The winner is Amy! Thanks to all who commented.
In the mystery genre, there are general classifications that readers assign to books based on their use of violence, sex, and language--just like rating movies. Some readers are comfortable only within the classification that appeals to them and rarely read beyond it. Others, like me, sample from all parts of the buffet table. Let's take a look at these classifications and see if they apply to paranormal books, too.
- Fluffies. These books drip wholesomeness, except for the fact that someone is murdered. Otherwise, they couldn't be considered murder mysteries at all. But the murder is sanitized and happens off-stage. For example, someone might get a phone call from the police informing them that Aunt Helen is (gasp!) dead. There is not even a hint of foul language and the only blood in the book will be there from the paper cut you got turning the pages. Fluffies are a fairly recent invention, created as a backlash when readers of the next classification of books started noticing language creeping in that made them uncomfortable. Thus, the fluffy was born. Guaranteed no encounters of the sex, violence, and foul-mouthed varieties. G-rated movies.
- Cozies. Light on all three aspects. These stories frequently take place in small towns, or if not, within an extended family. The emphasis on character development and especially relationships among a group of people are the controlling aspects of the story. Again, the murder usually happens off-stage and the mystery may involve something like keeping family secrets or falsifying the will. PG movies.
- Traditional. Now we get to mysteries with real meat on their bones, literally. While the murder might or might not still happen off-stage, the reader gets to see the dead body or bodies through the eyes of the lead character. The reader may see other characters in the book killed on-stage besides the initial murder. There may be couples having sex, but in a "fadeout" manner where the door closes or the blankets are pulled up just when things are getting really interesting. No lengthy specific descriptions of what's going on under those blankets. Language has slipped into usage of common curse words, and only the f-word is off limits. Or is it? Some of these books use the f-word in non-sexual ways as a strong expletive or something that is consistent with a particular character's manner of speech. These are generally the amateur sleuth books, where a character outside law enforcement becomes involved in a murder investigation, possibly to prove herself innocent of the murder. PG-13 movies.
- Hard-boiled. Language, violence, and sex are explicit but according the author's standards, not used for sensationalism. Subject matter such as serial killers, rape, pedophilia, human trafficking, gangs, kinkiness, drugs, the whole range of the human condition--anything goes. Language can be coarse, bloody violence is shown to the reader, and hot sex is usually part of the story. The protagonists are usually people within law enforcement in some capacity, or private investigators--in other words, a small segment of society that fights to keep the rest of us safe. R movies.
- Splatter books or erotica--Language has no restriction in either of these books. Splatter books detail scenes of bloody violence and torture that amount to wallowing in blood, which is the purpose of the book. Erotica emphasizes explicit, frequent, unusual, whatever, sex to the point that other story elements exist to support the portrayal of sex. X-rated movies or soft porn.
What about paranormals? Do you think there are general classifications like this, and if so, do you read multiple types or are you loyal to a single type? Are there any fluffy or cozy paranormals, or does our beloved type of reading kick in at least at the traditional level? If your favorite book or series was made into a movie, what rating would you give it? My Mortal Path series is definitely hard-boiled!
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