Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Fricassee

Okay, seriously?  I've just wasted countless minutes trying to come up with a clever April Fool's joke to play on you.  My two somewhat viable ideas had to do with Jodi Meadows. (I'm not sure what that means.)

I give up.  I'm not good at fooling people.  (Comes with being painfully honest and ridiculously transparent. Or rude, depending on how you look at it.)

Anyway, happy Friday!  Thanks for your lovely comments on yesterday's post. My wonderful agent popped in the comment box, too, to let you all know that waiting is hard on agents, too. (Maybe easy to forget that sometimes...)

Couple things:

  • The April Secret Agent Early Info will post on Monday.  The contests are back-to-back again, but that happens sometimes (I let the agents choose the best dates for them, so the contests are never evenly spaced).
  • Be sure to pop over to the teen blog later today to check out the winning 100-word stories! Some of the entries blew me away with their cleverness and well-writtenness.  (Just add that last one to the Authoress Glossary of Manufactured Words.)
  • That's it, really.
For conversation (and information), I'm wondering if you could share your thoughts on what makes a novel URBAN FANTASY or PARANORMAL? You may have heard me blathering on about my WIP on Twitter, unsure as to whether something I originally conceived as UF might actually be paranormal.  They're both subgenres of fantasy, and in the end, it doesn't matter a whole lot which label my novel receives.  I'd just like to know your thoughts, and how you might classify a novel as one or the other.

Okay, have at it!  I'll see you Monday.

19 comments:

Rick said...

I'm wondering if you could share your thoughts on what makes a novel URBAN FANTASY or PARANORMAL?

As the offender in question who might have helped, um, prompt this - I have no answer to offer but am eager to hear what others have to say!

Bittersweet Fountain said...

I read a great post about this the other day and can't find it! But odds are I probably linked to it through YA highway, so might be a good place to check.

I've always thought it was Urban Fantasy versus Paranormal Romance, so to me that means it boils down to: Is this story ultimately only a romance or is it an adventure/mystery/anything else. Twilight and hush, hush would be examples of Paranormal Romance whereas The Mortal Instruments and The Dresden Files (not YA but still apt) are urban fantasy. Twilight is really about Bella and Edward getting together. The (first three) Mortal Instruments are about taking down Valentine (though romance happens and is a subplot).

So another rewording of the question is, I guess: Is romance your plot or just a subplot?

Sarah said...

We had a discussion on what makes a paranormal a paranormal and some other genres including Urban fantasy on the Write On forums if that helps. Its in "general," under the title "Sub-Genres :)" Hope it helps :)

Jodi Meadows said...

No, for real! We're the same person!

Authoress said...

I guess I should've said it. It really is hard to keep pretending to be 2 separate people...

Authoress said...

Aww Rick. Yep, your fault! LOL Actually, I'm glad you brought it up yesterday, because it really is something I've been giving a lot of thought to for many many weeks now!

Tere Kirkland said...

Interesting conver-formation...

In part, I think the distinction is a marketing one (as opposed to a more technical/descriptive term), one to separate epic fantasy from what I like to think of as contemporary fantasy, a term that doesn't exactly POP as much as paranormal or urban fantasy do.

Of course, if a story about vampires is set in a rural area, or in multiple cities, it can't be called urban fantasy, can it?

I think that in an urban fantasy, the setting (i.e., St. Louis in L K Hamilton's Guilty Pleasures series) is an important, and consistent part of the story. In that particular case, the urban fantasy is also an alternative history, one where the world knows about the existence of vampires.

In Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse books, (marketed as paranormal, or paranormal romance?) the rural setting keeps it from being a true "urban fantasy", right, but it is still an alternate history, just like LKH's series.

So what makes something paranormal as opposed to fantasy? I guess anything with ghosts or spirits would be strictly paranormal, but do weres and vamps and witches and demons count as paranormal, or fantasy? This is where I get confused.

I guess it's just a testament to how much variety there can be in these books. Which is a good thing, as long as your publicist knows how to market it. ;)

WriteSpinner said...

Firstly, I'm afraid I don't believe you and Ms. Meadows are the same person, Authoress. I'm pretty sure it's not nice to have two agents at once, and Ms. Meadows' agent isn't Josh Getzler. Just sayin'.

I think the difference between urban fantasy and paranormal has very little to do with romance. Granted, you are more likely to find paranormal romance than urban fantasy romance.

My definition of urban fantasy: contemporary fantasy(for the longest time, the two were interchangeable in my head. I know the difference now, but I still think they're really one & the same). So, Harry Potter, Rick Riordan's books, and, from what I know about it, the Dresden Files––they'd all be urban fantasy. They have magical elements, and if the world in the stories was changed to your average epic fantasy, these stories would shift over just fine, relatively speaking. I mean, there would definitely be plot issues, but they all contain elements that you would find in epic fantasy.

For me, paranormal means there are probably "creatures of the night"––vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghosts, the darker, edgier type of fairies, etc. So Immortal Instruments? Definitely paranormal. Twilight? Eh. It is, but it's kinda fluffy paranormal(Despite what Robert Pattinson wants us to believe, Edward just isn't that emo).
Paranormal also usually comes across as darker/edgier, in general, because most of these creatures were, traditionally, evil(I don't think books about falling in love with sparkly vampires were even an idea way back when). Their presence is usually still portrayed as such.
And if you shifted these stories over to an epic fantasy world, it would be a bit stranger. You don't usually find vampires in epic fantasy, do you? Fairies, maybe, but even those aren't as dark. (Though if anyone knows of books that do this, let me know. I'm curious about whether it would work!)

So: To me, urban fantasy is a modern-day story with fantastical elements that could've, if the author had wanted it to, been an epic fantasy instead.
Paranormal is a modern-day story with fantastical elements that might seem out of place in an epic fantasy.

Angela M. said...

I wish genres were more clear cut, but the gray areas are open to interpretation. I think certain markers distinguish UF from paranormal. For one, paranormal elements are largely hidden from society in a paranormal while they are part of everyday society in an urban fantasy. IMHO anyway. My genre is scifi romance, which is also considered a subgenre of paranormal romance. Sometimes I don't know which to designate in a query. I guess a lot of us struggle with this to some extent :)

rhea said...

I got this from Karen, a member in my rwa chap: Genre terms are somewhat flexible. An 'eye of the beholder' kind of thing. I've even seen Twilight referred to as 'urban fantasy' (mistakenly, IMO). In true urban fantasy, the city is a key component of the story, almost a character.

There are also some distinctions between 'fantasy' and 'paranormal'. 'Fantasy' usually includes multiple magical/extraordinary elements. Think big world building with a wide reach into society. 'Paranormal', meanwhile, might be limited to a singular unusual element like a ghost or a heroine with ESP. Here's an example with angels. If your heroine has a guardian angel that only she sees and talks to, I would consider the manuscript a 'paranormal'. Expand that to a whole society of angels who interact with the normal world, and the story is probably better described as fantasy. Change the angels to fairies, elves, or shape-shifting unicorns and it's definitely fantasy. Add a bat!


Battling race of demons and set the struggle in NYC, Tokyo, or London and it's urban fantasy.


I hope this helps.

e.e.shalu said...

Hi there! First-time poster comin' out of the woodlurk ...

TBH, I'm not really sure what Urban Fantasy is. I agree with another who posted it was Modern Fantasy, so ... UF is modern/alternate universe/alt reality type stuff? I guess that would make most sense to me. (Yes, I know how sexy I am when I ramble).

Paranormal, IMO, involves the element of magic or supernatural beings/worlds. Vampires, zombies, witches, and the like.

Lisa B. said...

Nice explanation Rhea. And a much needed discussion, Authoress.

Anyone want to weigh in on Magical Realism (magical elements appear in otherwise normal settings)? Someone once told me my WIP sounded like it fit that description. Although from Rhea's description, it sounds very similar to Paranormal.
When you type in Magical Realism on Amazon, two of my favorite authors (Sarah Addison Allen and Alice Hoffman) come up. And yet they are both sold in the book stores on the straight fiction shelves.

I don't mean to add to the confusion. :) Just trying to figure out how to pitch my WIP when it comes time. (I've never heard of anyone pitching MR to an agent.)

Karen Duvall said...

I think for marketing purposes most publishers use the distinction that urban fantasy is a modern fantasy with paranormal elements and a paranormal is the same thing but with romance being central to the plot.

Fantasy is typically magic with magical creatures, regardless of whether the setting is urban or not. It can also include ghosts and mythological beings like angels and demons.

My book coming out from Luna in September is classified as an urban fantasy and it includes fantasy elements and paranormal elements combined. My main character is a modern knight descended from a medieval order and she's half angel dealing with curses and charms. She's a crusader and a thief. The story has demons, angels, sorcerers, ghosts, a mummified saint, gargoyles, an immortal warrior, elves, and even chimeras.

So IMO, everyone's description of the 2 are accurate, lol. :) Kind of hard to have one without the other.

Aldrea Alien said...

I've never given this any indepth thought as I write more on a epic/sci-fi fantasy vein (heck, I probably can't even get my own genres straight).
But I've always thought that, for it to be classed as urban fantasy, it had to be in a big city (any variation, as long as it was a city).
Paranormal: this says spectres of all sorts, psychic powers, werewolves and vampires (the proper sort, don't give me that sparkly variety, I like'em when they go 'poof' in the sunlight). Possibly angels/demons as well.



You know, now I've thought about it. I've written a darn paranormal romance. Thank goodness I've no modern city nearby or I'd be really pissed off.

Noelle Pierce said...

Excellent question, and one I'm struggling with. I write romance, usually, but in this "paranormal," the characters don't want to have a romance. They just want to stop the bad guy. So maybe it'll end up UF. My understanding is that it's all about how big the romance is--primary, then PR, secondary or minor, then UF. My mind boggles. I'd like it to be PR, though, so at least I'm only hopping sub-genres instead of full genres. Sigh. I have a month or two to talk them into some sexual tension...

alexia said...

I think there is a great deal of overlap between the two, with urban fantasy usually set apart by the fact that it involves society as we know it, but with a twist. Like Harry Potter, Mortal Instruments and the Sookie Stackhouse series. And usually the main portion of the story takes place in a city.

Anything with romance being the key plot gets called paranormal romance, even though these stories would otherwise be called urban fantasy, IMO.

Bron said...

This is a well-timed question for me, as I was pondering this just yesterday. I came to a similar conclusion to Angela M. - that urban fantasy involves a society similar to ours but with fantastical elements out in the open, whereas paranormal is our society with magical elements hidden. So a vampire story where the vampires were integrated into society would be urban fantasy, whereas a story like Twilight where the vampires are concealed to greater society is paranormal.

I don't write either though (yet) so this is just my two cents!

Jolene Perry said...

For me, it has simply to do with setting. I wouldn't choose one genre over the other while looking for a book. Is that a simple enough answer?

And I'll agree with Bron - hiding in normal society - paranormal, part of normal society - UF.

CourtneyC said...

For what it's worth, Cameron McClure over at Donald Maass Lit says:

"urban fantasy (fantasy and SF set on earth)."

So, Spec. and Science Fiction can also be considered UF. It's confusing.