Daily prompt: Aware
Hi guys and welcome back to another writing article on this most sleepiest of Sunday’s. Even as I type my computer is telling me off for unnecessary superlatives but I am ignoring it in favour of a slightly more whimsical opening line. This week I want to talk about a few things you should be aware of when writing Urban Fantasy. For those that don’t know this is a genre set in a modern setting but with elements of fantasy woven into your setting, often a city. Harry Potter’s London is an excellent example of this. Right, genres defined, grammar check made fun of, let’s get to work.
First: The Kitchen Sink
Who here has watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer? If you answered no then I feel old, and if you answered yes then you’ve probably seen enough of it to know that it isn’t just vampires she deals with. All kinds of supernatural beings come out of the woodwork in that show, and the same can be done when writing urban fantasy. But should it? You might be tempted to include everything you possibly can but I would encourage you to stop and pick your favourites. Your city might have an abandoned theatre, perfect for Fae who are often inspirers of the arts, and it might have an old tunnel/rail network, a nice dark place for vampires or trolls who hate the sunlight, and it might even an abandoned silver mine where the werewolf hunters hang out. Pick your favourites, and then find places in the city that would make sense for them to hang out. If there’s no reason your city should have leprechauns (even Buffy didn’t have leprechauns) then pass them over in favour of a more flavoursome being that fits the settings your building.
Second: Someone’s done it before
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but no matter how brilliant and unique your premise is, chances are someone’s done it before. However, the same can be said of pretty much any novel at this point, so my suggestions are as follows. Firstly I would focus on your characters during your story and make it character driven. Vampire hunters have been done before, but what if instead of a sexy femme fatale in leather yours is a single mother trying to balance her parental duties with a need to hunt vampires. The story becomes more about her than it does about vampire hunting, and while someone will have done a hunter story before, people will read yours for your character rather than that premise. Second, if you are trying really hard to be original then I would look at all the common UF settings (London, New York, Chicago etc.), and then ignore them in favour of a setting nobody has used before. Setting is such a huge part of this genre that making it unique will have a huge impact on the originality of your novel, bonus points if you weave local folklore and urban legends into your story.
Third: Day Jobs
My final point for UF would be the day jobs your character has because, unless slaying/being a wizard/being a werewolf pays well, they are going to need money for rent, food, bills and all the other stuff that makes them relatable to us mere mortals. the supernatural PI is a common one but has been done a fair bit at this point, but maybe a reporter who has to balance finding the truth with how much truth they should actually reveal in the paper. What I would love to see, however, is someone in a job without such mobility as a PI/reporter, someone who is chained to a desk 12 hours a day like most of us. Having to deal with unreasonable managers/hours/sick days is something we can all relate to, and it adds another layer of conflict to the story. Your wizard might skive off and stop a warlock from summoning some ungodly entity into our plane of existence, but it won’t stop him getting dragged over hot coals when he finally gets back to work. Have fun with it, make it complicate their lives, and at some point please have a troll smash their desk in two.
That’s it for me today, I think I’ve been a bad enough influence for one morning. If you like my tips, agree with them, or even disagree with them then I’d love to hear from you. Nothing makes my day more than a healthy debate about my favourite genre.
Until then, I’m off to argue with an ogre about his overdraft.