State Library of Victoria \ Inside a dog
Skip to main content

Deeper meaning in paranormal stories (aka: When I think too much)

Oct 12,2012
Printer-friendly versionSend by email

A few years back, I wrote a blog post wondering whether or not fantasy (including urban fantasy, high fantasy, paranormal romance etc.) was a new form of spirituality, particularly for young adults.

I wrote it at the height of Twilight hysteria, when there was an explosion in popularity for everything vampire and werewolf – closely followed by angels, faeries and pixies.

Readers of all ages love these types of stories, but in recent years there’s been a much stronger push in the YA market for paranormal stories. Most of the appeal is about escapism – stories that take you somewhere else for a while.

Is the fantasy/paranormal trend a natural progression from classic horror stories (I certainly spent plenty of hours reading Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Peter Straub as a teenager), even if most of the new breed of stories isn’t actually about horror?

Or is it a symptom of something else? A need to live – albeit fleetingly – in a world where there is more to reality than we can see? A place where greater forces are at work and an ordinary person can discover they truly are ‘special’ – maybe even have an epic destiny?

Are these stories, in some bizarre way, a new form of spirituality? I’m not talking about lore/mythology as a doctrine, but as an experience.

In these alternative worlds, there’s generally a deeper meaning in life, death and suffering, even if it all takes place as part of a narrative far removed from reality. Readers can exist in a world where there are clearly defined rules (even if the characters break them).

Religion tends to play a stronger role in traditional fantasy (and often in a negative context), but is generally avoided in paranormal fiction. Yet the ‘other-wordly’ aspects remain a huge part of the genre’s appeal.

Given traditional organised religion isn’t necessarily an influence in a lot of young people’s lives (or is it?), are fantasy/paranormal stories a substitute – at least in terms of having a sense of mystery in life?

Or maybe I’m thinking about all this too much and it’s really just about hot guys with supernatural powers…

Oct 17,2012
Religion is definitely a tricky subject to handle in any form of fiction. As this excellent thread of conversation demonstrates, readers approach stories from their own belief (or non belief) system and how they take a particular story will be purely subjective. As authors, I think we need to be aware of that, but always stay true to the story we are trying to tell. The minute we try to gloss over religion (when it is important to the narrative - in whatever context) readers will pick up on that and most likely switch off. Really enjoying reading everyone's thoughts. :)
Oct 17,2012
I think the paranormal stories are not as scary as typical horror movies as these stories usually include romance which is typically forbidden. I think reading these kinds of books takes readers into another world and makes them forget about what is happening in their lives as these books also have a way of captivating readers quickly and for a long time. One thing though that authors must always be aware of and gladly are is the fact of religion. Religion can play a large part in how a book is written and their concept as religious readers may take these kinds of stories to heart. Religions must always be portrayed accurately or do not try to portray them at all to keep safe. Although mentioned in the article above, religion is often avoided by paranormal authors anyway.
Oct 16,2012
When people are confused about their religion and their own beliefs they look to different sources to find that missing piece, some go to other religions while others look into books. When reading paranormal stories, religion is tested and is proven wrong; and people see this as a new way to look at life, and these books soon become their beliefs
Oct 15,2012
Escapsim...absolutely! Still the number one reason I love reading.
Oct 14,2012
im finding it now that most of these YA paranormal fiction stories are just cliches of the new typical vampire (typical relating to twilight). i think these sorts of books just help us get away from the real world a bit and help us take a break from whatevers going on in real life. (like picturing hot guys with supernatural powers :D)
Oct 14,2012
The thought of the link between religion and paranormal/fantasy stories, can go in pretty deep, but it depends in what context the story is and the persepectve your looking at the story, maybe it does differ for each individual.... when each person does have their own opinions, thoughts and viewpoint.
Oct 13,2012
It makes sense there's a divide between those who just like the hot guys, and those who get more out of the stories (and who probably don't mind the hot guys too..) And I agree there is a shift away from the traditional knight in shining armour. I remember there was a lot of debate around the height of Twilight mania about how the story revealed that girls (and women) still secretly wanted to be rescued. I don't doubt a lot of the stronger female characters in paranormal fiction have been a bit of a reaction to that... Thanks for the great comments. :)
Oct 12,2012
anonymous's picture
I think it might just be the modern day version of having a knight in shining armour. Or being the knight in shining armour. The YA paranormal fiction genre seems to be moving past the guy being the hero for a damsel in distress and now the female characters are just as strong and powerful. When you think about it, even kids' animated movies are taking the same track, Cinderella is now Tangled, moving from helpless lasses to empowered women. Ok so I got off track from the original question there but interesting nonetheless?
Oct 12,2012
Religion is my life, though I don't think I can disagree with you on a general level :) That being said, I don't exactly how big the divide is, but I think there is one, between a group that really do prefer the hot guys - I've met some, who explicitly mention they don't care about the story, they just love the guys - and there are those who actually do delve into this... deeper level that you mention o.O Guess it differs for each individual?

Post new Comment

All comments are moderated and will not appear immediately. Please be patient - we're keen to know what you think and will get to your comment as fast as we can.