My love of reading proclamation out of the way though, let me make it clear that I am a Reader of the genre fiction variety. I’ll read the occasional memoir, self-help book, or literary masterpiece (aka, whatever Oprah thinks is good), but my reading tends to be all genre fiction. I love it. I can’t get enough of it. BUT, I hate the genre labels. There are far too many out there and it’s tough to keep up.
When a book has a genre label attached, I find my expectations are different for the book and I tend to compare that author’s work with that of other authors, but not just any authors, my crème de la crème authors. The ones that write books I can’t put down and read a million times over simply because I love them. This is a habit that I cannot—for the life of me—overcome. It can be stifling to the TBR pile and it can—and I’m sure, has—leave me out in the cold when it comes to finding new authors. It’s also left me with the question of whether or not I’m the only one who does this, so I thought that I’d do a series of posts, using different genres, and pose a few questions and share some of my expectations and comparisons.
Paranormal: I use this term loosely, because as far as I’m concerned, if the book has anything to do with "other", regardless of how it is portrayed, I call it Paranormal. It may, in fact, be Urban Fantasy or Sci-Fi, I still stick it with the label Paranormal. My first (well, since I started reading again, I used to read a lot Stephen King and Anne Rice) foray into the Para genre was Laurell K. Hamilton. What an introduction huh? Since I soon became bored with her work, I went on to discover, Charlaine Harris, MaryJanice Davidson, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Kim Harrison, Richelle Mead, Gerry Bartlett, Jenna Maclaine the list goes on and on.
Expectations: There will be vampires, witches, weres, mediums, psychics, mythology, angels, demons, something, that is not within societal norms. The protagonist will be strong, both mentally and physically by the end. They don’t necessarily have to start out strong, but they must find a hidden strength or talent that pushes them to do or become something they would never have dreamed of before.
What I Love: I think the thing that keeps me coming back to the Paranormal genre is that other-worldly fantasy. The thought that these different creatures not only exist but co-exist with us and could possibly live in our very neighborhood. The ultimate fight of good versus evil. The idea that an average, every day person finds within themselves or their bloodlines, something that they never knew existed and that struggle to make it all work.
I also very much so, enjoy the erotic feel to many of the books. The sexual connection that is made between the two characters. This is just a side perk to what is normally a very, very well crafted story, but I love it nonetheless. It isn’t a necessity, and I certainly don’t like it when it’s there simply to fill pages (I’ll get to that bit in a second).
What I Hate: I absolutely cannot stand some of the sex for the sake of sex in these books. It’s not just the Paranormal genre this is a problem in, but it sure seems to be a big issue with this genre. I don’t want your forced seduction scenes because your hero is big alpha male that’s had sex with millions of girls and knows what the woman wants better than she does. I don’t want your sex acts that cannot, under any circumstances happen with your average every day human gal, no matter how experienced and limber her partner may be. You cheapen your writing and the genre with these types of scenes and it just absolutely infuriates me.
I don’t want long drawn out self dialogue about some internal conflict your protagonist is having because she may or may not be moral in being or being with one of these “others.” Show me but, for the love of all that is holy, STOP telling me. Fancy prose is okay, but you darn well better move it along. I’m tired of reading twelve pages about the sparkly essence that is your characters sex floating around their head as they perform a magical act. That isn’t to say excessive sex turns me off (hehehe) a book either, there are quite a few books that the sex is a major plot device and when used in that manner and one that makes sense, I don’t mind at all.
In the same way I don’t need sex to make the book enjoyable, I don’t need your blood, gore and violence explicitly laid before me unless it relates to the story and makes a difference. The violence needs to have meaning, it needs to move the story forward—either by taking your protag back a few steps to ultimately move them forward—and not in there simply for the shock factor. You can show me violence but if you’re going to go into graphic detail, there damn well better be a reason.
Where Expectations Bite Me On The Ass: Or the author, take your pick. I’ve named a few favorite authors up there and the problem I find anymore in the Paranormal/UF genres is the comparison factor. Let’s face it, this is a booming genre, and has been for some time. This is a good and bad thing for readers. Good because it guarantees we’ll continue to get new books bad because there are too many books out there and not all of them good. It seems that for a while and possibly still, publishers were in such a hurry to capitalize on the booming genre that they’ve put out an overload of books, and quite frankly, a lot of them are crap.
Now, what I may consider crap, though, is some one elses gold and that’s where I screw myself with comparisons. For instance, if I would pick up a book that is about witches, from page one I would be comparing it to Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan, another series I’ve been with since book one and absolutely adore. In the first couple of chapters this comparison is either going to dissolve away and I’ll be in a new world or the book will fall miserably short. But, every so often, a book will sneak past my preconceived notions and find it’s way to my keeper shelf, such as Jenna Maclaine’s Cin Craven novels and Linda Robertson’s Circle books.
The books that ultimately do make it past my preconceived notions do so because one of a few things happens: Great cover. Great BCC. Fabulous on-line promotion where the book is highly recommended from bloggers I trust. Or even a book gets sent to me to be reviewed and more than once, this has happened and the author gained further sales form me because I bought up their back list.
I’m curious though. Do you have preconceived notions about the Paranormal Genre. Does it hold you back or enable you to more freely explore? If you’re an author what sort of thought do you give some of the things I’ve discussed when writing?
I’ll continue my discussion on genre in a few days with Cozy Mysteries as my target.
WINNER ANNOUNCED: Beverly G
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