Let me just say, whoever’s idea this was is awesome. I write Urban Fantasy. I read Urban Fantasy. I breathe it. And I swear sometimes I live it too. Er … don’t ask.
Urban Fantasy is quite controversial these days. It’s currently the number one subgenera of Fantasy and is so huge, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was promoted to its own genera anytime soon.
If you write UF, you’ve most likely noticed the conflicting advice from agents and publishers. For example, are vampires still in? The entire world seems to be split right down the middle when it comes to pro or con vampire characters. FYI I happen to know a number of agents that said “Yes, we still take vampires, but please, no more angels!” When I saw this, I was like “What? How did angels come up?”
Anyway, as an avid reader/writer of the genera, I’m very excited to present what I think Urban Fantasy needs more of (in no specific order):
1. Male main characters. While I have absolutely nothing against female main characters, it would be nice to get a guy’s perspective once in a while. I know the majority of UF readers are female, but come on. Men can make good mc’s too. They can be emotional and fall in love. They can grow into a hero. Actually, I rather prefer male mc’s because men have a very real and witty sense of humor. They’re often stubborn and take a while to change for the better. When they fall in love, they fall hard and become super protective of their loved ones. Aren’t those the perfect features for an exciting main character? I think so.
2. Kick-ass female leads. I am sick and tired of all the “Bella’s” out there. All the whiny, delicate, damsels in distress that you can take out of the story and the novel would be that much better for it. I hate it when a female main character says anything along the lines of “please don’t fight for me, you might get hurt. I’m not worth it.” UGH. I have no problem with the girl starting out weak – but she had better develop into a toughie by the end of the book/series. For once I would like to see a female mc say “I’m going to kick some serious butt with you.”
3. Uniqueness. I don’t care if your novel is about vampires or werewolves (or angels! Haha). But it had better be unlike anything else I’ve already read. I do not want to see a vampire version of Harry Potter or an angel/demon version of Twilight. I want something entirely new.
4. Following the actual definition of the genera. I’m not quite sure when everyone started confusing Urban Fantasy with Paranormal Romance and Horror. The three genres are completely different form each other. In case you’re wondering:
- Paranormal Romance = Romance with one or more paranormal main character (think Twilight or The Black Dagger Brotherhood.)
- Horror = Monsters trying to kill you (not love you).
- Urban Fantasy = When the main plot is centered on the troubles of living in an urban society (crime, pollution, racism, etc) and contains fantasy elements such as magic or creatures of myth (such as the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris).
Do any of these definitions reflect the current market trends? Nope. Can one mix romance and horror into an Urban Fantasy? Absolutely. But it would be nice to see a successful UF that is true to the original definition of the genera once in a while.
5. Plot. This ties in with #3 a little bit, but is more specific. I noticed that most UF is very character driven, and that’s fine. Heck, I’ll be the first to admit that I am very character driven myself. But I often feel like too many UF novels lack enough plot depth. I seriously believe that if an author took a little more time to develop the plot arc of an urban fantasy, it would push the genera from “short commercial fiction” into a more classic, more successful, well-written piece that will out-live the current fads. For sure, it would set the author apart from the countless cookie-cutter pieces out there.
6. Word Count. Okay, so the title of the post says FIVE, but I just had to touch on this. Before I begin my rant about word count, though, let me warn you: Do Not take this one to heart. Word count is extremely important, and I’ve had to learn that the hard way (imagine a rejection letter that says “we were truly excited about your manuscript and wanted to sign you, but we decided not to because your word count is too high. Yup).
However, I’m often disappointed by the low average word count in Urban Fantasy, and I say this strictly as a reader. Why can’t there be long drawn out plots in the genera I love? Why can’t there be Epic Urban Fantasy? After all, UF is a subgenera of Fantasy; a genera that is often written in ‘epic proportions’.
My love for a longer story actually extends to all genres, as it seems that agents, publishers, and the general market is set on forcing writers to write shorter stories with shorter chapters. Long, drawn out descriptions, character background, novels spanning the life of the main character, are all things of the past that somehow died in the 90’s and I think it’s a shame. I remember reading paperbacks that were a few inches think in my childhood. Now most fiction – short of literary fiction - comes to a stretching halt at a mere 300 pages. Tsk tsk.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the necessity of mastering the craft. Knowing how to write concise sentences, grab the reader with compelling action, and submerge them in tightly woven subplot is very important. But what about the art and delight of getting lost in a story that makes you use your brain? I feel it is lost, replaced by books written for a society that doesn’t really like to read.
Sorry for ending this on a depressing note. When I’m published and a tad more popular, I will have to write an ‘Epic Urban Fantasy’ for you all. *Wink*
What about other readers out there? Do you agree or disagree? Do you have something you’d like to add? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. I’m sure there is no shortage of opinions.