The trouble with a paranormal romance series

So, I just figured out today what it is I don’t like about writing (or reading) a romance series. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve read a lot of them and will continue to do so. But, as I’m writing the werewolf series, I’m realizing that there is an essential element to the lives of series characters that is completely missing: realism.
Case in point. Why does every romance seem to have a happily ever after? Let’s be honest here. “Romance” in so far as romance novels are concerned is a hard-hitting, fast-paced, emotionally charged kind of thing that leaves people breathless in its wake. It’s like dating someone that you’ve been through a trauma with. It never works out, does it?
But we read these books and completely believe that it DOES work out – no consequences. Life is perfect.
So, with my werewolf series, I set out to make it clear to my readers that I am capable of stepping back away from the shiny, happy romance picture and painting my series in a more realistic color. Let’s take Daniel and Lily for instance.
Daniel is a dick.
Plain and simple. He’s SUCH a jerk sometimes, isn’t he? But what kind of ending would it be (and what kind of incensed reactions would I get from readers) if I had Daniel and Lily in counseling together at the end of book one instead of together in bed?
So I played along for the duration of book one, in so far as Daniel’s piss-ass attitude would allow, and figured that, in the same manner that Frank Herbert’s Dune novels gradually revealed that book one had everyone bamboozled, the Big Bad Wolf series would slowly introduce the reader to the truth behind taking two very different people and shoving them together like two halves of an ice cream sandwich. Okay, I admit, the ice cream melts in the heat and it’s delicious. But it sure as shit doesn’t last long.
However, I hadn’t fully expected the incensed reactions I got from readers ANYWAY because the first book didn’t make the relationship between the two main characters more perfect.
*Shakes head*
So, here I am writing about marital problems and two people who do love each other but have issues and are trying to work it out, and I’m shaking my head because I’m realizing that this is going to completely break the mold for this genre.
I can see the readers now.
“What?! Things didn’t turn out perfect for Lily and Daniel?!”
Well, duh – no. Daniel’s a dick, remember?
But he’s working on it.

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13 Responses to The trouble with a paranormal romance series

  1. Wendy says:

    I would imagine the thing is that people like their escapism, and their happy endings, which usually go with escapism. Also, I’d like to think that when people get invested in the characters, they want the characters to be happy, and it’s a let-down when they’re not.

    However, you need to write your story, whether they’re happy or not. And I think the paranormal genre could do with some grounding in reality, paradoxical as it may seem, and I try to do that in my own way, which may not be as realistic as yours.

    I think I tend to end my romances at a…well, not the end of the relationship, just the end of the (first set?) of problems. So the reader can imagine a happy further ending if they like, even though that likely wouldn’t happen for real.

  2. Tonya Ramey says:

    Finally!! Relationships cannot run on Sex and Romance alone! I think its wonderful…. Thing is in my experience once a dick always a dick 🙂 either you learn to deal or you don’t!

  3. Eris says:

    I love it! I love to see originality and unexpected twists and turns no matter how it comes out. I get tired of the same ol’ predictable relationships, endings and etc…

    That is the exact reason I quit reading regular romance novels. You know how the relationship will be, you know how it will end. So what’s the point? Why buy the same book over and over again? The only thing that changes are the names.

    Let the characters live as they will. It’s much more fun that way!

  4. Bruce O says:

    OK, I’m only part way through the series and it could all work out good in the end, but Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse doesn’t seem to be having much luck with her fellas. The key there is humour. You can have a less than perfect ending if the heroine is able to look at it in a detached and wryly humourous way, with just a hint that things might come good. Readers can relate to that, and as long as she doesn’t come across as depressed over it, they’ll accept it fine.

  5. Raci says:

    I think that’s what I enjoyed the most about your Werewolf series. It’s not some typical, standard “Omg, let’s be happy together FOREVER!” kind of thing. Now, don’t get me wrong I do like happy endings. But giving characters issues gives them depth.

    Keep following the tune of your own drum.

  6. Taylor13 says:

    I for one read romances because they have a happily ever after. If I wanted endings with the couples in therapy, then I wouldn’t read at all. All I would have to do is take a look at the world around me. When so much is wrong in the world, it’s nice to escape 🙂

  7. Jeannine says:

    I can see both sides of this debate if you will. Often people read to escape or do live vicariously through the characters in the book or story they are reading. So a happily ever after is often what those reading romance are looking for be it paranormal or otherwise are looking for. I have personally to agree that seeing two people who do love each other but are not perfect(as so few of us are) trying to work things out in my view is much greater triumph of the heart. As far as the “once a dick always a dick” element of Daniel goes, as nuts as my husband may make me, it is his inner core of prickdom that makes our relationship work because lord knows I am no saint so it would be awful hard to be married to one! 🙂 So here’s to real life happiness which doesn’t end when the story is done. And as Wendy said, it’s your story Heather and I think if you are true to yourself the readers will come.

  8. Jess says:

    I’m a young, single person who is far too frequently and knowingly attracted to dicks (no, I don’t go there – I just beat my head against the wall until i’m over it. Hence why I’m single… ;)!) and also savors a good bit of escapism (especially featuring completely improbable monsters).
    I find it utterly refreshing to have my fantasy escapism interjected with a healthy dose of realism – in fact, I maintain it makes better escapism, since I don’t sit there thinking ‘Urgh, no guy really behaves like this!!’ – so please, continue, I love it!!

  9. Aisling says:

    We’re talking about a werewolf and his Dormant whom he turns and eventually mates with. Aren’t there a few idiosyncrasies inherent in this world? I never really thought of Daniel as a dick, so much as an alpha wolf with an alpha wolf’s sense of dominance and sex drive. We’re told that for years he could pretty much have any woman he wanted – and did – but it ultimately left him feeling empty because he knew finding a mate, someone to spend his life with and bear his children (sons), depended upon finding THE one and only as destined by fate and if she never came along he would never have that chance. So the stakes are high and this all comes into play not only when he finds Lily, but also when her life is threatened. He has more to lose than most “men” in that situation.

    So, I think that’s pretty romantic. And Lily is crazy in love and lust for him. But they’re not going to be the average couple and they are going to wind up in situations that are more dangerous. He’s the police chief and she becomes able to see into the future. Add to that Daniel’s position in his pack and the rivalry with other packs and – what happens is realism for their situation. I just figure that if you have an alpha wolf, who is also this hot, chief of police, then he is going to have a bit of an ego, but especially considering that he is the leader in his pack. The wolf flowing through him is going to make him a bit uncivilized at times. 😉 and it is going to be strong because he is strong. He is also going to be uber protective of his mate considering the destiny involved in them being together and since Dormants are so rare there will be others attempting to claim her. In that same respect Lily knows how to deal with him and doesn’t cower.

    So I guess what I’m saying is that the characters and situations in a paranormal romance define their own sense of realism according to the worlds they inhabit. If the happy ending tends to be a little tougher than the norm, that is realistic because they aren’t inhabiting the same worlds with the same set of rules. And I admit – after reading The Heat all I could think of for several days was Daniel Kane and it was very nice. Lily would deck me.

  10. pilar says:

    heather marches to the beat of a WAY different drummer……way to go. girl…

  11. elanna says:

    I was THRILLED to read in the third werewolf book that Daniel and Lily were having problems! Thank you, thank you!

  12. Julie says:

    For me…it isn’t so much about happy endings as innovative storytelling. Cookie-cutter romances have become obnoxious to me. I understand that some want the escapism – but if you want it that badly, Harlequin has a fabulous selection of the same old.

    I tire of heroines who put up a fuss through the whole of a story (some resistance is fine, but arguments for the entirety are a put-off). And my biggest pet peeve is that every heroine and her honey must want children. Romance is a genre that is often stuck in the 1950s (everyone gets married and has a minimum of two kids). Break the mold! Rip it apart so it can’t be used again! I beg you, please!

  13. HRKW says:

    It’s actually really funny that you should mention the kids. It’s something my editors and I have argued over. I refuse to force my heroines (or heroes, for that matter) to want children. I just don’t understand why it “must” be a part of the formula.
    – heather