Paranormal Romance Writing: Heroes and Heroines
Writing your hero is one of your biggest challenges and one of the elements that can make or break your novel.
Paranormal Romance Heroes
Paranormal romance heroes usually have a lot in common from novel to novel. Most paranormal romance heroes and heroines have a dark element by their very natures and are very "alpha" in kind.
The heroes are usually tortured souls, often facing major problems that they must fight to overcome before they can accept the love of a good woman.
Paranormal romance heroes are sympathetic at times, and they also give the reader the feeling that they can truly experience the healing power of love. They can give and receive love unselfishly, once they break down that wall around their hearts.
These heroes tend to be hot, typically sporting six-pack abs. Once they receive that healing power of love, they seem to be good guys.at first, but most of them are quite untrustworthy and tend to be the rival of the heroine, rather than her partner.
Confused? Do not be. It just seems that while the heroine has evolved since the beginning of the romance novel and the paranormal romance novel, the heroes have been a bit stagnant, late bloomers, if you will.
They are evolving, though, and that is great news for you. You can write any type of hero you want, be as creative as possible, and still create a hero your readers will fall in love with.
Therein lies the trick. Your novel must have a hero your readers will like. Even if he is a bad guy. Women love a bad boy, as we all know, and a hero who starts out bad, resists his feelings, and then ends up the good guy is always in favor.
Alpha and Beta Males
When writing a traditional romance, there are two types of heroes: the alpha male and the beta male. You can use these same choices when writing your paranormal romance. Just because most paranormal romance heroes are alpha males does not mean yours has to be. Create your own!
An alpha male is brooding, deep, dark, and often damaged. Think Mr. Rochester, Mr.Darcy, and so on. He has a power that emanates from financial wealth, physical prowess, intelligence, or class. And he always seems to have a way with the ladies! The alpha is the leader among men and beasts. He is the boss and a warrior. He looks good, and he is the guy you want to have at your back, or the guy you want to get behind, literally, in times of trouble.
The beta male is more sympathetic to readers. He is bumbling, shy, sweet, funny, and cute in a dorky sort of way. He is the best friend, such as in the case of Ethan in Something Borrowed, and eventually the boyfriend or lover, such as George Knightley in Emma and Edmund Bertram in Mansfield Park.
The important thing is to make your character both believable (well, in a paranormal-type way) and likeable-even if they start out unlikeable. Likeable heroes are flawed, but forgivable. If you make your hero too perfect, no one will like him. A hero too mean and nasty to start out with will never be redeemed in the eyes of your readers.
Remember to create the correct backstory for your hero so that you can build your character into the man (or wolf, or vampire, or.) that you want him to be.
Next, think about your hero's motivations. Why does he do what he does in your story? Why is he tortured? Why is he after the prize, the girl, the whatever? Figure out what is emotionally driving your hero as the development that occurs within him throughout the novel is really your story. What is it that will get him into the arms of your heroine? What is it about him that will make her want him?
As you work on your hero's development, either consult your backstory database or, if you have not already done so, come up with a new one for your hero. Name him, give him a family background, likes, dislikes, mannerisms, favorite things such as food and drink, past relationships, dialogue characteristics such as an accent or favorite words or phrases, etc. Also, remember that actions speak louder than words, so make your character's actions speak volumes.
It is good to keep this database near you as your write because it is important to consult it as you go along. It would not be good to change something about the hero's past when you are halfway through your novel and not notice it.
Remember that a character's growth takes place throughout the novel: in the beginning, middle, and end. The backstory is presented in the beginning, and the middle and end are where the story takes place.
The Paranormal Heroine
The true precursor to the paranormal romance heroine is the Gothic heroine, no question about it. While strong heroines have been around for ages, they have surely taken a turn for the stronger, more powerful, more independent as time goes on. Think about it, even though some of our favorite heroines of the past, such as Jane Eyre, did not wield a gun or curse, they could still hold their own.
In the stories of yesterday, the strong heroine actually transformed before our eyes: from a sometimes mousy or weak girl into a strong, independent woman. We often saw her come into her own, into her own powers, if you will.
Today's paranormal romantic heroine is smart, shrewd, independent, and sexy. She no longer is a vulnerable little flower who cannot take care of herself; she is not witless or a bit dim. She is not too skinny; usually she is toned or even a bit thick. She is not too rich or privileged, and she is able to laugh at herself. Of course, again, none of these are absolutes.
How the Heroine Has Changed Over Time
It is also very important to note here that the heroines of literature are not the only ones changing over the years; so are the heroines in our daily lives. Look at the strong women of today. They are not romance characters, but they certainly could be. As women have come into their own throughout history, so have our characters in fiction.
The Gothic heroine was often trapped in gender roles. She was forced to accept the status quo, including living in cold, soulless castles; cleaning up after bratty children; not questioning the noises in the attic. Her only hope of escape was a dramatic rescue by her knight in shining armor or whatever man she happened to be pining for. Today's heroines are quite different. We sometimes still symbolically lock them in these dank castles or have them succumb to unfavorable conditions, but oftentimes nowadays they are the ones to rescue themselves; the man is just a bonus at the end.
Your heroine will allow you to be creative and open your mind to the possibilities. Your paranormal romance heroine should be a creature of her environment, which oftentimes means a creature of yourenvironment if you write what you know and use those aspects in her. For example, if you love to draw, make her an artist. If you dance, she dances. Use what you know to lend expertise to your novel and make the words flow off the page. Make it believable.
Agents can be your best friends. They also can be very hard to get!
Romance Writers of America
Joining Romance Writers of America (RWA) is a great place to start looking for an agent. Because you are writing a paranormal romance novel, you are completely qualified to join the RWA ranks.
The Romance Writers of America was founded in 1981 to serve romance writers. Here you can learn about conferences, receive newsletters, learn the latest industry news, network with other members, enter contests, and learn about agents.
Do you need an agent? Most people in the publishing world say you do. Once upon a time, you could simply send out your query letters and manuscripts to publishers and someone would read it and maybe, just maybe, you would get accepted and have a publisher.
What Do Agents Do Exactly?
When you have an agent, she or he does all the legwork for you. Agents are the ones talking to the publishing houses for you, promoting you and your work, selling you, and telling the publishers your book will sell. They know which publishers are accepting or even looking for paranormal romance at the moment. You could spend countless hours sending out your manuscripts, and if you did manage to find someone who decided to read one, it might be at a publishing house that does not even publish paranormal romance.
Additionally, your agent will get your work edited again because no matter how well you have edited, it will be re-edited. Just know that now. Agents also work to get you the best deal possible. They know their stuff. If you were to go it on your own, you might have no idea of what a "good deal" looks like and might undersell or undervalue your worth.
You have to do your homework. Not every book agent takes every genre of novel. You must find one interested in paranormal romances.
You can do your own Google search, but make sure to put "paranormal romance" in as keywords when you do your search and narrow it down to books.
It is true that finding an agent can be one of the toughest parts of writing your novel. You may send letters and manuscripts off to dozens and dozens of agents before you find one who wants to help you promote your work.
Help Them Help You
One way to make an agent more interested in you is to establish yourself as a writer. Publish articles in magazines or the local paper, win a writing contest, get your master's degree in writing. If none of these pertain, just find a strong section of your novel that you really think speaks for itself and send that out in your query letter.
Additionally, if you are willing to blog about your work, willing to go to local bookstores to promote your work, or are connected to the literary world in some way, this is a definite plus.
What else is an agent looking for? A book with a hook! They need something from you that will make an easy sell to the publisher. If they can sum your book up in a concise statement that hooks the publisher, you have a win.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes and no. If you do your research and find an agent you would like to send your query and/or manuscript to, that agent will often tell you on a "frequently asked questions (FAQ)" or guidelines page whether he or she would prefer you query exclusively rather than query several other agents at once. If the agent puts this stipulation out there, honor it. This usually means the agent will get back to you as soon as possible so that you are not left hanging.
Think to yourself, "How will they ever know if I send it to more than one agent?" Agents talk; it is a small world!
If the agency does not stipulate this, then it is fine to query more than one agent at a time. If you are going to do this, though, it is always nice to let the agents know. Just include a line in your query letter stating that you are sending your novel out to several different agents. It is good to be up front and honest.
Now, what should you send? Should you send your entire work, a chapter, or just the query letter? How should you send it? E-mail? Snail mail?
These questions have different answers at every agency. This is why you must do your homework. Research the agency in question and find that FAQ or guidelines page. It will tell you exactly what the agency expects and will accept.
If the agent wants snail mail, send it. If she or he asks for e-mail, send it that way. Most agents will ask for either a chapter or two or just the premise of your novel. Whatever the agent wants, that is what you send. Very few ask for the completed manuscript, but some do.
No matter what the agency wants, be sure to abide by those wishes.
Now on to fees. If you query an agent who writes back and is very excited about your novel, only to ask you to give her or him an upfront payment, run! Legitimate agents will take a commission when your work sells. This is usually about 15 percent of your advance when your work sells.
If you decide to bypass the agent and start contacting publishers and you find a publisher that asks you to cover the fees, again, run, do not walk! Any legitimate publisher or agent is going to take a commission only after you make the sale.
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