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Urban fantasy and paranormal cliches

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Wordaholic
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I've seen plenty of lists with high/traditional fantasy cliches. Now I'm noticing cliches (or at least recurring themes) in urban fantasy and paranormal romance. The hunky alpha werewolf, for instance, or the tough-talking, butt-kicking heroine who lives in a big city. Any more to add?

Edited to add: I realized this fits better under the Sci Fi & Fantasy board. Could a moderator please combine these two threads? Thanks so much.  :)

Karen
#1 - January 01, 2007, 07:05 PM
« Last Edit: January 01, 2007, 07:41 PM by Ravelda »
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I've seen plenty of lists with high/traditional fantasy cliches. Now I'm noticing cliches (or at least recurring themes) in urban fantasy and paranormal romance. The hunky alpha werewolf, for instance, or the tough-talking, butt-kicking heroine who lives in a big city. Any more to add?

Karen
#2 - January 01, 2007, 07:30 PM
Out now: DEADLY DELICIOUS

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After serving as a panelist for the Cybil awards, I've seen a bunch of stereotypes and cliches. 

Where do I begin?

1) Opening with a dream, waking from a dream, or having a vision about your destiny in a dream

2) dragons everywhere

3) Prophecies--you know, I got mad at Rachel Vater for saying this back in July but after my experience with the Cybils let me tell you--she was right on the mark.

Those are just a few.  If anything this experience will help strenghten my own writing, especially when I go back and do my revisions.
#3 - January 01, 2007, 07:36 PM
NO MORE GODDESSES:
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EARRINGS OF IXTUMEA: http://museituppublishing.com
CROSSED OUT:http://www.lachesispublishing.com

kellyr

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Vampires are pretty much everywhere.  I'm thinking it's hard to be fresh about them, but still . . . so many YA stories have been about them recently that I'm thinking they might be a tougher sell in today's market.
#4 - January 02, 2007, 06:40 AM

lydap

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I read somewhere a list of things a particular slipstream magazine didn't want. All I can remember was cats. Sort of "for God's sake, please, no more cats." That hurt because I have a urban YA ghost short story that at one point briefly has a ghost possessing a cat, although the spirit in that case is only passing through briefly.
#5 - January 02, 2007, 09:40 AM

justpat

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Personally, I am very tired of vampire stories and just cringe whenever someone mentions one.  Even Anne Rice has moved on.
#6 - June 15, 2007, 04:59 PM

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I'm fine with vampires, so long as it doesn't feel like a Buffy rehash, what with a quippy heroine fighting the vampires and possibly falling in love with them.  I'd even be fine with that, so long as the author manages to turn the cliche on its head somehow.  There are tons of ways to do this, but when I read a vampire book, I just want there to be SOMETHING in it that feels new.  I loved Melissa de la Cruz's BLUE BLOODS, which had a very different vampire mythos going on, and I'm one of the people who quite liked Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, too, because the almost gothic romantic feel to it set it apart in my mind.

I'm not a huge fan of generic witches- as in the type that can cast a spell for anything- I like my magic governed with rules, and I prefer somewhat constrained or domain-specific powers to all-around witchiness.  I'm a sucker for werewolves- I've only read one YA werewolf book and a couple of adult ones, and have really enjoyed them all.   
#7 - June 15, 2007, 07:20 PM

theartgirl

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   I just read a werewolf book that featured a female wolf girl. It was different from the alpha male books. It's called Blood and Chocolate.



    Coll :)
#8 - August 30, 2007, 09:45 AM

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I think female were books are so interesting.  I loved Blood and Chocolate, and on the adult front, I just finished Rachel Vincent's STRAYS (about a female werecat), and I also love Kelley Armstrong's series.  Ooohhh- and Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughan.

Actually, I can't really think of a girl werewolf book that I didn't like.
#9 - August 30, 2007, 09:52 AM

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I think female were books are so interesting.  I loved Blood and Chocolate, and on the adult front, I just finished Rachel Vincent's STRAYS (about a female werecat), and I also love Kelley Armstrong's series.  Ooohhh- and Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughan.

Actually, I can't really think of a girl werewolf book that I didn't like.

Mmm, Blood and Chocolate it one of my favorite books. My WIP features a half-pooka shapeshifting girl, so I hope she'll appeal to readers like you.

Karen
#10 - August 30, 2007, 11:50 AM
Out now: DEADLY DELICIOUS

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As far as humanoid anything, it's always cat-this or wolf-that. TMNT at least broke that stereotype for a while...I swear, I missed "The Architect of Sleep" because it dared to use racoons! I made a mutant lemming for the very same reason. Too many werewolves and cat-persons out there for my liking!
#11 - October 01, 2007, 02:47 PM

JustinDono

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The use of vampires, werewolves and fairies in urban fantasy is reaching critical mass, if it hasn't already.  Urban fantasy is displaying the same problem as traditional fantasy in that it continues to use, reuse, and use yet again the same types of mythical creatures with the same sort of identifying traits.  Vampires are always sexy and immortal, and there's usually some sort of vampire royaty or set hierarchy, and they typically tend to live in urban areas.  Werewolves are always on the gruff side, and live further out in the boonies.  Fairies are...well they're fairies. 

Make up some new creatures! Come up with your own mythology! This is just like the countless elf and dwarf repeats in high fantasy.
#12 - October 02, 2007, 09:29 AM

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Make up some new creatures! Come up with your own mythology! This is just like the countless elf and dwarf repeats in high fantasy.

I have this weird dichotomy as a reader- if I'm reading high fantasy, I'm all for the unusual and really dislike most of the cliches, but when it comes to contemporary paranormal stories, I'm oftentimes more off-put by people TRYING to be original.  I think that for me as a reader, the originality of a contemporary story has nothing to do with the KIND of creature you're dealing with, but the way you frame it.  In other words, high fantasy is a lot more about the fantasy for me (and therefore, those elements need to be more "original"), whereas urban or contemporary fantasy is all about the interplay between the fantasy elements and everyday life.  So I'd rather read a vampire story that does something really interesting in combining the vampire part with everyday teen life than read a story in which a teenage Wendigo goes through stereotypical teen drama. 
#13 - October 02, 2007, 11:43 PM

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when it comes to contemporary paranormal stories, I'm oftentimes more off-put by people TRYING to be original.  I think that for me as a reader, the originality of a contemporary story has nothing to do with the KIND of creature you're dealing with, but the way you frame it. 

*nods*applauds*

I couldn't agree more. As a reader the characters' personalities, passions, motivations (et al) matter far more to me than the species.  I like the tradition of Speculative Fiction as a way to cast new light on old topics.  I don't care which species or lore tradition is used for this.

. . . but I do prefer reading texts wherein the writers are familiar with the old lore.  This is a huge hang-up for me. I'd rather see a made-up being than a traditional one represented without attention to the myth/lore. As a reader, I want re-envisioning of old myth, lore, or legend, but I want texts where people have done their research.  I don't see it any differently than writing about a career, an experience, a setting.  I'll stop reading if any of it is represented without attention to research.

#14 - October 03, 2007, 06:41 AM

Well, this is certainly true in Melissa's and Holly Black's books -- lots of great lore built on names, facts and details that come from researching that which is culturally true and exists in our own myths and legends! I also like when people expand, like Scott Westerfield's "MIDNIGHTERS," creating rules about Darklings, or "WILD CARDS" history where mutations create a new caste of Americans in the 1940's and on, or "BECOMING ALIEN" looking at bat-like humanoids and how they'd be different from ape-like us.

I don't mind reading "yet another" elf or dwarf or high fantasy book as long as it doesn't depend on my assumptions. It's sloppy for a writer to think that s/he and I share the same preceptions about these archtypes just because I picked up a fantasy book. Elves may be Tolkien's or Colfer's or Pini's or Santa's -- and they are nothing alike! Creating interesting elves or dragons or dwarves is just harder because of how much has been done before.

Of course, I agree with Melissa and Jen where the story/character trump the species, but I'd much rather go JustinDono's route and make up my own, but I love worldbuilding, creating cultures/religions/biological beings to reflect something about ourselves. That's what's rich and satisfying about speculative fiction -- the speculation! Saying "What If?" and playing it out to see what might happen "if."

Once I'm done rewriting mss #1, I plan to go back to my current WIPs which are, I believe, nice blends of the two: old, concrete myths with a wrenching twist!
#15 - October 03, 2007, 01:42 PM

maripat

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If the characters are well done, I can ignore almost anything. I don't mind some tweaking on myths as long as the author doesn't go back on their rules later on to suit their story.  Rob Thurman's stories come to mind. The elves are pretty...well...pretty terrible.

Maripat
#16 - October 04, 2007, 04:07 AM

I agree with what Jen said about UF.  I don't see a huge need to actually make up new creatures, as long as a fresh twist is given on the old ones (and there is an endless supply of fresh twists).  Nor do I care if a writer follows the old myths or not, as long as their own version of the universe makes sense and has order.  Of course, if the story is set on Earth like most UF, it does make sense to at least acknowledge common myths, like the faery weakness to iron or vampires staying out of the sun.

I've done a little of everything--made up my own races, written about faeries and vampires, poked at less commonly used ones like clockwork men and genies.
#17 - October 04, 2007, 08:41 AM
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I've done a little of everything--made up my own races, written about faeries and vampires, poked at less commonly used ones like clockwork men and genies.

And, of course, what isn't there to poke fun of with clockwork men and genies?  ???  lifeonmars, you make my head spin...!  ;D

Then again, my fave project right now is where I poke fun at every fairy tale story in the book. Sure, Shrek's been all over it and Ella Enchanted had a turn, but I like my new twist and, as has been said, there's ALWAYS room for another good twist! I'm new at satire, but it fit my state of mind at the time.

At the risk of hijacking the thread, what does everyone consider urban fantasy? Is that just centering the story in our world first? Or dos it have to be a "gritty city" in this world or something similar to a modern, sci-fi world? I mean, would "Alice In Wonderland" be considered UF for its time? "Peter Pan"? I get Holly Black or Melissa Marr...but what about "Feed"? M.T. Anderson set his fantastic tale in a near-future, but I figured that's straight sci-fi since there's no elves or magic involved. Then is Scott Westerfield's "Midnighters" in there, too? That's not really magic, but it's closer to that than "Feed." Am I babbling? I'm babbling. Maybe I should start a new thread over there...?
#18 - October 04, 2007, 08:39 PM

carolfoote

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What about Indian in the Cupboard or Castle in the Attic, which don't have any of the elements this thread has been talking about but are fantasy.  Are they contemporary fantasy?
#19 - October 05, 2007, 09:39 PM

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Alorac, I'd probably call them contemporary fantasy. To me, urban fantasy has an "edge" that contemporary doesn't. Harry Potter lives near London and witches and wizards interact with muggles to varying degrees (Gringotts changing muggle money and all), but I certainly wouldn't call it urban fantasy!
#20 - October 05, 2007, 11:28 PM

And, of course, what isn't there to poke fun of with clockwork men and genies?  ???  lifeonmars, you make my head spin...!  ;D

Well, I don't poke FUN at them, I just poke at them.  The story with the clockwork man is actually turning out pretty serious!  (Hey, it's not always fun being a clockwork man, what can I say?)  ;)
#21 - October 06, 2007, 07:29 AM
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Does anyone have a take on energy vampires? Meaning--they don't drink blood, they aren't immortal, or only go out at night and all the other typical vampire 'rules',  but they can drain the human conscience.

As for dreams, I think a book can start with one if it's done right and it actually sets the tone for the book. But I also think it's difficult to pull off. If it's one of those vague dreams that makes very little sense to the reader (which is the case most of the time), I think it's wasted space.
#22 - October 09, 2007, 04:05 PM
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Haven't seen energy vampires, but the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, or whatever the series is called, has vampires that feed off of emotions. I'd still say vampires that suck your conscience are pretty unique.
#23 - October 10, 2007, 01:12 AM

but the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, or whatever the series is called, has vampires that feed off of emotions.

 :dr

Thank you for that one!!
#24 - October 10, 2007, 05:59 AM

pixydust

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At SCBWI LA they said (and repeated al lot) that vampires and werewolves had past their prime. Stop sending vampire books, was kind of the message from the editors and agents when it came to the urban thing. Otherwise I'd just be original in setting, character, and frame--that's where I think a lot of writers go wrong--they basically write a story because they love the book "VampireBitches" and then end up rewriting the same book, only changing the names.

#25 - October 16, 2007, 06:34 PM

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I do think werewolves and vampires have been done to death, pun intended. (Or should that be undeath?) While I love a good fur or fangs novel, I want to see more unusual urban fantasy creatures take the stage. Like, say, pookas and dryads and kitsune. (cough) Like my novel. (cough)

Karen 
#26 - October 16, 2007, 06:49 PM
Out now: DEADLY DELICIOUS

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pixydust

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LOL! And I haven't forgotten your ms is still in my queue, chicky! I swear, I still plan on reading it...I just met my last dealine for a project and I'm reveling in the freedom. Then I'll be diving in. :D
#27 - October 16, 2007, 07:04 PM

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At SCBWI LA they said (and repeated al lot) that vampires and werewolves had past their prime.

I think you can take this to mean that vampires aren't "hot" anymore.  Nobody is going to be EXTRA interested in something because it has vampires.  I'd still be able to bet a lot of money that vampire YA novels sell every year and will continue to do so in the near future.
#28 - October 17, 2007, 12:55 PM

Steve

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Karen

What are pookas and dryads and kitsune  [Just label me the newbie ... to this forum and also to urban fantasy)

Steve :artist:

#29 - October 17, 2007, 01:47 PM

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Karen

What are pookas and dryads and kitsune  [Just label me the newbie ... to this forum and also to urban fantasy)

Steve :artist:

A pooka is a shapeshifting spirit from Wales or Ireland. A dryad is a Greek tree spirit. A kitsune is a Japanese fox-spirit.
Karen

P.S. Google is your friend. ;)
#30 - October 17, 2007, 09:44 PM
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