More On Paranormal Romance Vs. Urban Fantasy

This is a big question for me lately, so I’ve been trolling the internet looking for a definitive definition trying to decide where I fit in.

In one post I read (which, sadly, I forgot to bookmark so I could share) describes the role of setting in urban fanasy.  It was an interesting idea that she presented–that the city becomse it’s own character.  Recognizible and central to the plot.  I think this is a really cool way to look at it and certainly fits with the urban fantasy that I have read.  By that definition I am not urban fantasy.

Some other posts made the differentiation between paranormal and fantasy.  Paranormal covers things like psychics, ghosts, and otherworldly phenomena.  Fantasy deals with mythical, fantastical creatures.  Demons.  Shape shifters.  Vampires.  Werewolves.  By that token, I am urban fantasy.  I don’t think this definition holds true at all because there are far too many definitive romances about vamps (at the very least), and several houses have listings indicating that they are seeking romances dealing with those vamps, werewolves, shapeshifters, demons, etc.  So while one way to look at it, not terribly useful way to categorize.

In a recent discussion on Twitter with the lovely Jessa Slade, she offered up the idea that in paranormal romance the relationship is central.  In urban fantasy, the protagonist arc and the world itself is primary.  If you can’t take the romance out without ruining the book and you have a happily ever after or a happily for now, then it’s romance.  That seems like a more solid way to define the difference, but the thing about it is that I am straddling two worlds here.  The relationship and the action story arc are equally important.  It’s like the difference between romance and romantic suspense.  In romantic suspense the romance and the suspense plot are equally important.  And that’s probably why I have difficulty picking one over the other.  What I’m writing now fits the same parameters as romantic suspense–just with those fanged, furry, and fantastic critters.  So by that token, I’m still what I designate paranormal romantic suspense, albeit with a lower heat level than a lot of what’s popular right now.

Think I can talk New York into separating that category out into it’s own thing?

Jessa made the excellent point that romance readers tend to be more accepting of urban fantasy than die hard urban fantasy readers are of that mushy love stuff and that designating myself paranormal romance would be less likely to piss folks off.  While I figure my hypothetical future publisher will ultimately make that designation, it still seems like I am hanging out on the paranormal romance side of the fence.

Update: There’s a nice post about just this topic over at RtB today by the lovely Lori Devoti, whose book Amazon Ink just came out.   Go forth and buy.

4 thoughts on “More On Paranormal Romance Vs. Urban Fantasy

  1. bglashbrooks

    I’ve found the same type of questions apply to romantic suspense and mystery stories. Is it a mystery or is it romantic suspense? Should the romance take the forefront, or should the suspense?

    It’s sometimes hard to tell which genre a story belongs in, but as long as it’s a good story…isn’t that what really matters?

    Good luck with your writing!
    –BG

    • Kait Nolan

      I’ve always been told that in true romantic suspense, the romance and the suspense equally share center stage. And yeah, you’re right. Distinction really matters not unless you have a good story in the first place!

  2. What a very popular question. People seem to be debating this a lot and it is exciting to watch the genre mature and grow. I think Jessa is right. The best distinction seems to revolve around how integral the romantic relationship is to novel and whether or not their is a clearly defined hero and heroine. I also think that classic urban fantasy fans are less likely to cross over to paranormal romance than those that have fallen in love with the more recently published books. I read both, and like more readers there are some authors whose work is too heavy or light on the romance to keep my interests.

    I am definitely an urban fantasy writer. I write relationships in my books, and sometimes some pretty fun sex, but it is only a piece of a much larger story. I don’t know that I would want to take that relationship out, because it is important for character development, but there isn’t always a satisfying romantic ending, much less a happy one. 🙂 And when you think about it, there are plenty of general fiction books that have romance in them but are not classified as romance because they don’t fit the traditional conventions of the genre. Same thing w/urban fantasy.

    Paula Guran, editor for Juno Books who publishes a ton of urban fantasy prepared an article for RT last year and was unable to attend. http://juno-books.com/blog/?p=410 The first few paragraphs focus exclusively on what urban fantasy is and the development of the genre. Then it moves into the protagonist character type that seems to dominate the genre.

    • Kait Nolan

      Oh hey, thanks for the link! Will be sure to check that out.

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