Xlibris Publishing shares 5 Tips for Writing Urban Fantasy.
A fairly recent sub-genre, Urban Fantasy combines many elements of fiction to produce stories blending together the fantastic with the recognizable mundane. Neil Gaiman, Jim Butcher, and Kate Griffin are but some of the more recognizable names of the relatively young but still growing sub-genre. Instead of stories set in some fantasy version of medieval Europe, Asia, or somewhere else, Urban Fantasy use cities and places that are real and very recognizable. Places where you the reader might even be living right now.
The core premise of Urban Fantasy is that even in the modern day, with television, the internet, and cellphones, there are still shadows, still veils and curtains behind which the strange and fantastical still exist. Perhaps there are powers and groups that act to keep the supernatural hidden from the wider world… or perhaps most people are very good at ignoring and rationalizing away that which isn’t “normal.” But it is there, a hidden realm with rules and laws separate from those made by mortal politicians. Some fantastical beings just want to be left alone, to live in peace. While others seek to exploit their hidden natures and supernatural abilities to prey on unaware mortals, both metaphorically and very literally. In which case there may be those who keep the second in check.
Tip #1- Research
Folklore research can be a major source of ideas and inspiration for crafting your Urban Fantasy setting, in particular the creatures and beings that inhabit it. In addition to popular classics like vampires, ghosts, and werewolves, consider also the legendary beings out of local, regional folklore. For example, the Jersey Devil of New Jersey. Or creatures out of Native American folklore, especially as certain beings only pop up among specific tribal nations and regions. Would you be surprised to hear that North America has dragon-like beings of its own? Such as the Uktena, the Horned Serpent of the Southeastern Woodlands and Great Lakes regions, with power over elements and storms not unlike Chinese and other East-Asian dragons.
Then there are the cities themselves. The best Urban Fantasy makes sure to give the city a character of its own. The people, the locations, the culture, all bring a city to life and are necessary if you want your Urban Fantasy to actually feel urban. So it helps you as a writer to be familiar with a city, with its culture, and with its history. Popular cities for such stories include large ones like London, New York City, or Los Angeles, due to to either size or rich history or both. Though the city of your story does not have to be one such as these, merely one you can bring to life for a reader.
Tip #2- The Urban Fantasy Protagonist
An important element to keep in mind for an Urban Fantasy protagonist is the ability to traverse between the mundane and the fantastic. To interact with both regular people and beings not quite human. To understand the rules and laws that govern both worlds. Whether your protagonist is a wizard private-eye, a half-vampire reporter, or something else, they need to be someone who straddles the line between the ‘natural’ and the ‘supernatural.’ Sometimes being part of two worlds can be a detriment, and a source of conflict (the bread and butter of a story). But sometimes it can also be a strength, a source of perspective most others, both mundane and magical, may not have at all.
Xlibris Publishing will return with 5 Tips for Writing Urban Fantasy in Part 2.
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By Ian Smith