Urban Fantasy – A Quick Guide


First of all, what actually is Urban Fantasy?

It’s basically fantasy in an urban or modern setting.

Who writes Urban Fantasy?

Kelley Armstrong, J.R Ward, L.J Smith… just to name a few.

What Works?

The modern setting allows for a level of realism and a connection to your reader that can be missed in some epic/high fantasy stories. People can relate to these settings and imagine them easily. Kelley Armstrong sets her werewolf stories in real places while L.J Smith uses fictional and real towns in her stories. Both work, it depends on the story and the writer.

Where it can fail?

I have read some urban fantasy books which were awful and the reason was usually that the author had tried to shove something in an urban setting out

Teen Paranormal Romance. This is how far we ha...

Image by tyle_r via Flickr

of the blue, like a leprechaun or a fairy. There’s nothing wrong with creating a world where supernaturals already have a place in society but I think it needs to be handled with care. Think of the beginning of True Blood or the werewolf film Ginger Snaps. We are brought into the fantasy elements slowly but with a beginning that’s interesting enough to keep you going. If you introduce too many fantasy elements all at once it can be overwhelming for the reader and lost the protagonist’s perspective.

Usually Linked to:

Paranormal Romance is often tied with Urban fantasy, as is Epic or High Fantasy, teen, young adult and/or horror.

Many novels fit into more than one writing genre at a time.

Things to Consider?

I’ve picked up (and put down again)  many Urban Fantasy books. One of the main problems I discovered was that many of them began in the same way. They began with the `this is my daily life, which happens to involve this fantasy element’ routine.

Kelley Armstrong managed this opening in `Bitten‘ because the characterization was interesting and she allowed you to discover the situation. I think that’s part of the key difference. If you want to write about someone’s daily life with fantasy elements, that’s okay, but you need an angle. You need conflict and characterization and plot.

Paranormal Romance (sic)

Image by theefer via Flickr

There needs to be some stake in it for the main character, beyond `this is just what I do every day’. Think of any fantasy fiction in this way. It works like any other kind of story but there’s an extra element to it. You can write a cop/detective/bounty hunter with supernatural powers but we need to know more.

Why do they fight? What do they want? Has something changed that has started the series of events?

Fantasy for the sake of fantasy isn’t enough. We still need a plot. We still need character depth. Keep grounding your fantasy writing. Allow it to go to new places but try to do it in a way that keeps your readers on the ride with you.

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5 thoughts on “Urban Fantasy – A Quick Guide

  1. Pingback: ∂| FantasyMagazine | Urban-Fantasy.it è online « HyperHouse

  2. Thanks for writing this article!
    I always had a problem understanding what urban fantasy means, especially since English isn’t my mother tongue. Now I know and and I’ll be able to use it correctly ^^

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