Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wicked Wednesday - breaking free of the usual formula

I've been reading a lot of Jeaniene Frost's books lately. She's one of the best selling paranormal romance authors. I love her books. (And Bones. Especially Bones!) Yet her books have a definite formula. In fact, a lot of books in this genre have the same formula. Here's the basic plot:

Girl meets boy. There is instant attraction even if neither act on it. One or both of them are supernatural creatures and/or have paranormal abilities. The villain enters. Bad stuff happens. Girl and boy can't resist each other. Something causes them to break apart and/or push one another away. More bad stuff. Big final battle. Evil is thwarted. The happily ever after ending.

With a market that is overflowing with paranormal romances of the usual formula, as a writer, you need to find a way to break out of it to get yourself noticed. Readers still love the classics like vampires and werewolves, but they want new twists.

As I've been writing my 13th Floor series, I've been experimenting on breaking free of the old formula. I still have the key ingredients, but I'm trying out some new twists.

The Marquis - I featured an older couple. Usually in romance, the lovers are young. Or, in the case with some supernatural beings, they look and act young even if they're centuries old. Did the readers like it? I've gotten some compliments about using an older couple, but it is the book that sells the least in the series.

The Alpha - It's common for paranormal romances to features an Alpha male. I twisted that trope and used an Alpha female. Her love interest is a geek. This still remains the most popular of my books. Readers do love strong women and superhero wannabe geeks.

The Dragonslayer - A modern day dragonslayer who is a complete gentleman instead of the typical bad boy. Xan's an Alpha male, but not in an overbearing way. His strength shows through in honor, chivalry, and his morals. And fighting dragons! It's still a bit early to tell, but Xan has many fans.

The Harbinger - Another story where the lead male character is a gentleman rather than a bad boy. The protagonist is a powerful woman. Feminine and a fighter. She's also a harpy. I'm curious to see how a creature usually not featured in this genre goes over with readers.

What are some of your favorite books that break from the usual formula?


  1. I liked the sort of knight-in-armor aspect of Xan. I've always liked those stories, though: Lancelot, etc. I'm not attracted to bad boy types, which may be why I read so little paranormal romance, since they lean on that stereotype quite a bit. (I do like Lestat--there's a long story behind that--but I like Louis better anyway.)

  2. I think that's why I gravitate towards the more literary end of the scale - there's less of a formula. I love the way you're experimenting - perhaps you're leading the next big trend!

  3. I think you're doing an amazing twist on the formula, it's working out really well! :D

  4. I think supernatural beings not usually featured in books could sell very well if marketed properly. Ii's something new and people like novelty so you've broken the formula two times with your new book.

    I think it will be a real success!

  5. I enjoy rare, supernatural beings. It's always nice to have a new twist on things, otherwise it feels like ones reading the same thing again and again and again. I'm going to start your 1st book this weekend. Can't wait :)

  6. You bring up an interesting subject and you are right. I am trying to think on the books I've read and they all have this formula, even mine, (ack!) Will have to give some more thought...and twists of course.

  7. I hadn't thought about it until now. I don't feel like my Favorite author- Kim Harrison- follows that structure exactly but she might have a similar one. Aside from the girl meets boy then bad guy type thing.

    My own book kind of follows that structure, but one of the bad guys is introduced first.

  8. I think putting a new twist on an old trope always makes a story shine. The reader isn't sitting there thinking "This again?"...which is a good thing :)

  9. I love the twists you have with your books. I like to change things up here and there with the formula.

  10. Love the twist on things! I recently read The Name of the Wind, which did something a little different with a fantasy story. Loved it!

  11. Putting a new twist on old storylines is a definite must! I love how you came up with the twists in your own stories :)

  12. I always enjoy your twists, Christine. That's what makes me your fan. :D

  13. Every single one of you is fantastic! Thank you. :)

  14. It's so difficult to put books in a specific category anymore. So many cross the lines and I like them that way.

  15. Great summary of the plot... this so common in nearly all romances:) I guess readers don't want to stray from what works, but I agree on trying to twist it around a bit.

  16. I agree, it's far too easy for books in this genre to become formulaic, so finding ways to turn tropes on their heads is a must. I love all the ways you've been doing that in the 13th Floor series! Also, I must admit, I am a huge fan of harpies, so The Harbinger is a book I'm looking forward to heaps!

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