It can be easy to get carried away when writing a paranormal romance novel. The world is your oyster, after all, and you can make anything possible. The trick is creating paranormal elements and characters that are believable, relatable, and interesting. It can be tempting to share everything you’ve worked so hard to create, but you don’t want to bore readers with too much, or too little, information. You want to make sure your characters are successfully portrayed, your world is intricately developed, and your plot is engaging and evokes feeling. How do you know when you’re at risk for ruining these things, though? This article covers some of the ways to potentially sabotage an otherwise wonderful paranormal romance. We offer some guidance on pitfalls to avoid while writing your own creative take on a romance with paranormal elements.
Dumping all your worldbuilding
Dumping all your worldbuilding in giant blocks of texts, rather than weaving in details as they are needed throughout the story, is a surefire way to sabotage your book. While it might seem like a good idea to start your novel with a large and informative chapter on how the world functions, it’s likely to bore your reader and deter them from reading on (which is the last thing you want, right?) The most effective way to create your amazing paranormal world is to include important facts along the way. For example, if all the demons have been locked away for years under a curse, wait to explain how and why that happened until the reader “needs to know” that information for the scene to make sense. Then you can fill readers in as to why the curse was placed on them, and how it functions, and so forth.
Similar to large chunks of worldbuilding background information, heaps of unimportant dialogue is a definite no-no when writing paranormal romance. Info-dumping is info-dumping is info-dumping. Even if you put some of it into dialogue form! Your paranormal characters will lead incredible lives full of magic, the impossible, and buttkicking the villians. But slowing down the pace of the action or the emotional development of the romance itself by including stilted or forced dialogue as you try to “explain” things is just another way to tragically info-dump on the reader. Dialogue in paranormal romance should function just like in any other romance. Does your dialogue work for you? Or work against your reader?
Overwriting the supernatural
Overwriting the supernatural elements can turn readers off from your book. Describing the fangs of a vampire is one thing, it’s entirely another to dedicate half a page in an ode to draining blood from victims. Don’t use the paranormal aspects of your book as a crutch, use it as an enhancement. The plot should be interesting enough without unnecessarily detailed paragraphs about the nature of werewolves or the habits of vampires. You’re not creating a guide on vampires, you’re creating a romance novel that happens to contain paranormal elements. It can seem like a fine line to toe but if you stick to treating a character’s paranormal abilities as though they’re a normal part of life, you can avoid overly long tangents on their glistening silver fur, gleaming fangs, and other overwritten descriptions.
Using too many new terms
Including a glossary of terms might seem like you’ve created an incredibly in-depth world, but realistically it is probably not necessary. Throwing in too many new terms works only in rare instances, most notably Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, both of which are epic fantasies that took years to gain popularity. If you are making up new terms in your book, you’re better off defining them shortly after they’re introduced rather than creating a glossary of words in the front of your book. One handy rule of thumb many fantasy and sci-fi authors follow is if there is already a word to convey the meaning, use the plain meaning of the word. Why call a shirt a terflida when shirt will do? If you need to create words, reserve that for words that otherwise don’t exist to convey your meaning. You don’t want your readers wasting precious time interpreting meanings of otherwise common words when they could be getting lost in the story and turning the pages!
Using too many paranormal elements
The same rule of “don’t overdo it” applies to introducing an overabundance of paranormal elements. You have so much freedom to create your paranormal world, but keep in mind: the details make—and can break—the story. If you’re getting lost and can’t keep track of the characters and rules, how will your readers avoid getting lost? It can be difficult to track a plot line if it’s saturated with aliens, elves, other planets, new dimensions, angels, demons, magic, and vampires. Keep the details manageable by writing only what the reader needs to understand the scene. Gradually introduce only critical information. Ask yourself “is this too much?” You’ll know if the reader doesn’t need to know the detail to fully understand the scene or if the information has been repeated in many other places. Keep the action moving and the details trim.
Forgetting about the plot
It can be so exciting to create a paranormal universe that many authors forget you also need a fully developed plot and a romance to fit on the pages! It’s a good idea to map out your plot, even if you’re not much of a plotter. A few notes (don’t worry, you don’t HAVE to outline!) will keep you focused on the action, what happens, and why it matters at all. The worldbuilding is important but it’s only part of the novel.
Too many points of view/ poorly planned points of view
It can be very tempting to let every character in a paranormal romance have a voice in your novel. But too many points of view distract from the story you’re telling. Most romance novels stick to either one main character’s point of view, or alternate between two and give both main characters a voice. If you have more POVs than two, ask yourself why? Is there a more efficient way to bring that information to the page? If you have a half page in the villain’s POV but then 12 pages in a main character’s point of view, the result may seem choppy or disorganized to the reader. Plan to let the one-two most important characters tell your story.
As easy as it can be to get swept away in a frenzy of creative worldbuilding, it’s prudent to keep these tips in mind to avoid oversaturating your book with information that will bog down the reading experience. Too much of a good thing can ruin your book, even if the “too much” is exactly what makes your book unique! As you write and throughout the revision process be sure to keep an eye out for these items to avoid spoiling an otherwise spectacular paranormal romance book.
Rachel is a travel writer based in Arizona. In addition to writing and publishing several guidebooks, she's written for Wander AZ, Narcity Media, and CNET. Working as both a copyeditor and writer, she specializes in road trip content and manuscript editing.