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Explain how to differentiate between fantasy & paranormal...

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by LadyofKaos, Apr 17, 2013.

  1. LadyofKaos

    LadyofKaos Scribe

    Perhaps you think it a stupid question but I honestly am not clear on the differences. When I hear paranormal my little mind thinks of Paranormal Activity type paranormal or GhostHunters but, in my readings, I find it's not the case at all. Now I'm wondering if perhaps my book, Blood of Kaos, could be considered 'paranormal'. Please enlighten a lost soul...
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    The line is fuzzy at best...
    but my halfpennyworth would be
    if the setting is concurrent with this world [i.e. usually fairly normal] but with strange things happening, then it is paranormal..
    If the setting is fantastical [world and or creatures [i.e. not concurrent with this world]] and strange things start happening - then its fantasy...

    But there is probably as many similarities and places of overlap as there are differences...
  3. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    What Joe said. I'd consider vampires in modern world to be paranormal, vampires in historical or created world to be not paranormal, and both to be fantasy. Ditto if you switch out vampires for ghosts, spirits, and so on. Also, within paranormal, the less physical (as in solid, with physical rather than psychological impacts) the non-real element is, the more paranormal it is - werewolves are at the edge of paranormal, but involve ghosts and auras and electromagnetic pseudo-science, and that's deeply paranormal. And it's all still fantasy, though the edges of fantasy. As far as I see it, anyway. YMMV.
  4. Hancewicz

    Hancewicz New Member

    Well fantasy usually does contain paranormal elements, doesn't it?
  5. LadyofKaos

    LadyofKaos Scribe

    Thank you Joe & Chilari, your explanations help me understand the two genres a bit better.

    Hancewicz, that's exactly my way of thinking. From what I've read the two seem to intertwine. So I'm thinking now that I'm right in saying my story is a fantasy albeit with some paranormal ticks. :cool:
  6. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

    One general difference is that in fantasy, if you come across a ghost or a demon, there's a pretty good chance that it's possible to fight and defeat it. In paranormal, no such option exists. I call this observation "Lovecraft's Rule".
    Ophiucha, wordwalker and CupofJoe like this.
  7. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    I like that one; I usually say "In fantasy you have a showdown where the enemy has a shiny 'gun' and you have a shiny 'gun.' In horror he's got a shiny 'gun' and you've got a set of antlers." :)

    But I think that in theory, fantasy means there's a wider set of fantastic forces and rules in the world, some hostile and hopefully some not. If that's still set in our world, we used to call it "contemporary fantasy," and use "paranormal" where there are just a few fantastic elements there (ghosts but not a full Faerie Court, psychic powers but not traditions of magic). Related to that, paranormal might also (but sometimes doesn't) imply there's not enough power out there to let you fight back on equal terms, but it doesn't guarantee it-- while horror does.

    (I admit I'm biased: I classed Shadowed as paranormal because it's about one psychic power, then decided I'd have to call The High Road contemporary fantasy because that Earth's single power involves magic words. Sigh.)

    In practice, I think "paranormal" is getting used more and more as a marketing term for "really contemporary fantasy," which might mean either grittier or more Twilight-esque. I think it just means the marketers don't trust the word Fantasy, let alone Horror.

    In the end, it means whatever the readers think it means.
  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    It seems to me that "paranormal" now includes the whole gamut of otherworldly creatures or entities. Ghosts, vampires, werewolves, angels, demons, or whatever. Just look at the subject matter categorized as "paranormal" on the shelves.

    It seems to me all paranormal stories are also fantasy stories, but that the reverse isn't necessarily true.
  9. Jamber

    Jamber Sage

    I'm confused too, actually -- I used to think 'paranormal' meant contemporary with some kind of 'mental' element (e.g. telepathy, telekinesis) or mental magic, usually to do with a person's interior 'gift' or whatever, rather than things like vampirism and lycanthropy. Thus for me, Twilight was paranormal because of elements of telepathy and some kind of 'gift' (the main character is naturally able to resist being mind-read) in a contemporary setting, rather than its vampires.
    Not sure if there's any sort of truth to this -- it was just a feeling I had.
  10. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

    Even though I think this erases certain subgenres of fantasy (ones without a strong action/adventure plot), I do really like this description because it helps distinguish between the very tough line of 'paranormal' and 'urban fantasy'. Because sometimes you get a modern day story with vampires that is about questing for a stake located in some Manhattan sewer and having a duel to the death at the end, and that is unquestionably fantasy no matter how modern or where the monsters in question come from. Plus, though perhaps not intentionally, I think it also gives room for paranormal romance. The tropes of that genre, though twisted for the sake of a love triangle, are often built on the idea that the vampire is unbeatable. In Twilight, there are no vampire hunters and Bella is never capable of fighting Edward (until the last book, I suppose, but then that one almost has a big fight scene, so it is toeing the line).

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