Tuesday, December 23, 2014

How to Write Urban Fantasy Mysteries in 11+9 Steps

Okay, so this got a week delayed due to the post on holiday parties. Sorry!

Urban Fantasy mysteries are categorized as speculative fiction. Speculative fiction, a term created by Robert Heinlein in 1947, is fiction with supernatural, futuristic, and/or fantastical elements. You might wonder why we need a term called “speculative fiction” since we have genres for paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Speculative fiction is not clearly one or another of these, rather it is a blended sub-genre.

Urban fantasy mysteries have fewer readers than most of the other sub-genres, but they are passionate ones! To me, an admittedly naïve reader of urban fantasy mysteries, I see similarities with graphic novels. Maybe it is the fantastical. Maybe it is the subject matter which has an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. feel but without a supernatural hero (usually).

Like the other sub-genres, urban fantasy novels owe a debt to the basic elements of the traditional mystery. Nevertheless, each has its unique elements as well. So this week, we deconstruct urban fantasy mysteries.

1) The mysteries are a puzzle to solve.
2) All clues are revealed to the reader but obscured with red herrings and false leads.
3) These mysteries feature a murder (most often) or a crime of great substance.
4) The sleuth may or may not be a professional.
5) The power of reasoning is trusted to restore order and solve the puzzle.
6) Violence often takes place “on stage” with varying degrees of explicit violence or gore described.
7) The murdered person may or may not have been a character in the mystery before death.
8) The mystery uses plot devices to further the confusion of clues, suspects, and timelines.
9) The language of sleuth and suspects is closer to colloquial use and reflects social status.
10) The villain is the intellectual equal of the sleuth.
11) The murder/significant crime occurs near the beginning, often in the opening pages. Usually there are multiple crimes.

In addition to the 11 steps from traditional mystery, to be an urban fantasy mystery:
1)   Most are set in contemporary times but they can be futuristic or historical.
2)   Urban fantasy mysteries contain supernatural elements and must be set in a city.
3)   Urban fantasy mysteries is set in a real world modified by fantasy (magic, demons, vampires, shape shifters, mythological beings, etc.)
4)   Urban fantasy mysteries are often written in first person for immediacy.
5)   Urban fantasies are often a series.
6)   There are often female protagonists.
7)   There is an element of vigilante law enforcement.
8)   Often the urban fantasy mystery is written in a dry, even acerbic sparse tone.
9)   Some urban fantasy mysteries might be considered contemporary works in a Gothic style.

Urban Fantasy Mysteries to read:
Steven Loton--Riker-Night of the Vampire (Vampire Trilogy Book 1)
S.M. Reine--Witch Hunt: An Urban Fantasy Mystery (Preternatural Affairs Book 1)
Joseph Nassise--The Heretic: An Urban Fantasy Mystery (Templar Chronicles Book 1)