What Is Paranormal Romance?

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Read our definitions of paranormal romance to make sure your book fits.
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What Is Paranormal Romance?

At its simplest, paranormal romance (PNR) is a true romance with strong paranormal elements. Stories must have both to keep PNRMagic readers happy.

Paranormal Is Supernatural

paranormalThe dictionary definition of the adjective “paranormal” is things, events, or perceptions without scientific explanation, a.k.a., supernatural.

That encompasses a lot of territory. Such as magic, which has to do with unseen forces that can be manipulated by will. For something to be paranormal, it must vary from the laws of physics and nature in the real world we all live in.

Paranormal things include dragons, demons, monsters, unicorns, krakens, shapeshifters, angels, vampires, elves, gargoyles, witches, fairies, wizards, djinn, gods, and ghosts. Humans have thousands of years of legends and myths that can serve as inspiration. They can be both heroes and villains in PNR. And things can include objects, such as magic wands or fairy rings.

Paranormal events include ghosts sightings, unexplained phenomena, poltergeist activity, and more.

Paranormal perceptions include mind reading (telepathy), moving objects with mental will (telekinesis), predicting the future, and knowing things that aren’t detectable by ordinary physical senses (clairvoyance). The word “psychic” comprises some of these, too.

Paranormal romance readers expect a strong component of paranormal. They also expect this paranormal component to be anchored in the real world, either historical or modern, with its ordinary humans, cities, and technology.

Romance Has Rules

romanceTrue romance has two fundamental rules:

  1. Romances tell the emotional journeys of main characters who overcome their differences and seemingly impossible obstacles to fall in love with each other and become one.
  2. Romances are inherently hopeful, with a happy-for-now (HFN) or happily-ever-after (HEA) ending.

Also, rule #1 has a corollary: No cheating.

Why do we call them rules? Because romance fans get really, really testy if a story advertised as a romance breaks them. Here are some examples:

  • If main characters meet, fall in love at first sight, and marry happily ever after, all in chapter one, that’s not the life-changing emotional journey romance fans are looking for.
  • If a main character starts the romance journey with another, but sneaks off for one-night stands, that’s cheating. Please note that if your ménage, poly, and/or reverse-harem relationship involves free, informed, and enthusiastic consent, that’s not cheating.
  • If a main character who is falling in love dies, it’s not an HFN or HEA.
  • If the true romance happens across multiple books, it meets the criteria. However, PNRMagic will only accept slow-burn romances if the series is complete and the HEA/HFN is fulfilled.

And to nip a common argument in the bud: Romance is not real life, it’s made up, just like every other fiction story ever written. We guarantee there are readers for your “more realistic” stories of uncertain love, cheating, and loss, but they aren’t romances, and won’t be included on the PNR Magic site. Please don’t waste our time or yours submitting them.

What Isn’t Paranormal Romance?

Thanks to publishers and booksellers not knowing what else to call some types of books, they sometimes end up in the paranormal romance genre, even though they shouldn’t.

  • Science fiction romance (SFR). These stories have a futuristic setting based in plausible science and romance. If you’re looking for an excellent place to list your SFR stories, check out the fabulous SFR Station.
  • Science fantasy romance. Stories in a futuristic setting that involve both technology and magic. Please head on over to SFR Station with these books.
  • Fantasy romance. Stories with true romances that are set in another world from ours entirely, where the elements we real-world humans perceive as paranormal are commonplace. These aren’t the types of stories PNR readers are looking for.
  • Erotica. These stories have lots of sex, which is no problem, but they rarely have true romance. High-heat paranormal erotic romances are fine, as long as they meet the criteria for strong paranormal and true romance.
  • Urban fantasy (UF). These stories are set in the real world and have strong paranormal elements, but they tend toward a series that follows a single main character who isn’t in a true romance, or it’s a slow-burn across multiple books. If your UF story is a true romance that is fulfilled in a single book, or is a slow-burn true romance in a complete series, contact us with a query to see if it fits.
  • Horror. Humans are the heroes against a terrifying evil paranormal world. These rarely involve true romances with hopeful endings, but if your story does and you want it listed on the PNR Magic site, contact us with a query to see if it fits.

We Won’t List Paranormal Romances Involving Dubious Consent or Non-Consent

paranormal romance magic with NO symbol around itSorry, but we won’t list paranormal romances where the main characters engage in dubious consent or non-consent with each other.

Dubious consent includes magical influence (e.g., love spell on an otherwise unwilling partner), taking advantage of someone who is impaired (drugs, alcohol, magic), illusion (e.g., a magical impersonation spell), slavery (slaves can’t refuse), and blackmail (“I’ll save your brother if you have sex with me”). Non-consent is rape, in all its nasty forms.

This is a personal pet peeve of ours. We’re sure there are readers for your dub-con and non-con romances, but they won’t be included on the PNR Magic site. Don’t waste our time or yours.


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