Partridge India Writing Tips| 5 Urban Fantasy Writing Tips Pt 2
Partridge India returns with Part 2 of 5 Urban Fantasy Writing Tips.
In the previous entry, we talked about the value of research and the key characteristic of an urban fantasy protagonist, Tips #1 and #2. We continue with:
Tip #3- It takes a City
A key aspect of Urban Fantasy is of course, the urban part of it. A fantasy story that takes place in a setting that is modern and contemporary is what differentiates this genre from more classical and traditional forms of fantasy fiction. Thus, you the writer should place great emphasis on the city and modern landscape serving as a backdrop to your story.
The city of your story should have a character, an identity to it, much like your protagonist and the people or beings they interact with. It is important that your city should feel alive, with an identity and character of its own, so that is more than generic buildings and streets to your readers.
What are the joys of living and working in your selected city? The frustrations? The sights, the sounds, and the food? How do different neighborhoods and districts embody different sides or faces of the same city? Who are the people who live their lives in your city? Who embodies the different aspects of the city? Asking yourself these kinds of questions can help you bring your chosen city to life, making it just as much a character as your heroes or villains.
Tip #4- World Building
In addition to bringing your city and its inhabitants to life, you will also need to do the same for the fantastical elements of your story. Establish the rules of how magic works in your setting. What kind of supernatural creatures exist? How do they interact with or perceive humans? Who are the ruling powers of the supernatural world and how do they keep their power? What rules, laws, and accords keep the various supernatural powers from accidentally revealing themselves to the mundane populace that greatly outnumbers them? What niches- both environmental and societal- do supernatural beings and persons tend towards filling (though this shouldn’t be an absolute rule)?
These are the kinds of questions you should ask yourself as you build the hidden world of your setting.
Tip #5- Clashing Worlds
The concept of ‘clashing worlds’ provides for good themes, sources of conflict, and plot elements. At its core, Urban Fantasy is a clash between the world familiar to readers and the fantastical world hidden in the shadows. The rules that govern one may be completely different for the other. What a human may see as morally right, a vampire may consider an inconvenience necessary to remain hidden from the wider world. This is especially the case with long-lived beings that may maintain mannerisms and cultural traditions of older, more bygone periods. An emphasis on respect, courtesy, and good manners is fairly common throughout folklore, when it comes to interacting with even the most dangerous supernatural creatures.
This clash of worlds often applies to the protagonists of urban fantasy, who often find their lives pulled between their places in both the mundane and mystical worlds. Perhaps a protagonist’s responsibilities in one world interfere with their responsibilities and goals in the other. A basic example would be a protagonist who ends up late for a date or otherwise important appointment, only to be waylaid or even attacked by supernatural forces and agents.
Clashing Worlds can also refer to modern weapons and technology against mysticism and supernatural powers. While not always the case, the clever application of technology or scientific knowledge can be the equalizer against a vastly superior supernatural foe, especially if a being has specific, folklore-inspired weaknesses (silver for werewolves, fire and sunlight to vampires and other beings).