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Plot vs. Characters

Like many writers I’ve received a great many rejection letters and emails. Most are the normal “thanks for submitting, but your project/story doesn’t fit our list/isn’t right for me at this time.” The one I found most intriguing was the one that said, “the idea of secret warriors keeping the world safe from paranormal entities isn’t as original as it used to be, unfortunately.”

I’m just a bit puzzled by this comment. I write Urban Fantasy, and I read a great deal of the books out there in the same genre. Now, I agree with this editor that this basic concept is not an original concept. Nope, from what I can tell, it’s the basic framework of about 70% (could be higher, but I estimate on the low side to be safe) of the Urban Fantasy books sitting out on the shelves.

So I went out on the mecca of all disinformation or information (depending on the sites you visit and/or believe) on the Internet. I asked for a definition of Urban Fantasy. Here’s what I got.

Wikipedia called it “a subset of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times or contain supernatural elements. However, this is not the primary definition of urban fantasy.[1] Urban fantasy can be set in historical times, modern times, or futuristic times. The prerequisite is that it must be primarily set in a city, rather than in a suburban or country setting, which have their own genre subsets.[2]”

Wiki then went on with, “Many urban fantasy novels geared toward adults are told via a first-person narrative, and often feature mythological beings, paranormal romance, and various female protagonists who are involved in law enforcement or vigilantism.”  Then proceeded to list several examples, of which I own each of those cited series, and enjoy them a great deal.

Word IQ.com defined Urban Fantasy as “a subgenre of fantasy, also known as contemporary urban fantasy, modern-day fantasy, or indigenous fantasy. These terms are used to describe stories set in the putative real world (often referred to as consensus reality) in contemporary times, in which, it is revealed, magic and magical creatures exist, either living in the interstices of our world or leaking over from alternate worlds. It thus has much in common with, and sometimes overlaps with secret histories.”

If I wanted to go on until the dead horse was glue, I could. There are tons of discussions and definitions of Urban Fantasy out there. Everyone has an opinion; readers, writers, editors, agents. It’s almost intimidating.

So if my story revolves around a paranormal female protagonist who is involved in vigilantism over paranormal entities that threaten both mundane and non-mundane beings set in modern time, I guess I’m not that original, just another wanna-be Urban Fantasy writer.

Then again, based on that saying, “Every story that’s ever been or ever will be told, has already been done.” I’m guessing what sets apart a published and unpublished writer, is the strength and individuality of their characters and the challenges they face, and the author’s ability to find that elusive editor/agent who likes them.


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