What Is Supernatural Suspense?

When I began the work on my first novel project, The Unseen, the question of genre came up. I struggled a little with this question, as I felt there was no genre yet existed that could accurately describe the novel. I was fortunate enough to have some constructive feedback, as the novel was being worked out within the framework of Forward Motion’s Two Year Novel class, a bulletin-board based course presented by Lazette Gifford.

demon

Image © 2006 Jason Antony

The Unseen is about Lupe Sanchez, a police detective in a small California coastal town. She begins digging into the cause of a sharp increase in violent crime, and eventually finds that the source is tied to demonic activity. The plot pivots around her reluctance to believe in the existence of demons, as well as her faith in her ability to deal with them when she finally does believe.

Horror seems to be the natural choice for such a story. My problem was my perceived definition of the genre, as I believe that horror stories are written for the primary purpose of horrifying its readers. Although I will certainly be using horrifying elements, my goal in writing The Unseen is not to frighten.

The other genres that were suggested were supernatural, paranormal, urban fantasy and dark fantasy (and the inevitable hybrid, dark urban fantasy). I had problems with these, too.

From what I am seeing in the market today, the some of the main elements of the supernatural and paranormal genres are romance and/or erotica, teenage or young adult angst, and humanized monsters. None of these are major elements in the novel. Also, urban fantasy, to my mind, involves traditionally fantastic creatures or characters (elves, dwarfs, fairies, wizards, and dragons for example) in a modern setting. And I didn’t think demons fit the role adequately.

So, I have come to coin the term “supernatural suspense.” The plot definitely revolves around the other-worldly, but the emphasis is on suspense rather than horror or any of the subjects listed above for the supernatural genre.

That’s it in a nutshell. What do you think? Am I wrong about my perceptions of any of the genres? Where do you thing such a book should fit in? Please comment!

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About RNAdams2

I write what I call "supernatural suspense"; that is, suspenseful stories involving otherworldly events. I have a lot I could (and will) write about the topic. I could explain what I write as "horror," but I have always believed that an author should have the primary motive of horrifying his readers, which is not the case with me. I could call my writing "supernatural" or "paranormal," but my writing lacks much of the focus on romance/erotica or teenage angst that seems to be prevalent in those genres.
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3 comments
pcappa9
pcappa9

I'm in the same category with my books as well. I tend to call them "supernatural mysteries" but many people don't get what that means. Agree, paranormal conjures images of vampires and werewolves, and my stories are not that at all. Some call it "quiet horror," a term coined by author Charles L. Grant. But horror readers really are not my main audience either. Supernatural suspense is a category at BookBub and I think it's starting to catch on.

birdinhandbooks
birdinhandbooks

I had the same exact problem trying to find a genre for my book "Mansion on Butcher Lake." I think your description fits my novel just right. I had been calling it Paranormal, but I cringed every time because it wasn't about vampires, or werewolves, or teenagers with hormones all ablaze.  But, just like yours, it involved demonic activity, hauntings etc. From now on, whenever anyone asks, I'm going to use Supernatural Suspense.  Thank you!!

Vadia
Vadia

I fully agree with your assessment of why your novel's genre should fall under "supernatural suspense." I am writing a novel in the same genre!   Have you pitched your novel to a literary agent?  If so, what was their verdict on the genre?