TODAY’S BREW: Red Velvet Rainforest. (It’s the last of both bags)
We’ve all heard how very dead the undead are in literature. Vampires, zombies, there’s not a spin that hasn’t been put on them, no depth of ridiculousness that hasn’t been explored. Then you’ve got your paranormal, supernatural what have yous. I have something that’s never been done before! It’s a hybrid monkey wereselkie dragon that turns cyborg!
I’m not fool enough to deny the constant warnings from agents and publishers that paranormal isn’t selling. We’ve been hearing it for YEARS. I’m not arrogant enough to crow from the rooftops that they’re wrong. THEY AREN’T. Agents are having an impossible time selling paranormal for mass market. Publishers seem to both want something that’s wildly different and stands out from the crowd, and yet when you look at the “shelves” it appears to be more of the same, over and over again.
Monsters are classic. They never go away. From the Grandfather of Soul, Dracula, to the creature from the Black Lagoon, to every obscure werechickenselkiewolf..ahem….harpy to grace the limitless minds of readers who forever want a little monster in their brains and beds. Because they’re classics, icons, everyone wants in on them. Hence, the barrage of supernaturals and angels and all the fancy froo hahahas. Some are fantastic. Some are–not. Imitation and all. Imitations of something beautiful when done over and over and over are bound to have shining stars among them and also a lot of rocks you have to sift through to find the gold. Not everyone is going to write this generation’s Interview With The Vampire or be the next Maggie Stiefvater. That does not mean the entire subject matter is dead, but that those who have to sort through the subject matter are both desensitized to a degree and over the entire thing.
In the meantime, more and more supernatural and paranormal stories burst into the sunshine through all the slush piles of the world.
So, do I think the future of supernatural and paranormal romances and horrors are dead? Absolutely not. Here is what I say to summarize:
- WRITE THE BOOK YOU HAVE TO WRITE. Don’t let trends sway you. Writing is a mini revolution. If you write the book in your heart, it doesn’t matter what’s going on around it, it’s going to make itself known. A book that is felt strongly by the author will come through as something that needs to be read. Period.
- PAY ATTENTION. What is the common thread that unites every successful paranormal and supernatural work? Don’t repeat it, but model after it. FINE, I’LL TELL YOU WHAT IT IS.
- THIS IS WHAT IT IS. Your amazing new take on the supernatural means NOTHING if you don’t have a character that we NEED to know. The “thing” about your book needs to be the character that makes the thing interesting. You know what I mean? Your monster may have the most wildly innovative backstory and premise in the history of such things. It doesn’t matter if that’s all there is. The thing that sells your book is the character that makes it happen. I REPEAT. THE CHARACTER MAKES THE BOOK HAPPEN. Now I make this sweeping general statement:
THE THING A SUPERNATURAL OR PARANORMAL NOVEL NEEDS IS NOT PRIMARILY AN AMAZING PREMISE; IT IS AN AMAZING CHARACTER THAT DRIVES THE PREMISE.
The supernatural and paranormal novels will never die as long as have characters that MAKE the story happen. Think of it this way; name your top three favorite paranormal, supernatural, whatever you want, romances and zombie stories, you know what I means, and describe them or say what your favorite thing is about them.
My favorite thing about Frankenstein isn’t the premise–which I LOVE, obviously–but it is the monster’s character and Dr. Frankenstein, and what they do. My favorite thing about Beautiful Creatures isn’t the love story between a witch and the boyfriend who’s too close to her history, but Ethan and Lena themselves. What I love about Shiver isn’t the werewolves; it’s Grace and Sam and how in love with THEM that I am.
These are a few instances of novels I love, that couldn’t be more different. But the thing that makes them all so utterly DELICIOUS is that they have very cool stories, but the characters are what make the story extraordinary.
IF YOU HAVE AN AMAZING STORY, DO IT JUSTICE WITH AMAZING CHARACTERS THAT BRING THE STORY TO LIFE. A book that does this well will always prevail, regardless of how saturated the market is. The future of paranormal and supernatural in literature isn’t dying, it’s waiting. Waiting for the next character that gives us something we need, and a story to back it up that gives us something we want.
Write the CHARACTER that haunts you and it will force itself into the world.