Beanery Online Literary Magazine

April 29, 2011

A Paranormal Mystery/Romance Crossover Workshop




Kathleen Clark

     Eighteen eager and aspiring writers gathered at the Greensburg-Hempfield Library on Saturday, February 19, 2011 to participate in and learn about Writing Paranormal Mysteries with a Romance Crossover. The two and a half hour Workshop was led by Mary Ann Mogus and Barbara Miller, both local authors and instructors who have published novels and articles. Although the time frame permitted only a mini-overview of writing for both genres, attendees appetite for the genre was wetted.
     Participants of all ages interested in developing their writing technique signed up, including a fourteen-year-old Connellsville Junior High student. Three local writers groups were represented: Ligonier Valley Writers, Greensburg Writers Group and the Beanery Writers of Latrobe. Representing the Beanery Writers group were facilitator Carolyn Holland, Lois Kalata and Kathleen Clark.
     Writers were given two to five minute exercises to develop workable plots, characters and

story lines for paranormal/romance stories. Developing unique approaches and inventing characters with avant garde personalities and abilities is the crème de la crème of writing! Making a story irresistible to editors and readers is necessary to make the “breakout author” list.        
     Sponsored by the Ligonier Valley Writers, the free workshop was divided into two sessions. Part one focused on the elements used to create a good mystery, interspersed with exercises for incorporating paranormal elements. Part two focused on the romantic crossover into the mystery genre, with accompanying exercises to develop the romance part of the story. 
     Paranormal mysteries have peaked in the reading world, with established and new authors tackling adult, young adult and teen audiences. While werewolves and vampires have been overworked, there is no disputing their popularity among youth. The challenge is to invent fresh and believable characters, plots and conclusions.

     Writing good mystery fiction involves six basic elements: characterization, setting, point of view (POV), plot, the story arc (the rising and falling action, and showing action (dialogue) versus telling (narration.)

     The story arc contains an array of important elements; rising/falling action, hook, inciting incident, catalyst and the climax. All aspects work together as unit to develop the story.
     The genre crossover comes when writers incorporate the elements of romance to some degree in developing the Paranormal Mystery. It’s an art involving much thought and planning—the combined expectations of two audiences must be satisfied. The romance must be valid, seen as fitting into the real world, thus avoiding the basic romance stereotypes. Three types of romantic crossovers to consider are:

  • Romance Dominant over other genres,
  • Romance Secondary to other genres and
  • the Combination of romantic and sexual elements to create entertainment, with one or both aspects not necessarily resolved

      There are also Romantic Recessive crossovers where the purpose of romance between characters is to make the protagonist (main character) a rounder, fuller person. When integrating crossovers, the subordinate character provides the backdrop, or world, for the novel, while resisting over-explanation to the reader.
     Here again, the writer must pay attention to setting, opening hooks, character arcs, and main plot versus subplot. Keep in mind that setting includes moods as well as time and place. It is also the social status and relationship of characters. Regardless of how extreme the setting, the profession, or “do-or-die” mission, of the characters must seem normal to them and to the readers. If it is too far “out there” it won’t be believable, and prospective audiences won’t buy the story or the book.



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