Parnormal Romance #1

The Living and the Dead

Welcome! This is the first article in a planned series on paranormal romance (my favorite genre to write). There is no limit to the possibilities for paranormal pairings, but today we’re going to take a look at one of the more common kinds of couples: living people and ghosts.

Where all the live and the dead folks meet

If you want a meet-cute, you need a meet. Literary ghosts can often be found in two places: where they died, and where they’re buried. The most common places of death are homes and hospitals, but as a writer, you can set your haunting on a country road, deep-sea oil rig, spaceship, cruise ship, desert island, train, college dorm, bar, or hotel. As for burial, people tend to end up (pun intended) in cemeteries, but murder victims’ bodies could be hidden, and there are also people whose remains lie in an undiscovered plane or car crash, bodies of water, or lost in the wilderness. Other haunted meet-cute possibilities include places where bodies are processed, like funeral homes and morgues, and homes or workplaces where the dead spent their lives, even if they didn’t die there. Often, literary ghosts are unable to leave their haunted home, but you could have a ghost tied to a portable object, like a book of spells or a really scary spoon.

The scare-o-meter

We know this is a romance, but the scare factor is up to you. Does your haunted house kill characters or just scare them? If they die, is it quick or messy? Does the backstory of the house include shocking violence and murder, or deaths due to disease and old age? Do you have a cast of kindly ghosts who want to protect your characters, or dead serial killers who’d love to up their body count? Of course, you can also write scares as comedy. Maybe the ghostly victims of the serial killer are a squabbling bunch annoyed by the fact that only one of their bodies has been discovered, and spend their time creating increasingly unlikely plans to guide the living to the rest of the hidden graves, all of which just end up terrifying visitors, and I TOLD you, Richard, this is why we need to be on Youtube, all the other haunted houses are there.  

[Set the scene: How to Write the Same Paragraph in 7 Different Genres]

The smut-o-meter

Horror movies can be a turn-on: it’s sexy to be scared. So you could have your unlikely couple start as a haunted hook-up and fall into love from there. Or you could have a slow-burn romance that lasts a literal lifetime. One fun smut trope with ghosts is touch-starvation. Depending how old your ghost is, it might have been a while since they’ve had any contact. Of course, touch is a tricky topic when it comes to ghosts who flit through furniture and vanish into the varnish. Can your ghost touch anything? It might be quite fun to write a smut scene where the characters can’t touch. 

Tragic backstory

The how and why of your ghost’s death matter for your plot. But their personality will determine the heat and horror of your romance. Presumably, being dead is hard to handle. Does your ghost possess (pun intended) an inner reserve of calm and courage, or are they raging against the dying of the light? You can have a truly scary ghost that gives your living character an unwanted glimpse of the great beyond, or a protective presence who acts as guardian against Everything Else in the house; an awkward ghost tripping around a busy hospital, or a confused presence who doesn’t realize they’re dead.

A living soul

Ghosts make for really interesting characters, but in a romance, you’ve got a couple (or polycule) of main characters. So who’s on the living side? Some people are more likely than others to meet ghosts: ghost hunters, mediums, and psychics on the psi side of things, as well as those who deal with death: doctors, coroners, cops, priests, and gravediggers. But anybody can move into a haunted house or take a job as caretaker of a spooky, run-down property in the woods where nobody can hear you scream. There are also the horror-story idiot types: people who play with ouija boards or run afoul of superstitions. What’s your living character’s opinion of the occult? Have they been chatting with grandma’s ghost since they were a kid, or would they assume the cute guy in the old war uniform is a historical reenactor? Even if they are used to ghosts, falling in love with one is probably…unexpected.

How to end it (pun intended)

So there is one fairly large problem with the living/dead pairing, and that is that, well, one is living and one is dead. Here are three common solutions:

1. The living person dies. This is an easy one because, in fact, every living person does die. It could be early in the story. It could be at the end of a life spent unable to feel the touch of their ghostly lover. It could be completely unexpected, or something your ghost can sense coming, but in a romance, it’s likely the beginning of a shared eternity.

2. The ghost comes back to life. How? I don’t know, it’s your story. Maybe it’s magic or the Power of Love (aww), maybe it’s the result of a trial your characters must endure, or perhaps somebody figured out how to bribe the Grim Reaper.

3. The ghost is not a ghost/They’re both ghosts. Guess what, they were never really separated to begin with! Maybe your “ghost” is in a coma, or under a spell, or maybe your “living” character is, ah, well, a bit too dense to notice they’re dead. In any case, once they’ve got it figured out, you have your happy ending.

Nothing shakes up a romance like having an impossible love across the literal border of life and death. Remember, life is short: write your story!

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