How Paranormal Fiction is like Garlic – by Kait Nolan

Welcome to Writers’ Uni-Verse-City (or WUVC for short because every university has an acronym), a place where writers/bloggers can meet to discuss the craft of writing in the Internet age. WUVC will involve independent research, setting a curriculum and hopefully finding other participants (like you – readers/bloggers/writers) to: chip in, give tips, suggest books and other materials for study, teach me the ways of the warrior writer, and offer to guest post here at Uni-Verse-City (contact: annotationseditorial@gmail.com).

Today I’m pleased to welcome Kait Nolan as part of the Literary Genres Blog Series. Kait’s letting us in on the different types of paranormal elements in fiction.

Well, first and foremost, I figure I need to set the record straight. There is no “paranormal” genre. You won’t walk in to most bookstores (not even the virtual aisles of Amazon with their plethora of categories) and see a section marked “Paranormal” (and if I’m wrong, let me know in comments so I know where I need to be shopping). Paranormal is a characteristic of a LOT of genres: romance, urban fantasy, YA, suspense, mystery, horror…just to name a few. Every genre has its own conventions, and paranormal is a flavor that can be added in to enhance or define (and sometimes defy) those conventions. It’s like garlic. You can add a hint for subtle flavor (such as a haunted house in an otherwise totally normal mystery) or you can add a lot and make it central to the dish (like a paranormal romance where the book would not be the same without it).

So what is paranormal?

In its simplest form, the paranormal includes phenomena and manifestations that lie outside the range of normal experience and cannot be scientifically explained or proven. In other words, it’s stuff that’s not part of normal life.

Powers: This includes all forms of ESP, people who can “do stuff” with their minds, who have super strength, who are, you know, basically candidates for X-men. Favorites include Susan Bischoff’s Talent Chronicles and Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series.

Creatures: Vampires anyone?  Or werewolves or shapeshifters or zombies?  Or, you know, anything from the cast of Buffy or Supernatural. J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood and most of my own Mirus series and my YA novel Red fall into this category.

Angels/Demons: This is a big one now…we’re seeing lots of fallen angels or demon infestations in fiction these days. Some are predicting angels will be the next vampires (as in craze). My favorite in that category is Nalini Singh’s Archangel series.

Witches: Yep, classics for a reason. You might have nice little white witches—the Glendas of the paranormal world, wiccans, dealers in black magic. Lots of range and opportunity here. Recent favorites include the Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

Ghosts: Poltergeists, revenants, standard spooks, vengeful spirits…lots of possibilities here. Kate Marsh’s (really Katie MacAlister under a pseudonym) Ghost of a Chance was a fun one for this.

Fairies/Pixies/Other Fae Folk: While common denizens of the fantasy genre, you’re seeing them hanging out more often in traditional paranormal venues these days—think Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series or Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey.

Gods/Goddesses: Those characters of mythology? Yeah they get their day in the sun. A favorite in this category is Kelly Keaton’s Darkness Becomes Her.

The Just Plain Weird: Catchall category for anything that we don’t recognize – I totally vote that the leviathan from the current season of Supernatural fall into here. Also Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races which is still blowing my mind on some level.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it gives you the general idea. Obviously I lean heavily toward paranormal romance and YA, as that’s what I write. In fact, if you looked at my Goodreads library and the stuff I’ve read over the last year, it’s almost ALL something with a paranormal bent. I’m not alone. Paranormal fiction, regardless of genre, is some of THE MOST POPULAR fiction sold today.

For me, the biggest attraction is the escape. See, paranormal fiction is set in either our world or a world like ours. This is one of those defining things, actually. The paranormal is all about the abnormal, the supernatural, bleeding into our world in a little or a big way. And I love that contrast. I find it so much easier to immerse myself in a story like this, to imagine that this is taking place in my world, and that’s my ultimate escape. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I spend most weekly staff meetings of the Evil Day Job imagining interruptions by zombie invasions and vampire hoards. That is the gift paranormal fiction gives me. This notion that this exciting thing, these creatures, these powers, this whatever, could happen to me. I mean, not really, because I’m very grounded in reality, but for the span of that book, it’s ME. I’m the heroine, and it’s this thrill, this relief from the boring mundane of everyday existence. That’s what keeps me coming back, page after page, book after book. And I don’t think that appetite will ever be fully sated.

What about you?  What’s your favorite paranormal book or series?  What do you like about this type of book?  Let us know in comments. We’re always looking for new books to add to the Leaning Tower of To Be Read!

Photo by SFH Photography

Photo by SFH Photography

Kait Nolan is stuck in an office all day, sometimes juggling all three of her jobs at once with the skill of a trained bear—sometimes with a similar temperament. After hours, she uses her powers for good, creating escapist fiction. The work of this Mississippi native is packed with action, romance, and the kinds of imaginative paranormal creatures you’d want to sweep you off your feet…or eat your boss. When she’s not working or writing, she’s in her kitchen, heading up a revolution to Retake Homemade from her cooking blog, Pots and Plots. You can catch up with her at her blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

See the schedule of the upcoming guest posts and genres for the rest of this blog series, in this post.

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About Nicole Basaraba

Nicole Basaraba is a Canadian writer focusing on topics of travel (Mondays), writing and literature (Wednesdays), lifestyle (Fridays) and her experiences living in the capital city of Europe: Brussels, Belgium.
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12 Responses to How Paranormal Fiction is like Garlic – by Kait Nolan

  1. Maggie says:

    Most of the time, I enjoy adding paranormal elements to what I write. It’s fun to imagine that magic and strange occurrences could actually happen in a realistic world.

  2. Definitely a huge fan of paranormal and loved Red and Susan’s Talent Chronicles. Loved Fever series as well. I think it’s the escape but it’s also the idea of people like you and me and the girl next door having these “powers” that totally rocks my world. It’s the type of read that I can totally lose myself….luv it!
    Great post. Tks for sharing Kait and for hosting Nicole. FAHHHBULOUS!!

  3. Pingback: Musings About Self-Discipline | Kait Nolan

  4. Stacy Green says:

    I love paranormal and don’t read it enough. Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles are still tops for me, but I love good ghost stories, too. And Heather Graham writes some good paranormal suspense/romance – her books are always full of cool stories and history. Thanks for sharing so many book options. Will have to check them out!

  5. I read mainly things with paranormal elements.

    A few urban fantasy favourites: Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series (all different supernatural races) and Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series (about a tough-chick VW mechanic who is sometimes a coyote, and plenty of other “supes”).

    And in paranormal romance, I can’t resist Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark (where you get the lots of categories – creatures, ghosts, angels/demons, witches. . . plus, they fall in love!).

    And a newer sort of genre is post-apocalyptic paranormal romance, and Ellen Connor’s trilogy is best for that of what I’ve read so far.

  6. Julie Glover says:

    I love the paranormal as well. Kait’s RED was a great recent read. I also enjoyed Rosemary Clement-Moore’s MAGGIE QUINN: GIRL VS. EVIL series (featuring demons). There are quite a few others, but I can’t think right now.

    You did a great job highlighting this genre, Kait! Thanks so much.

  7. Pingback: Writing in different genres: A Blog Series | Nicole Basaraba's Uni-Verse-City

  8. Pingback: Top Picks Thursday 04-12-2012 « The Author Chronicles

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