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  • Writer's pictureBeth Linton

Paranormal Romance Books: World Building

Updated: Sep 10, 2022

Ever felt like you need to escape? Go off into another world? Even another time?

Most of us have.

Certainly, I have. The desire to runaway to an exotic country usually strikes me after a hard day at work, or when I’m tackling the never-ending pile of washing, or when I’ve argued with my husband about something mundane. While it would be great to jump on a plane and visit the Mayan ruins, or cruise to the Caribbean on some great adventure, the truth is the majority of us don’t have the freedom (especially in a Pandemic!), or the cash, to drop everything and go – but that’s where a good romance book saves the day.

Whether it’s historical romance, contemporary romance, or paranormal romance, there is escape to be found amongst its pages.

I find my escape, my comfort, in both reading and writing paranormal romance novels. I find writing this genre freeing and fun because you can literally let your imagination take you anywhere. The paranormal romance genre is a hybrid, a combination of science-fiction, gothic, horror, fantasy and has much in common with its dystopian cousin. This melding of genres, with a central focus on romance of course, allows for incredible creativity.

In short, there are no limits to the imagination.

As a reader of romance books, you have likely fallen in love with characters and their journey to their happily ever after, but have you ever stopped to really think about the world in which the story takes place?

This is world building.

The backbone of any paranormal romance series is a great world. The reader needs to suspend their disbelief and buy into the world in which the story is set. This is by no means solely true of paranormal romance books. All stories need to have a convincing world and convincing characters so readers ‘buy in’ to the story. If a text is a contemporary romance the reader already has a sphere of reference for the setting and this, arguably, makes it easier for authors to create an authentic world than within a fantasy or paranormal romance novel.

Think of ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’: Every thirty-something reader had been to that dinner party, had experienced that New Year’s Eve and that embarrassing parental moment. It was this recognition of a world similar to their own that made the romantic comedy so wonderful and successful – or as Austen put it, it’s the “universal truth” of experience that allows the reader to buy into events.

But a paranormal romance story is different. Like fantasy and science-fiction, the world within a paranormal romance series has to be painstakingly created for it to be authentic. The authors of ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ series, for example, build their worlds in intricate detail. They use maps, family trees, and create a whole back history. Ask any ‘Star Trek’ fan about the Federation and they will likely reply with an inexhaustible list of facts about this make-believe world and its rules, history and events. In short, readers have bought into the world building.

For me, world building in my paranormal romance series is an enjoyable escape (and let’s face it, we all need some escape as we enter 2021!). Creating a fictional world is a mental jigsaw puzzle of ideas that form a world suitable for the heroes and heroines of the series. A great paranormal world means shelving our concerns and the issues of normality for a detailed make-believe world we can become lost in.

My world, the Other Realm, is accessed via gateways. The trappings of the modern twenty-first century life are literally washed away as the characters pass through a waterfall or a pool and enter it. As the reader journeys with the characters, they are invited to suspend their disbelief and accept the world they are presented with and all its magical qualities.

In constructing the Other Realm, I drew on mythology and dystopian literature, as well as Celtic history. My fantasy world is mountainous and covered in jungle and has a good versus evil battle of survival which has been going on for centuries before my readers even get there. The backstory adds authenticity and makes the paranormal world more three dimensional for the reader.

Part of the world building process is to generate conflict. Conflict is the backbone of all stories, but in fantasy and paranormal romance novels, the conflict can take on magical and supernatural elements.

In my series the paranormal ‘super villain’ is Griffin Fionn. Misogynistic and murderous, he rules the realm and is driving its people to extinction. His existence causes my heroes and heroines to face danger. Not only must they overcome their own relationship conflicts (falling in love when the marriages are arranged, for example) but they also face conflict with the villain – the plot beyond courtship, marriage and falling in love.

And I think, this last point is why I love paranormal romance books more than paranormal, fantasy or science fiction books, sans romance. I enjoy reading about relationships and passion. And, yes, I enjoy a steamy romance book, thank you very much. But I enjoy these themes set within a creative, imaginative world.

I like – no love – paranormal romance books because the genre contains a great form of world building. Paranormal romance series allow for reality to be substituted for something exotic and often dangerous. Within their hybrid worlds, events are dramatic and heightened and because of that, the romance at the heart of the story is also made more intense.

You can find @bethlintonauthor on Instagram and also on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

  • To find out about my novels click here and visit my books page where you can find the blurb for the first five books in the romance series.

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