The Urban Fantasy genre kicks ass. Imaginary cities, flawed heroines and mythical creatures merged with modern, historical or futuristic societies. Team that with distinctive writing style, original storylines supported by straightforward plots, and you have a bubbling cesspool of literary madness from which genre masterpieces are summoned forth by the authors.
The romantic elements are intense, entangled. You’re exposed to that ‘all or nothing’ kind of love that has your fingers sporting paper cuts the next day since you flipped the page so fast, or arm cramps if you have an eReader. And oh the conflict. Every page there’s an issue to work out, or puzzle to solve. There’s no dead space. Everything you read is intrinsically linked to something coming around the corner.
If you were to have a peek on my bookcase at home you would laugh at the how biased my tastes are. I have a few thrillers, a sprinkling of chick lit, a smattering of high fantasy then boom. Urban fantasy novels are flaunting themselves all over the place. The same thing goes for my virtual shelves.
There’s much to consider when talking about the genre, but I’m going to focus on the characters, specifically, the lead protagonist.
In Urban Fantasy this character will have more layers than angel food cake, and is often plagued with such neuroses you thank the powers that be you’re actually rather well adjusted. Like you and me the character is not perfect. They’re grumpy, stubborn and bloody selfish, but at the same time does, or says things that cut so close to home you can't help but love them for it. You shake your head at their mistakes, but understand why and how they made them. You relate to this shady character on a level you never could to one of altruistic splendor, simply because they’re the shadows of who you might be playing out on a page.
My novel, The Demon Girl, follows a fairy-girl called Rae Wilder running helter-skelter around the broken and busted up city that used to be London. She ends up bonded to a maddeningly clingy fairy who wants nothing more than for her to be treated like a princess. But what she wants is to get up close and personal with a vampire. A want she can't undertand as she thinks he's ugly and fundementally a bad person. The main focus of the book may seem to be this twisted love affair, but what actually draws people in is Rae’s self-discovery, and her journey toward accepting who and what she is. As the story unravels it becomes clear to Rae, it's not what anybody else wants to do, but what she wants that counts the most. Even when her needs and actions cause pain to others. It seems selfish, but how many decisions do you make in a day to benefit yourself? I’m guessing the vast majority, so why would that be any different for a fictional character?
Most Urban Fantasy protagonists are strung out, down trodden, deadbeats bordering on sociopathic. But, they manage to have a certain spark that sucks you in, and has you praying they’ll pull themselves together. Books in this genre for the young adult readership tend to lean on the safe side when it comes to the protagonist suffering under the issues we face in the world. Namely drugs, sex, alcohol, psychological and physiological damage, sexuality and abuse. Adult Urban Fantasy is raw in its exposure of these topics. It would be grand to see edgier stories coming forward and pushing the boundaries of young adult urban novels.
Authors who write adult Urban Fantasy let loose all preconceptions of what a protagonist should be, and give it to you straight up. It makes the paranormal that bit more exciting, because the characters are plausible. The imminent danger of the messed up situations they get themselves into allows the reader to feel more. A technique called “stream of consciousness” (often mistaken for bad grammar) is something I use heavily in my own writing (fast leaps in syntax that follows actual human thought, which in reality is fast and fragmented), and a lot of the Urban Fantasies I prefer feature this technique heavily, as it helps me to crawl into the mind of the lead character and enjoy the story more.
With these stronger, more down-to-earth characters we’ll see less formulaic stories (you know the ones I’m talking about, those stories you know the ending, and each major event by page ten), as the characters will take on a life of their own and force the writer to do new, exciting things with their narrative.
In my totally biased opinion, the best fantasies are the ones with protagonists grounded in reality that has been twisted into something new. These are the fantasies that draw you in and stay with you once the last page has turned.
My handle on WattPad is Miss_Fletcher.