Ghostlight and genre

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The story I’ve been working on for a while now is a Young Adult Paranormal Fiction story (YAPF?) that I have been calling Lantern Man, but I’m going to be changing the title to Ghostlight instead. I tend to think that’s a more interesting title, and it’s reflective of the main character instead of just of the bad guy in the book.

The book has definitely developed over time and taken it’s own directions. The bad guy’s story started off as a very precise exercise in symbology and chakras to either open up some sort of Hellmouth-knockoff, or perhaps to regain his own flesh and blood (he’s a ghost–no spoilers there, he’s a ghost from the first time he’s seen), to the ghost possibly just being a patsy or an instrument wielded by another. A throwaway jerk of a jock in one scene who was going to die is becoming a major character. The male lead is going from intentional one-note jock to being forced into quite a few twists that will make him grow whether he likes it or not. The female jock antagonist may be elbowing her way into more of the story than I anticipated. And my main character will be doing more than a few things of dubious morals before the book is done.

There are two things that have remained, though: one character’s fate is still as determined now as it ever was, and the real reason for why Bette’s older brother died three years ago remains a mystery. That last one is even to me, to be honest–I know a little of what happened, but I’ve yet to figure out the whole thing. But I never intended to reveal it all in this story anyways–Bette’s tale is one that can and, I hope, will extend beyond just the pages of Ghostlight.

There are a lot of things about this story I could talk about, but let’s go with the genre for now. I’ve always been an avid fan of fantasy and science fiction, and in recent years, the paranormal/urban fantasy genre has stepped into the forefront as my favorite. I love TV, movies, and books, anything that takes this on: the idea of that the world is exactly the one we know right now, but there are secrets beyond our ken hiding in it at the same time. I think it’s because I always kind of hoped that was true–I mean, really, wouldn’t that be fantastic? Sure, you get a lot of dangerous things, but just think about it, magic! Psychic powers! Spells! Mythical creatures! I could really finally meet a unicorn and it would choose me and we’d be best friends!

Ahem.

So, yes, the idea that there could be real supernatural things out there, hiding in plain sight, is one I love. Who doesn’t want an amazing and otherworldly thing to change their life and take them on a grand adventure? But an adventure that’s all rainbows and unicorns wouldn’t be too interesting to read about. As magical (literally) as the opening chapters of Harry Potter are while the wee Chosen One discovers what he can do and learn and so forth, they are all the better for having the constant hint of danger to them, something sinister and intriguing lurking around the corner, in his past, his future, his present. You want a story to have that.

Which leads me to my thoughts on why I use the term Paranormal Fiction and not Paranormal Romance, although I was going to try and avoid that. Oh well. A lot of popular books today for the YA reader are classified as the latter. They all want to be the next Twilight. I’ve got my own opinions on why that’s not a great goal, but I’ll try to stay focused here.

I say Fiction over Romance because, in my opinion, a romance as the be-all, end-all of a plot just doesn’t work very well. Romance can add a ton to a story, and the great romances are the ones we remember: Romeo & Juliet, Westley & Buttercup, Buffy & Angel. But all of those stories weren’t just about the love story–the love story was there, but was manipulated by external forces, and other things were as much the plot as the love story. Romeo and Juliet’s story is shaped by their feuding families. Buttercup and Westley overcome a diabolical would-be tyrant and murderer to make their happy ending come to pass. Angel and Buffy both died more than once in their fight against the evil in the world and even went their separate ways more than once for the good of the world, choosing that over their love for each other.

It seems like many of the recent YA hits are often about the romance over anything and everything else. And those stories just don’t interest me anymore. I want my love story to have an edge, to have consequences, to be shape by more than just hormones and real plots being demoted to sideplots.

So I’ve got some romance happening in Ghostlight. It’s not center stage, and Bette even goes to lengths to make herself focus on more than just the cute boy, because too many other things are at stake. I hope that subplot of my story adds to the story itself, rather than overtaking it entirely.

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