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Thread: Difference between paranormal and horror

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW frisco's Avatar
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    Difference between paranormal and horror

    I'm confused over the genre of my novel. The story is mostly elements of the supernatural, i.e the Exorcist. It is about a young woman who is thought to be mentally ill, but in reality is a victim of demonic spirits battling for control of her soul. I was thinking all along my novel was a horror, but now I'm leaning towards paranormal.

    My question is if I represent it to an agent as paranormal, I'm not sure how I would word it.

    I'm seeking representation of my paranormal fiction novel...
    I'm seeking representation of my paranormal horror novel...

    Any suggestions?

  2. #2
    She of Many Names Irysangel's Avatar
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    If you say 'paranormal', an agent is going to think that it is a romance. I would avoid 'paranormal' entirely and substitute 'supernatural' which has an entirely different connotation, genre-wise.
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  3. #3
    Rainbow Laser Princess Guardian's Avatar
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    Horror in my mind means it's supposed to be frightening/dark/gory, always. Paranormal/supernatural might have things like werewolves but it's not neccessarily supposed to be scary.
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  4. #4
    Whatever I did, I didn't do it. Phaeal's Avatar
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    You might say a paranormal novel, but "paranormal FICTION novel" is redundant -- all novels being fiction.

    Your emphasis makes a difference -- are you trying to scare the wits out of the reader, or are you trying to fascinate him with otherworldly events?
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  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Irysangel View Post
    If you say 'paranormal', an agent is going to think that it is a romance. I would avoid 'paranormal' entirely and substitute 'supernatural' which has an entirely different connotation, genre-wise.
    Agreed. When I hear paranormal I think romance. I'd go with supernatural.

  6. #6
    Worst song played on ugliest guitar Libbie's Avatar
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    Horror is meant to invoke -- well -- horror. Paranormal/supernatural might evoke any number of other feelings, in addition to or excluding horror.

  7. #7
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    There's always a bleed-over, I think, but the paranormal usually deals with something outside of normal perceptions, something not considered scientific, but still believable by many, whether extra sensory perception, or ghosts, poltergeists, demonic possession, etc.

    Horror deals with things more akin to monsters, zombies, etc.

    Paranormal romance is something entirely different, and is part of the romance novel genre.

  8. #8
    I would go with calling it a "Horror" Novel. Just plain Horror, no paranormal in the title. There seems to be a stigma that anything "Paranormal" is a Paranormal Romance, and that may work against you.

  9. #9
    Rainbow Laser Princess Guardian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phaeal View Post
    You might say a paranormal novel, but "paranormal FICTION novel" is redundant -- all novels being fiction.
    Eh, just to poke at technicalities... you know what I'm going to say, right? Novels can be nonfiction... and some people believe in some "paranormal" things as real life fact. Yeah, I'll go back in my hole and stop being difficult, lol.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darkshore View Post
    I would go with calling it a "Horror" Novel. Just plain Horror, no paranormal in the title. There seems to be a stigma that anything "Paranormal" is a Paranormal Romance, and that may work against you.
    There's no such stigma with editors, and shouldn't be with agents. They both know what straight paranormal is. There have certianl'y been enough paranormal bestsellers over the years.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guardian View Post
    Eh, just to poke at technicalities... you know what I'm going to say, right? Novels can be nonfiction... and some people believe in some "paranormal" things as real life fact. Yeah, I'll go back in my hole and stop being difficult, lol.
    Novels can be nonfiction?

  12. #12
    Rainbow Laser Princess Guardian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post
    Novels can be nonfiction?
    You've never heard of a novel about someone's life (no, not a biography, to be clear)? I'm pretty sure they still call it a novel... it's a story, could be fictional, but the events really happened. Am I hallucinating?
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    Jun-Ikkyu Nick Blaze's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guardian View Post
    You've never heard of a novel about someone's life (no, not a biography, to be clear)? I'm pretty sure they still call it a novel... it's a story, could be fictional, but the events really happened. Am I hallucinating?
    Historical fiction?
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    Cake or death? Satchan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guardian View Post
    You've never heard of a novel about someone's life (no, not a biography, to be clear)? I'm pretty sure they still call it a novel... it's a story, could be fictional, but the events really happened. Am I hallucinating?
    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Blaze View Post
    Historical fiction?
    Historical fiction. A novel is fiction, by definition.

    I'd go with horror or supernatural horror, for the reasons stated above.



  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by frisco View Post
    I'm confused over the genre of my novel. The story is mostly elements of the supernatural, i.e the Exorcist. It is about a young woman who is thought to be mentally ill, but in reality is a victim of demonic spirits battling for control of her soul. I was thinking all along my novel was a horror, but now I'm leaning towards paranormal.

    My question is if I represent it to an agent as paranormal, I'm not sure how I would word it.

    I'm seeking representation of my paranormal fiction novel...
    I'm seeking representation of my paranormal horror novel...

    Any suggestions?
    Never write "fiction novel" in a query letter. A novel is fiction.

    Could it be a supernatural thriller?
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  16. #16
    practical experience, FTW ceenindee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post
    Novels can be nonfiction?
    I've seen books advertised as "nonfiction novels" before. The author David Eggers comes to mind.
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  17. #17
    practical experience, FTW Mark W.'s Avatar
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    I don't think there is an automtic assumption for Paranormal to mean Romance (well, maybe for idiot agents who you probably wouldn't want to represent you anyways).

    Paranormal is simply a novel with elements of the supernatural involved. Plain Horror is only dealing with elements of the mundane.

    I see no problem in calling it "Paranormal Horror" or "Paranormal Suspense".
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  18. #18
    I have opinions and I share them :) TheMurf's Avatar
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    OK, for my 2 cents

    I would go with supernatural horror based on what you have said above. Although I would also not argue at supernatural or supernatural thriller depending on the rest of the content
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  19. #19
    Falling in the milk megan_d's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark W. View Post
    I don't think there is an automtic assumption for Paranormal to mean Romance
    Romance is definitely the first thing I think of when someone says paranormal.

  20. #20
    Old revolutionary muravyets's Avatar
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    I guess I'm out of the cultural loop. When I read "paranormal," I think of ghosthunting fiction and non-fiction, like the reality show "Ghosthunters." You know, guys sitting in the dark with EMF detectors, asking questions they don't get answers to, and usually revealing that the voices are actually caused by faulty plumbing. Not all that romantic. Maybe it's because I've never read the Twilight franchise nor seen the movies, and while I'm aware that it's a huge phenom, it's kind of distant and formless in my imagination. Climate change feels more immediate and present to me.

    That said, for me, "paranormal" does carry a particular connotation of the nuts and bolts side of ghosty stuff, so I would expect plumbers talking to the walls (for ex.) in a "paranormal horror/fiction/supense/romance/whatever" book.

    I do have a similar issue with my WIP. With the caveat that, if it ever gets published, I'll leave it to the publisher to designate its category, but for querying purposes, I'm going with "supernatural." While I hope it will be scary, I'm not sure it'll come out as the squick-fest a pure horror novel should be, so I'm kicking around "supernatural thriller" or "supernatural suspense."
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  21. #21
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    Please don't use "fiction novel." It makes agents crazy.

    And "supernatural horror" reads as somewhat redundant. Horror is horror, whether it's supernatural or mundane.
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  22. #22
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    "Paranormal" is subject matter. "Horror" is the effect it has on the reader.

  23. #23
    Caped Codder jaksen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guardian View Post
    Eh, just to poke at technicalities... you know what I'm going to say, right? Novels can be nonfiction... and some people believe in some "paranormal" things as real life fact. Yeah, I'll go back in my hole and stop being difficult, lol.
    I believe In Cold Blood has been called a nonfiction novel.

    Also, I've written a paranormal novel, but I don't want to call it paranormal romance, or just paranormal. There is a mystery, which is solved, and has ordinary mystery elements to it, so I'm thinking of calling it a supernatural mystery.

    It's great we can all make up our own genres.
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  24. #24
    Real Men Have Gills OpheliaRevived's Avatar
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    I second Pheael. JamesMcDonald put it even more succinctly. (FWIW, I didn't know either until I read the replies!)
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  25. #25
    Real Men Have Gills OpheliaRevived's Avatar
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    Wanted to add something about connotation. When I think of paranormal, I think of there being consistent "normalcy" side by side with the "wierd". When I think of horror, I DO focus more on my reaction as a reader, but I also conjur images of monsters and more "icky" scary stuff. Maybe more blood, guts and gore?
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