*opens eyes* Oh yeah... wait, wait... I remember now. Sorry, guys-- stayed up late last night with the Christmas knitting--need to sharpen my focus a little bit!
I was going to talk about archetypes.
It's one of my favorite subjects, because it's sort of simple, and, frankly, I'm not that bright. An archetype is an "original type"--it's a form, a mind-mannequin, a character, symbol, motif, plot, or literary situation so prevalent, that as human beings we have an instinctual recognition of it when we read it or see it in a movie or television show. It's the very basic essence of a thing, and when we see it, we know how it's going to behave, or what's going to happen next. When it occurs in literature of any sort, we say, "Oh! I know what's going to happen next! That's what ALWAYS happens when 'they' do this!"
Archetypes are squirrelly things in paranormal literature.
For one thing, the literature itself is divided into two archetypes-- there's paranormal romance and urban fantasy, and that blows people away right off.
Paranormal romance is serial romance-- it establishes a world, and each story from that world deals with a different couple and a different conflict. A lot of shifter stories do this-- we have a pack, we have a lot of sexy guys in a pack, we want to see how they get their thing on, right? Awesome!
Urban fantasy does the same thing with establishing a world, but then it takes the main characters and uses them to explore the world. In this case, each book is about those main characters. Sometimes there are stories of other couples, but it's not a serial-- not everybody in the pack is going to have their happy ending elaborated on. As long as the core characters are seen or at least alluded to, the urban fantasy is a lock, right? I've got my Little Goddess series in urban fantasy. Thirteen separate works, a million words in print, and Lord Green, Lady Cory, and the death of their lover Adrian figures large in every one.
Now some people will call both these types of literature "Gothic", but they'd be wrong, and I'd want to bitch slap them. (No. Just kidding. I really only want to bitch slap people who cut me off in traffic or insist on not realizing that LGBT rights are CIVIL rights, goddammit, and there is no way that's ever going to change. Mostly I'd just want to write long, boring blogposts about the real nature of the Gothic hero archetype, and, hello, here we are!)
See, Gothic literature isn't just literature with atmosphere or magic or people who wear black lipstick and have a lot of piercings. Gothic literature has to have a Gothic hero/ine, and a Gothic heroine just turns me the hellafuck on like nobody's business. BATMAN (the most holy of holies, the slash guy who turns my frickin' key, the holy-hot-hunk-with-a-fucked-up-psyche himself) is a Gothic hero.
The key to a Gothic hero is that he wants to be a good guy. He wants to be a GREAT guy. He wants to be SUCH a great guy that he aspires to do things that no other guys can do--and I don't mean in bed. He wants to be MORE than a great guy. He wants to be a GOD! And when you reach for the stars and the heavens, and you're just wearing a mortal skin with a mortal brain and a mortal heart, you're going to fall, and you're going to fall fast and you're going to fall hard and you're going to crack a hole in the pavement of reality and DRAG THE REST OF REALITY DOWN WITH YOU INTO HELL.
Omigod... my panties are wet just WRITING that.
So, your Gothic hero is reaching for the stars, and when he throws a boner move, he throws it big time--and then he has to realize how his hubris has totally damaged the world, and he has to spend his life FIXING that boner move--while, at the same time, dealing with the extra skillz he earned rightfully when making that boner move in the first place.
And he'll be tortured doing it.
And THAT, my friends, is the essence of Gothic literature--and that literature is, 90% of the time, found in Urban Fantasy, and NOT Paranormal Romance.
Why, you ask?
My completely uneducated, douche-bitch-off-the-street guess is world development. If you're writing a one-volume romance story, your hero has to be redeemable fairly quickly. His BACKSTORY may be Gothic--he may have been Batman in his PREVIOUS life, but as we're watching him woo the panties/boxers off his favorite love-thang, he's going to be on the path to salvation, which would make him more of an American Romantic or Romantic hero. (Yup. I could do this archetype thing all day-- but we all have Christmas shopping to do--I'll leave those guys for another time.)
But Urban Fantasy is indefinite, and we have time to watch our Bat-guy/girl grow strong, clever, and then too big for his/her britches, and then reach for the stars and make that bigger-than-mortal mistake--and THEN watch Bat-guy/girl redeem him/her self. I mean think about it-- that's a whole lot of verbiage if you're going to do it right. You're going to need more than one book.
Now, my one problem with the UCF world building is that very few people know where to stop-- there are some notable series out there that are dying ignominious deaths even as the books are becoming bestsellers with every incarnation. I know that my Little Goddess series has a plot-arc and an end--and it WILL be the end when I finally get to write it, but I'm not sure if a lot of authors do that when they start. I think it's important for the genre that we find a way to not only watch our Batman reach for the stars and fall, but then watch him redeem himself and end--because otherwise, we're going to lose the PFB (pure fucking beauty) of this whole Gothic hero idea. And what would that be?
There IS no place we can't come back from. You put people in a paranormal world, give them magic powers that shoot out their ass or sexual fusion reactors that generate laser beams out their fingertips, and, beauty of beauties, they are STILL going to be PEOPLE. And one of our human motifs, themes, ARCHETYPES for people is that they have the powers of redemption--they can come back from a terrible fall and live to be human beings again.
Which is why I love archetypes. They're fun to look at in literature, and there are some that obviously flip my sex-switch like nothing else, but when all is said and done, an archetype is something we believe in, so completely we recognize it without words. Redemption is an archetype--and yes, it turns me on even MORE than Batman.
We are authors of fictional stories that contain paranormal elements. We can't save you if you have been victim of a vampire attack, or if a pack of werewolves have claimed you as their mate. Although, if either of the scenarios does apply to you, please feel free to let us know. We'd love to tell your story.