Genre Police! Relying on Genre Terms in Werewolf Romance

I’ve been bringing my werewolf romance novel to a weekly writing group. Young adjuncts, stay-at-home mom’s, science professors, and recent retirees make up just some of the members, writing everything from religious poetry to YA to thriller. They’re smart people with valuable feedback, but none of them write or read my genre. So there’s been some confusion:

“What do you mean he ‘shifted’? Shifted his weight?”

“How often do they find their fated mates? Don’t they always? Wouldn’t they just wait to find the person destined for them? How do they know that’s them?”

I read enough werewolf romance that I didn’t think twice about using the word shifted for changing into animal form. But I had to explain this and other typical lore, such as heightened senses, rapid healing, what an alpha is. I added explanations in the story, too, for their benefit, thinking if this book is the first in the genre that a reader picks up, they’ll need to know the terms.

Or is this going to annoy the bulk of the readers, who have read a hundred such books?

The fated mate is another recurring concept, with numerous terms in werewolf, vampire, alien, and other supernatural creature romances. It’s essential lore for lovers of the genre but was a foreign idea to the writers in my critique group. The first few months, I blushed my way through explaining, feeling silly.

“Yeah. There’s supposed to be the chance at finding one’s fated mate, but not everyone does, and there’s no guarantee. It’s basically love/lust at first sight, or smell.”

Bless their hearts, whatever they were thinking, including all the guys with the next “Great American Novel,” they didn’t laugh. And damn it, the number of people who read the genre gives the concept validity. Explaining the concepts to those unfamiliar with the genre, standing up for them, has made me take a harder look at the common core of paranormal romance. It’s made me view my story outside the bubble of its genre. While I take some of my fellow writers’ critique with a grain of salt, because they don’t love these books or know what’s popular and standard in them, I’ve learned not to rely on genre lore. Especially since I don’t want it to disappear in the rabble.

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