Can someone explain the difference between the fantasy and paranormal genres to me? I kind of feel silly asking this, but I've tried Google, but it seems like every site I come across has a slightly different explanation (so maybe I'm not the only one who's confused).
There is a thin line between paranormal and fantasy genre actually. Off the top of my head, when I think of paranormal, I think of creatures like vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, zombies . . . etc. When I think of fantasy, it's a much broader term. Like elves, mystical creatures, like a sort of Ella Enchanted world versus Twilight sort of world. Or a better direct comparison Harry Potter versus Twilight. Harry Potter being fantasy and Twilight being paranormal romance.
Usually, when I list my books, I put paranormal and fantasy to make sure that it covers all genres. And usually, if a reader likes fantasy, they like paranormal too. Some people like one genre over the other. It just depends.
Anyway, that's my 2cents. I would love to see what other people think.
Thanks for the response, Larissa. So what would the difference between Paranormal and Urban Fantasy be? Or are they pretty much the same thing?
Paranormal and Urban Fantasy are almost the same genre. Urban Fantasy is, however, stuck with being set in an urban setting. Paranormal is a little more broad. The others who have talked about the differences in Paranormal and Fantasy are correct. Fantasy alone is extremely broad in that the book just needs some kind of fantasy element set in any time or place. Paranormal alone is not all fantasy, it usually focuses on the more common types of superntaural characters: vampires, wereanimals, shapeshifters, faries, ghosts, mages, and the like.
Think of it this way, Stephen King writes paranormal, Carrie, The Green Mile, etc... JRR Tolkein defined the writing of fantasy with the Lord of the Rings. Paranormal deals with ghosts, ESP but leaves out the other dwellers of Fantasy such as the Fae, elves, trolls and the like.
I generally go with this. Paranormal I would assume covers ghosts, and branches out to things like werewolves, witches, and vampires.
Fantasy is more broad, and I'd even consider paranormal to be a subgenre of fantasy. Fantasy covers pretty much anything that has magic, although even what is fantasy can be blurred when you get into genres like magical realism.
I think the difference between fantasy and paranormal genres is that in fantasy the writer builds a fantastical world and in paranormal stories the regular world exists as usual with paranormal individuals vampires werwolves fairies mucking about. Paranormal genre really is a spin off of the fantasy genre.
I would definitely agree with this definition.
Just getting this out there - I'm going to need beta-readers for two paranormal/supernatural/horror novels (first two in the series) next year. Anyone who's up for that, please let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org :D I'd be interested in knowing the beta-readers opinion on whether these fit in the paranormal or urban fantasy more? To me it seems to fit in quite a few definitions and I'm in need of someone far wiser than me to give me the low-down :D
The answers are reasonably close, I think. However, there are many fantasy novels that include werewolves and vampires, so the mere presence of a werewolf or a vampire does not automatically mean the novel is paranormal. "Van Helsing" is fantasy, not "paranormal." "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" is a fantasy. There are aspects of both that border on science fiction, particularly "League" with its steampunk elements, but the fantastic elements keep both out of science fiction.
Stephen King does write paranormal stories, but he also writes fantasy. The Dark Tower series was about as fantastic as they come. "The Stand" is also fantasy. "The Green Mile" could be paranormal, but is it? It seems more like fantasy to me. "Dreamcatcher" was a fair amount of science fiction with a bit of paranormal thrown in for flavoring. "It" is in a similar vein. You could argue that "It" was either science fiction or fantasy with a dash of paranormal.
One of the problems with categorizing any story is that many stories have mixes of elements, so they fall under more than one category. I just finished a manuscript that is a strong thriller with a fantasy overtone, but when you get to the end you realize it is science fiction. Just goes to show - I have no idea what it goes to show, but it does.
As I see it the difference depends on how one defines fantasy. This can be very broad (science fiction and horror can also be seen as fantasy) or narrow (anything containing magic). To me paranormal is a subgenre of fantasy as it has a much narrower scope. First of all, paranormal always takes place in the world we know. More than 90% (just to pick a number) of what you read is familiar. Second, the story contains something that is not part of the world we know. To create a paranormal feeling it has to be embedded in the real world as much as possible. Once that boundary is crossed, it's not paranormal anymore but fantasy.
The question remains what is still within that boundary and what not. This is probably a subjective view. To me it even depends on how the author uses things like "other realms" or "magical worlds". If they are only talked about it is still within, but once it starts playing an active role (like visits), then the boundary is crossed, because the setting becomes not enough set in the real world anymore.
Science fiction is never fantasy. Ever. Horror can have elements of fantasy, but it should still be a horror novel. "Cycle of the Werewolf" is a horror novel. "Salem's Lot" is a horror novel.
I did a bit of casting about and apparently the only paranormal genre seems to be paranormal romance. That is not science fiction either. Heh heh.
This actually reminds me of a related question I was going to ask: are all paranormal novels romances, or is there such a thing as a paranormal that isn't a romance?