Novel Reaction is very excited to welcome Jackie from Literary Escapism. I met Jackie at the Book Bloggers and Publishers Online Conference I attended in March of this year and I never cease to be amazed at the amount of work she puts into her site. Literary Escapism covers everything Fantasy and Paranormal, Jackie has graciously stopped by to tell us a little more in depth about the difference between Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy.
Paranormal Romance vs. Urban Fantasy
Everyone has their own opinion on what the difference between Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy is, but I generally think of it this way: who or what does the story focus on? Who or what is being developed?
Have we been introduced to two individuals who are suddenly being thrown together? Are we going to watch a relationship evolve between these two characters? For me, a Paranormal Romance is all about the chemistry; the relationship they ultimately end up in. Yes, there is going to be a plotline – the characters have to do something – but it’s not going to drive the story, it’s there so the relationship can develop.
Or are we watching what happens to a single character through various instances in her life? Has something occurred that altered her life drastically and now she has to deal with it? It’s not about two characters getting together, but the personal journey of one individual – that’s what I think of as an Urban Fantasy. It’s not about who the character reacts to, but whom and what. The plot is a big part of the characters development, it’s because of the situations she is thrown into that makes her who she is (or becomes).
Sounds simple, right? After all, if you look at the two genres at a very basic level, a Paranormal Romance is your typical romance that involves a supernatural element – a vampire, witch, shapeshifter, etc who wants to find love. An Urban Fantasy is straight from fantasy – including all those Dungeons and Dragons ideas – but focuses on one person, taking place in a setting the reader is more familiar with – magic appearing in downtown Atlanta seems a little more realistic than trudging through the Underdark. It may sound like the two genres are similar, and they are, I’m not discounting that, but it’s the story one needs to think about.
Think of it this way…how does the story end? Does it feel like you’re watching a movie or a television show? For me, a Paranormal Romance is like a movie. You know who will show up and that there is an end in sight. I want to say all but just in case, most Paranormal Romance stories always end with one book. They can be a series, but each novel within the series focuses on one set of characters. There could be a plot that arcs between books, but again, it’s parts of that plot that help develop the characters relationship. For instance, let’s take a look at Nalini Singh’s Slave to Sensation. We’re introduced to Sasha and Lucas – two characters who belong to two different groups that are complete opposites. It’s not until they are thrown together for a business deal that something comes out. Something that impacts Sasha’s life directly, but is very much a part of who Lucas is. I won’t spoil it and tell you what it is, but at the end of the day, this thing won’t go away. Sasha has to learn to live with it or it can drive her crazy and Lucas is there to help her adjust. There’s no real way to drag it out, so you know there has to be an end. Just like a movie. When you go into the theater, you know it’s going to start and end, that the story will resolve whatever issues that arose.
Now what happens when the story doesn’t end? When the issues are not resolved, but actually added to? Your typical television show, right? While not all Urban Fantasies are series, they typically are. The author doesn’t want to give you a quick snapshot into the character’s life, she wants to give her character more definition and show you how she gets to be who she is. Through this process, you’re introduced to a cast of characters and bizarre circumstances that challenges this character into becoming more than she was. Take, for instance, Merit from Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires. In Some Girls Bite, we meet Merit, who was your typical grad student, soon after she has been attacked by a vampire. She’s not crazy about this, in fact she’s down right hostile, and now she has to learn to deal with being a vampire, all the while trying to stay out of all the politics that go on around her. Along the way, she meets a few people who are there to help her and some who are simply there to make her life hell. Some are simply there to advance the story, to get Merit to do something in particular; but others are there to help her mentally. In the end, each “episode” doesn’t necessarily end with that happy feeling, but instead can leave you pulling your hair out, wanting to know what happens next. Does she triumph? Does she get laid? We won’t know until the story continues.
I think where the majority of the people get confused is with the romance. I’m not sure about others, but I need a romance in my story. I need a reason for that character to go through the hell she is. The difference is, I don’t need that character to end up with someone. The romance can be quick and spontaneous – a one night stand. Or it can be drawn out over several books; after all, who wants a quick romance when sexual tension can be oh so fun and cause all sorts of problems? Ultimately, it’s all about that HEA…does the character get one?
So what do you think? Do your definitions of Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy differ from mine?
Thank you Jackie for stopping by and telling us a little more about the differences in the genre. As a newbie to the genres, it is always great to hear from someone with experience.