Before we discuss popular PNR themes, let’s look at what PNR is. It’s also known as paranormal romance, which is a mix of romance and speculative fiction. It involves elements beyond scientific explanation and focuses on romantic love. On the MFRW (Marketing for Romance Writers) Yahoo Group and our Facebook page, this genre is discussed often. Here’s a look at categories and popular PNR themes.
Categories in PNR
Paranormal romance encompasses themes from fantasy, science fiction, horror, and speculative fiction subgenres such as urban fantasy, time travel, ghosts, witches, demons, vampires, were-creatures, and fairies (or fae). Although some say vampire romance is on its way out, the fascination for this subgenre is holding strong.
Popular PNR themes
In romance, as in filmmaking, a broad trend seems to be extensions of pre-existing properties. In other words, books that revolve around a universe peopled with specific characters or locations. If you read series romance or you like trilogies and boxed sets, this is likely your favorite. Sequels and prequels are the order of the day. If one story set in a specific world is popular, chances are another one will be too. When an audience already knows the “rules” of the universe (i.e., whether vampires sparkle), they are set for the next story to unfold.
Many popular PNR themes offer glimpses of paranoia, fantasies of power, and stories based in parody or satire. The themes involve scenarios that pit “us against them” and showcase heroes/heroines who protect the family, tribe, or world from outside threats. There are also “love overcomes” themes in which the love between two people (romantic love and/or love of a sister for sister, mother for child, etc.) drives the story. Another popular type shows how banding together wins the day by pitting society or a tribe or family against an individual threat such as a monster or demon. Sometimes, these types of stories involve quests to obtain an item of importance or to complete a ritual.
The forbidden fruit in PNR
One of the most enticing aspects of the paranormal romance realm is the forbidden. Falling in love with a blood-sucking vampire or a soul-sucking demon? Crazy! Or helping an otherworldly being defend those in this world? Scary! But that’s part of the charm.
Not so popular PNR themes
Overemphasis on supernatural aspects
If the character’s abilities or supernatural gifts are the most important part of the story instead of the plot, there is little to hold the interest of the reader.
Why must a story open with a scene of horrific death or torture? There are surely better ways to establish the evil and/or dangerous aspects of a monster or villain.
Saving the World – Again
If every story puts saving the world (or tribe or family, etc.) at stake, then the stake becomes commonplace. Ho hum, world saved. Check.
The perfect character. Mary Sues have no faults, but many talents. They are usually princesses, princes, or the children of powerful beings who hold such titles.
That’s quite a list. What did I leave out? What genre bending books have you read (or written)? What are you currently reading? And what are your least liked aspects in a paranormal romance? Please share it in the comments. Like this post? You’re welcome to share it on social media.