Genre Confusion

When I tell people that the stories I write have paranormal elements, the first thing they say is, “Oh, so you write about vampires, too?” as if everyone who writes paranormal includes vampires.

Nope. I have never written about vampires before and I really have no desire to. To be honest, I’m getting a little tired of vampires, werewolves, and things of that nature. Even dragons have gotten a little old – and I had always wanted to write about dragons when I was younger.

To me, paranormal is about ghosts, ESP, supernatural powers, people who can bend spoons with their minds, etc. Vampires and werewolves are more related to the fantasy genre. There are some categories that blend paranormal and fantasy genres (like paranormal romance), but I don’t necessarily see that as the same thing as just plain “paranormal.”

The difficulty of writing about vampires, werewolves, dragons, and other fantasy creatures is making your story different from all the others out there. That’s why fantasy and its sub-genres are so difficult to write; almost all of it has been done before. The success of the story depends on the unique twists you put into it – and of course, the skill and style of the writer.

Genre can sometimes be a murky thing and it’s sometimes difficult to decide whether your story truly is paranormal, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, high fantasy, horror, or science fiction. Some books have elements of all of those genres. As important as it is to write what you love and write what you want, it’s also important to find one single category for your writing so that it can be found easily – especially if you hope to become traditionally published.

Different publishing houses have different rules regarding what is considered paranormal romance, what is considered urban fantasy, etc. But regardless, it doesn’t matter what category your fiction is… just as long as it has an audience and it’s of good quality.

7 thoughts on “Genre Confusion

  1. The Sixth Sense is a terrific paranormal tale . . . as is The Others. I also enjoyed The Exorcist and The Shining.

    Vampires, Werewolves, and flying dragons aren’t nearly as interesting. Expect in the hands of someone like J.K.Rowling.

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    1. I think movie genres are classified a little differently than book genres. The novels The Exorcist and The Shining were both classified as horror, but I think if they were published today, they’d be considered paranormal – or some other subcategory of horror.

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      1. I don’t think “paranormal” was a recognized genre back then (as far as I can remember).

        Slightly off-topic, I don’t remember if you follow Laura Stanfill’s blog, but I recommend this post: http://bit.ly/pgydS7. It’s a good post, and also down in the comments we get into genres, and how cool it is to read books without knowing how they are classified, and alsoI talk about one of the things I _did_ like about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which we were discussing a few posts back.

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        1. Paranormal seems to be a more modern genre. Genres today are much more specific than they were in the past (at least that’s how it appears).

          When I read books, I don’t really pay attention to what genre it is. If it sounds cool, I read it. What you said in your comment was true – if you know the genre, you have a set of expectations in your head when you start reading… and sometimes you don’t want all those expectations. It’s more fun to see where the story takes you.

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  2. As you know, I like to come up with my own paranormal types, rather than using the same ones everybody else uses. Not that mine are one hundred percent unique (in fact, I usually detail my sources on my blog), but they’re unusual, and I try to give them my own spin.

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    1. It is virtually impossible to come up with anything 100% original… everything, in some shape or form, has been done before. But as you said, putting your own spin can definitely make the story your own.

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