Saturday, June 30, 2012

Urban Fantasy Sucks

Yes, that is actually what a reader of books in a public setting said to me, a writer of urban fantasy. (Classy eh?) Bad, I know, but then another, far more open individual in the group asked me a question that I felt was better suited to a blog post.

What are the challenges you face as a writer in your genre?

 Writing in the urban fantasy genre, and all it encompasses, the worry is getting type cast. “Oh, she only writes about vampires” or “Oh, all of her books are too scary.” It’s a big part of why I let my stories take whatever direction they want. I have books that are horror, urban fantasy, epic fantasy, romance and mystery. Then there are some that cross and blend those genres. My feeling is that in the past, the traditional publishing world authors often (and still do) get boxed into a certain “type” of writing. One only has to look as far as JK Rowling and the debate her new book is stirring up. It’s not a children’s fantasy, it won’t have magic or dragons, wands and wizards. Readers are freaking out that they might not like it, and some comments I’ve seen have gone as far as saying that they won’t read the book for fear of a let down.

To me, that is just silly. For all we know, Rowling’s next book could be a total success in the adult fiction world, perhaps even surpassing the Harry Potter books. But if she were to let herself be type cast, we’d never know.

Another problem IMO in the world of urban fantasy is the tendency for the writing to become just a re-hashing of other stories. If you want to stand out in this genre, and really get readers attention, then you need to write something unique, and this can be difficult. I’ve stumbled over this myself and have had to check my progress in my writing, step back and re-write sections that were becoming predictable.

The third thing I would say causes difficulty writing in this genre is not being taken seriously by other writers. There is still the mentality that if you write fantasy of any type you aren’t a “real” writer. Meaning that fantasy is sort of the McDonalds of the writing world to a lot of people.

My gut reaction to this is, people with this mentality haven’t read as much as they think they have. Authors of fantasy have some of the hardest storylines to write. We build worlds, new races, legends, along with everything else that is important to a storyline. Character arc, plot, theme, motivation and the prose itself.

But, I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I would never back down when someone asks me what I write. I like a challenge, I like feeling that I am growing as a writer and writing fantasy, urban or otherwise, is one way for me to do that.

So say it with me folks! "I am a writer and I write Fantasy!"


Donna McBroom-Theriot said...

Noticed your post while tweeting from Triberr. I am sure there is a post somewhere which will explain these to me but I will ask anyway. Would you explain the differences between horror, urban fantasy, epic fantasy, romance and mystery. I am unclear as to what they are and turn down reviews on them. Also, I had to chuckle at the comment that other authors/people do not take you seriously because of the genres you write. Gee - if you can write a book, I would say that is a clear sign that you are a writer. Not to be confused with good or bad writing, just writing. Thank you. Donna

Anonymous said...

Hey Donna, great question. Its one that is probably better suited to a blog post for the length of a good, well thought out answer.

I will do a post up for it in the next week :)

Shannon (sorry this says annon, my phone is being a pill)

Ella Gray said...

Love this post, Shannon! I also write UF and have come across many of these issues. Especially when it comes to the perceptions about re-hashing stories, because it seems a lot of people think all UF is the same old thing, and it doesn't help that so many titles and covers are very similar.

I do hope more UF writers try to think up unique ideas and not get cornered by the genre staples. And I'm all for dipping into other genres too, another great way to keep your ideas fresh.

BTW - you have a lovely site :)

roro said...

so rude of that person

timgatewood said...

Seriously, you don't know the difference between these genres? Do you read any of them? Or shop at any bookstores? Horror - HP Lovecraft, Stephen King; Epic Fantasy - Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Shanarra; romance - too many authors & titles to list; mystery - also too many to list. Urban Fantasy has magical elements (fantasy species such as vampires, witches, shapechangers, Fairy/Fae) in a modern setting. Paranormal romance seems to be another term for urban fantasy, as there is often (always?) a romance aspect to the story, as well.

timgatewood said...

In this day & age, I wonder why people ask someone a question such as this about genres. All you have to do is go to and search under "genres of fiction" to get the following pages full of answers.,mod=11&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=genres+of+fiction

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Some writers use pen-names to avoid getting typecast. It doesn't personally matter to me because I have no intention to write anything except high fantasy. Although I occasionally read outside my genre, every time I come back to it I am reminded home is where the heart is.

I do 100% agree, though, that fantasy is sadly often regarded as 'B-grade' fiction. My high school teachers were forever trying to get me to write something else. And have you come across the mind-set that fantasy is just another word for erotica??