07 September 2007

Paranormal Lifespan and the Romance: Immortal vs. Mortal

So who does it for you ladies? Mr. Immortal who has seen centuries of loneliness until he meets the heroine, or Mr. Mortal who is scary & monstrous, but has only one life-time for redemption and true love?

World-building in paranormal romances involves many decisions on the part of an author. One aspect of that “world” that has far-reaching consequences is deciding if the paranormal characters live for centuries or do they pass through the story, aging more or less the same as humans.

As authors we get to have lots of fun with this whole spectrum of lifespan. We play “god” and decide if silver kills the werewolf, or if Count Hotpants witnessed the fall of the Roman Empire standing in the sun. I have read (and written) variations on those two extremes. Most immortal characters have a weakness that can lead to their death. Mortal paranormal characters are not mere humans. These characters commonly have strengths that make them hard to kill and age slower.

But how does the mortality of the character affect the reader’s experience of the romance?

An immortal character can bring a darkness and depth to a romance that surpasses the human experience. This character is “larger than life” and exciting for the reader. Elements from historicals can be tied into the plot creating a bigger story. And let’s not forget the practice an immortal hero has in the bedroom department! But remember the scene in Highlander when Conner Macleod is holding his elderly love as she dies? Downer!

Can there be a true, resounding happy-ever-after with an immortal? If the author has to “match” the destinies of the two love leads, how do you like it to come out? Should they both become immortal and live outside the typical human experience, or should the immortal fall to earth and become mortal to complete the romance experience?

What about the mortal paranormal characters? Are their supernatural abilities enough to make them special and interesting? With mortality comes messy problems like family and death. Do these more “real” issues take away from the escapism of paranormal romance? Do mortal paranormal characters have what it takes to satisfy?

But with mortal pairings the flip side of death is birth. In this happy-ever-after, the implication of a secure future with a normal life span and probable babies (and supernatural babies, to boot) creates a satisfying fulfillment of the romance story arc.

Let us know what you think. How does the immortality, or lack of immortality, affect your romance reading pleasure?
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