Ever since the revival of romantic paranormal fiction, reader have been hankering for great, original novels in this genre. Unfortunately this has resulted in a lot of derivative knockoffs which are neither great nor original. As a writing community service, we here at PBW have compiled a list of uh-ohs in the form of an originality test, and we recommend that anyone who is considering writing a paranormal romance novel might want to take this exam first.
The Paranormal Romance Novelist's Exam
Answer "yes" or "no" to the following questions:
1. In the first five pages, do the protagonists meet under the worst circumstances, and/or in a dark, deserted alley, and/or are attacked during their first meeting, and/or try to kill each other?
2. Is your female protagonist an oddball with no siblings, no “real” friends, deceased parents, a crap job, no money in her checking account, and who possesses a mysterious and inexplicable superpower of which she is wholly unaware until the moment when the male protagonist inadvertently does something that causes her accidentally to use it?
3. Is your male protagonist a solitary, lethal, massively muscular, insanely handsome immortal who has been seriously considering suicide because: 1) sex with normal women has become boring; 2) sex with superhuman women has become boring; 3) his onerous duties, which he has carried out for millennia without a problem, have just yesterday become unbearable; 4) despite his heroic resolve he simply can’t stand up to the vicious female deity whose smallest whims he must obey; 5) immortality, endless wealth and incomparable power seem paltry when compared to true love, which he is convinced he will never know?
4. Is your story about an immortal brotherhood of less than a dozen males battling an ancient and innumerable enemy in a centuries-old, high-casualty war that despite massive losses on both sides has somehow never once had a cease-fire declared in order to negotiate peace talks, or ended by one of the many decisive if somewhat unrealistic victories won by said brotherhood?
5. Is your story centered around a quest for that one chick who breaks the most important of your world-building rules, and as such is destined to either destroy or save the world?
5a. Is the only way the world can be saved is if your male and female protagonist have wild monkey sex before page 200?
5b. Does your male and female protagonists' inexplicable urge to have wild monkey sex result in consequences that will bring an end to the world?
5c. Unless one of the lovers kills the other one, I mean?
6. Does your novel contain a best friend/helpful sidekick character whose real job is to replace infodumps by explaining the hard parts of the story to the reader via as-you-know-Bob dialogue?
7. Does your book contain a character who is actually an angel, or was before he got booted out of heaven for being a bad boy who couldn’t follow fairly reasonable rules with which none of the other angels had a problem?
8. Is the evil overlord antagonist secretly the biological father of your female or male protagonist?
9. Is the deity ruling your brotherhood a demanding sadistic virginal bitch who takes pleasure in torturing her male underlings who, despite all her cruelties over the centuries, still smooch her feet at every turn?
10. Do the female characters in your novel spend a lot of time worrying about 1) how sexy they are; 2) how sexy they dress; 3) how long it’s been since they’ve had sex; 4) if (despite their mandatory relative inexperience) they are any good at sex; and/or 5) what sort of evil spawn they’ll give birth to if they do the nasty with the male protagonist?
11. Does your immortal male protagonist, who has been effortlessly for eons driving hordes of women out of their minds with pleasure, hold off on sex with your female protagonist because he worries that he is too “jaded” “cynical” or “heartless” for her?
12. Do any of your female characters exist solely to collapse into a puddle of wet Kleenex the moment there is any real trouble?
13. Do any of your female characters exist solely to transform into thinly-veiled rip-offs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer the moment there is any real trouble?
14. Are any of your characters half-blood hybrids who are forever torn between their human and nonhuman heritage?
15. At any point in the story will you make the vampires and the werewolves unwilling allies?
16. Does everybody who doesn’t possess a superpower, immortality or the ability to shape-shift exist solely 1) to be killed by the bad guys; 2) to keep the protagonists from having world-ending sex, or 3) to be corrupted by the antagonist, whom they will serve with unwavering devotion until just after the black moment, when a moment of completely unjustifiable remorse causes them to change their mind and sacrifice their life to protect the protagonists?
17. Do your immortal characters exude powerful scents that your mortal characters find alluring, bespelling or bewitching?
18. Does your novel contain a prologue that is very well-written but actually has little or nothing to do with the rest of the story?
19. Is a glossary of difficult-to-pronounce, wholly invented terms, that when read out loud sound a bit like Klingon as spoken by a drunken stuttering Welshman, parked in the front of the book?
20. Is this the first book in a series for which you have no practical ending or resolution in mind but that you figure will come to you eventually?
21. Did you first get the idea to write this novel after spending six months to a year in agonized fandom over a vampire television, cable or movie series?
22. Do any of your characters have names that have not been in popular use since the year 1066?
23. Do either of your protagonists have a single-word name, a four-syllable name, or a name that translates to something like “unvanquished hero” in Latin?
24. Do you see nothing wrong with having two characters from the same immortal gene pool being named "Lucien Alastair Wrathworthy" and "Bill"?
25. Does your novel contain demons, shadow demons, mindless shadow demons, little mindless shadow demons, etc.?
26. At any point in your novel, do the protagonists have no choice but to trust another character who to that point has proven to be completely untrustworthy?
27. Do you write your battle scenes by taking notes while watching Underworld movies (but fast-forwarding past the really icky parts)?
28. Do the fabulous, expensive, beautifully-furnished locations in your book exist solely so your protagonists can retreat there to have intimate chats that always lead to wild monkey sex, at least until they’re interrupted by 1) vengeance demons; 2) the rest of the brotherhood, who happen to live downstairs, heard all the noise and got worried; 3) sex-starved vengeance demons; 4) one of the antagonist’s red-shirts, who decided on his own to prove his loyalty by defying orders and killing both of his master’s enemies; 5) the female deity, who cannot permit this disastrous mating for reasons that are never adequately explained until the final pages of the last chapter?
29. Do your characters spend an inordinate amount of time discussing their feelings, their tragic pasts, the pain that no one (except the love interest) will ever understand, etc. instead of say, coming up with a practical solution to their real problem, aka a plan that a fifth grader or Scooby-Do and Shaggy could put together in less than five minutes?
30. Could one of your characters offer up a magical spell/charm/book/talisman/power that would solve all your protagonists’ problems, but they refuse to do because [insert utterly stupid reason]?
31. Do you ever use "grated" as a dialogue tag for your male protagonist more than four times?
32. Do you ever use “breathed” as a dialogue tag for your female protagonist more than four times?
33. Do you not realize how big the wounds are when you bite someone?
34. Do you think vampires can actually go on forever without feeding, even if they are in madly love with that mortal and would rather starve to death than nibble once on her neck?
35. Does anybody in your novel fight merciless enemies for most of the night, skulk back to their remote lair on foot, and wrestle a brother in a semi-homoerotic fashion before having meaningless sex with a handy/willing house wench, all of this without bleeding, sweating, bathing or taking a five-minute rest break?
36. Do either of your protagonists have tattoos that, if ever seen by real people in the real world, would cause them to 1) scream in horror and dial 911; 2) take lots of photos for the Facebook fan page they intend to create; 3) demand to know the name of the ink artist who did such amazing work; 4) ask if he/she’s a bad ass vampire slayer with a heart of gold; or 5) ask if he/she’s a bad ass vampire with a heart of gold?
37. Does anybody in your novel ever wield a sword of unimaginable power?
38. Does your immortal hero fall in love with the one mortal female in the entire world who has the only, unknown-to-her superpower that can kill him?
39. Do the shape-shifters in your story possess magic pelts of incredible colors that are never noticed by ordinary people on the street, and that never shed a single hair anywhere, even on that black velvet comforter on the female protagonist’s bed?
40. Is there absolutely no humor in your novel whatsoever? At least, in your opinion?
41. Is your massive immortal male protagonist able to withstand without blinking an eyelash consecutive, vicious attacks from armies of shadow demons, but is knocked unconscious by a single half-hearted girly punch thrown by your petite mortal female protagonist in the midst of a temper-tantrum?
42. During vampire feeding scenes, do you replace the word “blood” with euphemisms like “essence” “honey” or soften it with prefixes, i.e. “lifeblood” because they sound nicer?
43. Does your male protagonist werewolf go through hell fighting a full-moon change so as not to upset/disturb/reveal his dual nature to/consume the clueless mortal female protagonist, whom he doesn’t want to frighten away despite the fact that he goes through this every four weeks and -- unless she's a complete moron -- she is bound to find out anyway?
44. Is there a secondary female werewolf character who is 1) hopelessly in love with your male werewolf protagonist; 2) is insanely jealous of, or has killed in the past, anyone who falls in love with your male werewolf protagonist; or 3) betrays the pack, causes the death of half her friends and hands over the female protagonist to the bad guys because she’s sure that’s the only way to secure the love of your male werewolf protagonist for herself? And does no one ever get even a little suspicious of this chick before the bloodbath commences?
45. Does the female protagonist meet her long-lost or ever-absent immortal father, only to lose him to a demon attack in the same chapter?
46. Does your antagonist have nothing else to do in life but seek vengeance on your protagonist?
47. Does your vicious, overbearing, slightly psychopathic, armed-to-the-teeth male protagonist turn into an oversize, quivering, uber-emotional bunny rabbit whenever he discovers your female protagonist weeping, sitting by a window and sighing, or slumbering on his bed where she fell asleep while he was out hunting?
48. Is your story about a vampire brotherhood who truly despise all mortals (except that special one they're going to fall in love with who turns out to be only half-mortal) and yet spend all their time defending the mortal world against forces that would otherwise surely wipe them out, which logic dictates would really be okay with the brotherhood, given their human hatred?
49. Is the current leader of your werewolf pack a tough but wise Alpha, beloved by everyone, who is about to be assassinated by the antagonist, who turns out at the end of the story to have been one of his most trusted lieutenants?
50. By the end of the story does the mortal female protagonist undergo, either accidentally or voluntarily for the sake of love, a life-threatening change that has never worked on anyone else but by some extremely slim chance may bestow on her immortality, and does it work like a charm?
How to Score: if you answered "no" to all fifty questions, you passed with flying colors. If you answered "yes" to one or more of the questions, you might want to consider heading back to the drawing board and coming up with something new.
(based on The Fantasy Novelist's Exam by David J. Parker)