Adding Sarcasm to the Paranormal
by J. Bridger
I love the paranormal. I love everything about it. I’m like any other horror fan out there, and I’ll eat up angst and drama with a spoon. I’ve read all of The Vampire Chronicles, and I did enjoy the more angst-filled parts of Buffy as well. Of course, Whedon hooked me with the snark, but then I stayed for the ins and outs of that world. Yes, I admit it. I’m one of the rarer fans who enjoy the depth and darkness of season six. I also proudly declare that I enjoy the dilemma of an impossible paranormal romance. The darkness in the supernatural is the primary reason we’re drawn to it, and I’m not exception.
That said, sometimes the life-and-death scenarios, the Romeo and Juliet plotlines, and the dreary atmosphere do get to be too much. You can only feel true horror or sadness when you’ve had a release of some tension, a small chuckle or anything else to break the oppressive gloom. Similarly, while I do read paranormal romance and like that aspect of YA fiction, one has to admit we’ve seen a flood of Twilight rip-offs. I don’t mean with vampires, but I mean more with doomed love affairs between the brooding mystical being and the mortal thrown into his or her life. Heck, we’ve mostly seen---even if Beautiful Creatures is an exception---the naïve human girl falling for the bad boy with a supernatural edge (be it werewolf, vampire, fae, or demon). Occasionally, I think readers need a break from the standard dire affair or intense love triangle.
Can’t eat chocolate all the time, I suppose.
So that’s why I love humor. A story doesn’t have to spoof the paranormal and horror genres to have humor. I’ve found the best example (to me) is in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. Even when his titular wizard, Harry Dresden, is facing certain death, demons, and everything else Hell can offer up, he’s making wise cracks. Moreover, humor allows writers to play with conventions, to point out what’s ridiculous about them, and then to bend them into a fresher take.
In my novel, Shifted Perspective, I’ve worked on incorporating humor into a young adult paranormal setting. Long story short, dark werewolf horror and pathos are my two favorite things to read about, but I wanted to take a more tongue-in-cheek approach on shapeshifting. That’s why my lead’s a were-Cocker Spaniel (it happens). When you’re writing the paranormal, you have to realize that these are situations on the razor’s edge of the absurd. We’re talking walking corpses, perpetual teenagers who drink blood, and people who get furry at the full moon. Sure there’s death in these tales, but there’s also just a “so weird it could fall to funny” aspect too. So that’s what I like to run with---that absurdist humor seeping through the edges.
Sometimes, you can take a trope and make it funnier. The brilliant novella Fat Vampire by Johnny B. Truant has its serious moments and superb characters, but it also takes the cliché of the hot, brooding immortal and warps it. The novella creates an engaging hero in the 300 plus pound Reginald, who is anything but an Edward Cullen or Damon Salvatore. Likewise, my protagonist, Caleb, is the opposite of a tough alpha wolf. He does have to deal with them and the havoc they can wreak, but he’s not one of them. Far from. He just has the fluffy curls…
The thing about using the “every man” character, he with the short end of the supernatural stick, is that his predicament can elicit legitimate drama. After all, the every man is often comically outclassed. Having these types of outsiders, those who are either new to a supernatural paradigm or don’t agree with the status quo because they’ve been shafted at the paranormal ability lottery, brings in an opportunity for snark. It’s fun to read the running commentary or the sarcastic dialogue of a character like Reginald the Vampire or Harry Dresden. They think the world and The Powers That Be are total bullshit. Our funny “every man” hero/heroine is never afraid to call out the crap where he or she sees it, and the readers often cheer him or her for that candor.
There’s always a place in the paranormal for drama and angst, for love triangles and doomed romance. Heck, sometimes having a protagonist who is the perennial underdog can add even more drama to a situation. He may not be the hunky (for some) Edward Cullen or Eric Northman, but that makes the reader love and root more for him more. Also, as a writer, you have to admit once in a while---via dialog or narration---that you know your world is wacky. It leads the readers to laugh with you and with the characters at the impossible things being asked of them. Better that than having the reader laugh at you if everything falls into melodrama.
Caleb Byrne is a bright high school senior who has enough to deal with between college choices, taking care of his single dad, and dealing with his headstrong girlfriend Joanna and an eccentric set of cousins in California. He was managing to get by until the day he woke up a Cocker Spaniel. Even if it only happens monthly and is more embarrassing than painful, the so-called ability is something that he's anxious to be rid of.Thanks so much for the fun post! I love how there can be different sides to the same genre, and I definitely agree that humorous paranormal books are a nice change from the more serious ones sometimes.
He didn't realize his transformations would drag him into a hidden society of canine and lupine shape shifters as well as a family legacy he hates. To make matters worse, after moving to Los Angeles to learn more about his heritage from his Aunt Moira and his cousin Kalista, Caleb now struggles through life-and-death matters. He keeps angering the werewolves in charge of the shifter world, especially Kalista's boyfriend Peter, the Southern California alpha's son, who also happens to be grade-A sociopath. Worse, Caleb's floundering to keep his secret from Joanna.
While his family offers him some support, they may not be enough as Caleb realizes that the rules in shifter society---number one is supposed to be don't kill humans---are not so ironclad. Some werewolf out there is leaving a blood-soaked trail across the Midwest and it might just be with the alpha's blessing...
Be sure to add Shifted Perspectives on Goodreads.
You can find J. Bridger at...
- Publishing the Paranormal (Blog)
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