Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wicked Wednesday - taboo?

When you're submitting a story to a publisher, there's usually a list on their site that states what they will not accept. These are the taboo topics like incest, rape, pedophilia, and bestiality. The reason publishers don't want stories about these types of things is obvious.

Paranormal romance is a genre that dances around subjects that are taboo. Mainstream novels tend to follow the general romance guidelines in this. Yet there are things you read in paranormal romances that you wouldn't find in other romances.

Multiple partners - Usually we have the heroine and hero together, and the story focuses on them alone. Most publishers require it. There are stories that have the protagonist with more than one person, though. There's a supernatural reason for it, of course. The most popular examples of this are Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake and Merry Gentry series.

Addiction issues - Most publishers won't consider a protagonist that has a substance abuse problem. It takes away from their likability. Yet in an urban fantasy world, things are different. Characters can be addicted to magic or blood. It's apart from our normal reality and thus more acceptable. An example of a protagonist with an addiction problem is Chess Putnam in Stacia Kane's Downside Ghosts series. Awesome novels, and you find yourself sympathizing with Chess rather disliking her.

Forced seduction - Rape is not acceptable anywhere. It might be a traumatic event in a protagonist's past, but that's the most publishers accept. When it comes to paranormal romances, we tend to see a lot of forced seductions. Some think this is just another word for rape and it's hard to see where the line is drawn on this. Forced seduction is where one dominant character forces themselves on an at first unwilling character and then that unwillingness becomes yes, yes, yes. An example could be an alpha male having found his mate, but she's resistant to the big arrogant fellow. He hunts her down, loses himself to the need to take her, and after a little bit of a struggle, she decides she wants him too. A forced seduction book is Elfking's Lady by Hannah Howell.

No HEA - Most publishers want a Happily Ever After (HEA) ending, or at least, the Happy For Now (HFN) one. Paranormal romances bring the possibility that we might never be able to have that HEA. War between supernatural creatures, immortality issues, and the more mundane they're-just-too-different-for-it-to-honestly-work-out reason. Also, sometimes readers like tragedies. A good example of this is The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.

What are some things you consider taboo in other books but might accept in paranormal romance? Why do you think paranormal romance can cross the line when other genres cannot?

28 comments:

  1. I tend to avoid pretty much everything on that list lol!

    I think the reason paranormal romance is allowed to break the rules a little is because - being paranormal - the rule book has kind of already been thrown away. It allows things that would normally be impossible, so the lines have already been crossed.

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    1. I usually avoid such things too, but I do like L.K. Hamilton's books when she's writing more mystery/crime based plots. Ah, to have a harem of gorgeous paranormal men of my own! *LOL*

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  2. I had use Google to find what paranormal romance was, but having looked at some of the books that seem horrible, there are some that are just different, not too awful, just a twist on ageless romance.

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    1. I agree that the heart of a paranormal romance should be like any other romance. Love stories can be told in so many ways.

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  3. What about approved or otherwise stalking - in the guise of love, protection, revenge which is perfectly accepted by the heroine more often than not.

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    1. That's true. You see a lot of stalking, and sometimes the heroine considers it romantic. I find it creepy, but it is a fantasy for some readers.

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  4. i don't think i realized any of this before. interesting.

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    1. Thanks. Paranormal romance has stretched the boundaries on what's acceptable.

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  5. makes sense. like that guy who people boycotted amazon for, for carrying his book, how to be something despicable, can even remember now, good!

    there is only a small market for the bad stuff & a potential uprising if a publisher dares put it out!

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    1. That's true. I remember that boycott. I'm sure if people search Amazon, they'd find other things they don't like.

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  6. Great post Christine! With a list like that it's tough to shy away from it in the paranormal romance genre and still keep enough of it for the readers. :)

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    1. Thanks! I think only certain authors can get away with crossing into the taboo and still sell well.

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  7. This is a very interesting post. I guess I had never really thought about what would be taboo for paranormal romance writers. Rape and incest would be the two obvious things. It must be challenging to skirt around these topics!

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    1. Thank you. I might have a secondary character with a problem like those taboo things, but I like to have my main characters focused on one another.

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  8. I would say that paranormal romance can touch on the taboo of bestiality too, especially since some of the creatures are beasts (werewolves, etc.). I wonder if they can get away with more things because of the paranormal/fantasy aspect.

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    1. That's true. It's another debate in paranormal romance. Most publishers don't want intimate scenes with the characters in their animal or part-animal forms.

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  9. well first i would have to say, it is because most people consider it pure fantasy----you have made some very intriguing points

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    1. That's a good point. I also think paranormal romance fans are more accepting of things less ordinary.

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  10. That's a helpful list. I've only ever written contemporary romance, but I've considered writing paranormal somewhere down the line (not anytime soon, though) and these things are good to know.

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    1. Thanks. Contemporary romance has it's own issues like STDs and safe sex. A lot of people I've seen reviewing those books are angry when they don't see the characters using some form of protection.

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  11. I think they're allowed to cross lines because in most people's minds a paranormal being is not a person. Maybe? It's a pity we don't get more diversity in regular literature though.

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    1. That might be it. I would like to see more diversity too, and some things like same gender love stories are gaining more acceptance when once they were taboo.

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  12. Great examples.

    I don't think these just have to be for paranormal or supernatural themes.

    But, I'm not fond of rules either.

    Great post.
    Heather

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    1. Thank you. These could be for any novel, really. Yet I geared them particularly to this genre as it has an audience with a broader mind.

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  13. Interesting post!

    I'd say that it's inherent to the genre. The idea of "paranormal" itself (magic/etc.) requires a certain expectation of the unusual.

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    1. Thanks. That was well said. I know I expect something unusual when I pick up a book in this genre.

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  14. I haven't read much paranormal, but it seems the Sookie Stackhouse series would break a few of these rules too. I wouldn't mind seeing a few other genres break some rules on a regular basis!

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    1. The Sookie Stackhouse books are great. I just finished reading the newest one. I'd like to see some more rule breakers too.

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