Sunday, September 7, 2014

Paranormal Fiction: High Stakes or Personal Stakes?

Posted by: A. J. Larrieu
One of the things I love about paranormal fiction is the many different sorts of stakes to be found throughout the genre. No, not the vampire-killing kind of stakes—though those are fun, too—but the stakes of the plot. In what other genre can you find everything from personal love stories to save-the-world thrillers? Better still—those personal love stories often end up determining the fate of the world. Maybe the “chosen one” trope is a cliché, but it sure is fun to read stories where a single character is given so much power to destroy or save.

One of my favorite parts of this kind of connection is how it tends to expand through an ongoing series. Things may start out personal—our heroine has to discover her potential, after all, and maybe discover her fated mate along the way. But by the time we get to Book 3, the plot has thickened, and it’s the fate of all the supernatural beasties in California, then all supernatural beasties in the world that hangs in the balance. 

I think a great example of this is Nicole Peeler’s Jane True series. It starts with Jane learning about her selkie origins and shaking up her tiny little Maine town with a murder investigation, but by the end of Book 6, she’s battling world-destroying dragons and having conversations with the people who run countries. 

Of course, not every series has world-changing stakes, and I’m a big fan of those “smaller” stories, too, the ones where the conflict is intimate and emotional. Marta Acosta’s Casa Dracula series is a great example of a small-stakes series that’s huge in emotional intensity. The heroine Milagro’s personal journey has more than enough angst, plot twists and heart to keep me eagerly turning pages. After all, without that emotional connection to the main character, I don’t care much about saving her world.
What about you? Do you prefer your paranormal heroine to save the world, or just save her grandmother’s haunted bed and breakfast? Or somewhere in between? What are your favorite high- and low-stakes series?


  1. I love urban fantasy for combining the fate of the world with intimate, personal stakes. I'm especially a sucker for situations where the personal stakes are at odds with the arguably bigger issue. Urban fantasy doesn't have set tropes it has to follow, so you never know if there's going to be a happy ending, a sad ending, or something you've never seen before.

  2. Yes! I think urban fantasy is great at combining personal stakes with the save-the-world kind. One of the reasons I love the genre so much. :)


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