up in the wrong genre. With major publishers they usually pigeon hole you correctly, but with all the new self-pubs and when you’re trying to decide a contest entry division, it might be crucial. Just throwing it out there!

  4. Chiming in late here, but I suffer the same dilemma, although you have helped to rectify. I’ve made up a race of immortals that descend from elves and live in a dimension very closely associated with Earth. Most of the time, my stories take place on Earth in present day. So I guess I write paranormal not fantasy which I thought I did.
    Thanks, Jessica, great post!

    • I think I agree with you that you write paranormal, and I’d base that on Melissa Mayhue’s Daughters of the Glen time travel with Elves series. It’s similar to yours and she is classified paranormal, although her stories are also very historical. I think some of the fantasy also is like urban fantasy in that it is a sub-category of paranormal, but you might ask around and check out what similar stories are put under. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  5. I’ve been in revision land for three manuscripts this week and have been avoiding the internet like the plague. But I’m so glad that I made it on today and saw your post, Jessica!
    I love that the article I wrote way back when made you think! Because you’re not alone, it did the same for me–which is the reason why it was a bear to write and had so many drafts. lol

    The overall thing that hits me as I read through your post, the comments, and flipped back through my notes on the original article is the feeling of searching for an identity. How to label yourself and your manuscripts. Or, in a nutshell, what’s my brand? Who am I, as an author? What type of stories do I write?

    I won’t lie to you and tell you that I’ve figured this out completely. Or that I have my identity firmly encased in granite, but I will tell you that I did a lot of thinking, some research, and soul searching. And here’s what I came up with.

    On Author Brand and Identity:
    I googled some of the big name authors and how they appeared branded to me. Generically. By that I mean… they were either best selling, NYT best selling, or International best selling. That alone gave me the idea that it’s worth considering not pigeon holing yourself into a particular area. For example, I decided to do some indie publishing this year. Rather than categorize myself as a paranormal indie writer, I opted to go with… Indie Romance Author. Or even more generic, Indie Author. That way I’m not locking myself into a cubby hole with no back door.

    On manuscripts and story placement…
    This one is tougher to do. But as I looked at the different categories within the romance genre, I started to think… hmmm, it looks like the marketing gurus (past, present, and future) invented a bunch of different sub-sub-sub-categories to help certain types of books break out of the mold and get noticed–in the short term. But the short term stuck and now we have sub-sub-sub-categories to get lost in.

    That said… after some more thinking I’ve come to the (possibly temporary) conclusion that the more generic you are in the category of your manuscript (ie, paranormal, contemporary, historical), the better exposure you have.

    Equipped with that epiphany, I asked myself… okay, self, you’ve got three manuscripts on deck that are competing for writing time: a historical, a contemporary, and a paranormal. How would you classify them if you had to?

    The answer? In a pitch (or publishing them as an indie author), I would generically classify them as historical, paranormal, or contemporary. In the second sentence of the pitch or book description, I’d mention the sub-category and mention it like it’s a setting… for example, the historical is a (kick a$$) Regency, the contemporary is quirky marriage of convenience story, and the paranormal has elves saving in this urban world.

    Bottom line: Paranormal is a catch all phrase that many folks recognize right off the bat. Use that to your advantage. I recommend not pigeon holing yourself into a specific category. Remember, each book you write is a marketing tool or an employee that should support your author identity (and pen name).

    And on that note, the characters in the manuscripts on my todo list today just took over the waiting room in my demented imagination and… let’s just say that the party is less of a party and more of a monster-mash with a steel cage match.

    Until next time… take care and happy writing!

    • Wow! You wrote whole blog, Elijana. I could have posted this as a guest post on Moonday Mania, and maybe we should. What great thoughts. When you are writing so many wonderful things, why would you want to get pigeon holed. I think there are several big name authors who write a variety of genres and if they can do it, why can’t you? Personally I am interested in narrowing my brand beyond romance, to paranormal romance, but I’ve been considering if some of my stuff is more urban fantasy. So how narrow do I want to go? Narrow enough that I can connect with my target audience and wide enough that I’m not stuck. Where is that? Good question. So for now I’ll stick with the paranormal and if I expand, well, I guess I’ll address it then. Glad you are figuring out what works for you. And much happy writing to you!

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