Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wicked Wednesday - paranormal romance vs. urban fantasy

Thank you for M. Pax for suggesting today's topic.

Most of the paranormal romances we read take place in our modern day world. They're alternative realities filled with magic, monsters, and supernatural beings. You can describe urban fantasy in the same manner. The two genres are similar on a lot of levels and sometimes it might be difficult to separate them.

The key difference: paranormal romance focuses on the protagonist's relationship. It's the heart of the story, so to speak. If the protagonist does not succeed in love, then they don't succeed with anything.

Urban fantasy might have romance, but it's not central to the story. It's a sub-plot, and if the protagonist wins or loses the heart of their love interest, it won't greatly affect the outcome of the story.

Here are some other general differences:

Urban fantasy - most often written in third person.
   vs.
Paranormal romance - most often written in first person.

Urban fantasy - creatures like vampires and werewolves are usually more horrific and traditional.
   vs.
Paranormal romance - creatures like vampires and werewolves are romanticized.

Urban fantasy - grittier style and usually a lot of violence.
   vs.
Paranormal romance - lighter style and less violence as the focus is on emotions.

Urban fantasy - darker events and more tragedies.
   vs.
Paranormal romance - more hope and the happily ever after ending.

Examples of urban fantasies:
The Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
The Twenty Palaces novels by Harry Connolly

Examples of paranormal romances:
The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris
The Fever series by Karen Marie Moning
The Dark Hunter series by Sherrilyn Kenyon
The Anita Blake series by L.K. Hamilton

Not all paranormal romances and urban fantasies follow the rules. My favorite paranormal romances are the dark, gritty ones, and I don't require a happily ever after. I'm fascinated by relationships and how extreme situations affect them.

What are some of your favorite urban fantasies and paranormal romances? What makes you like one more than the other?

43 comments:

  1. Hmm, never thought of the two in this light. It explains why I am drawn more to Urban Fantasy, though I still enjoy the paranormal occasionally.

    Intriguing comparison Christine. Thanks.

    ......dhole

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    1. Thank you! I'm glad I could help clarify the genres for you.

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  2. Thanks for this post, interesting. It seems I'm more of an urban fantasy reader - and writer, though I've never been sure what to call the genre I write. Sorcery figures highly though...I don't like books which make 'superbeings' out of supernatural characters while making humans irrelevant and weak. I have a lot of sympathy with Muggles. My main characters are humans, struggling with their humanity.

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    1. I like to write about humans struggling with their humanity and the supernatural happenings. I think it's a bigger challenge to write a human accomplishing great things than a paranormal being. Thanks for popping by!

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  3. Yay Harry Potter!

    I'm more an urban fantasy girl. Probably because of the grit.

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  4. Of the two, I prefer paranormal romance, but that is more to do with the romance part than the paranormal!

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    1. The emotional journey fascinates me. The paranormal excites me. Both together is pure awesome!

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  5. Really interesting insight. I thought my WiP was paranormal romance, but looking at it, it's more urban fantasy.

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    1. Thanks! If it borders on the edge, it's all going to depend on how you want to market it.

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  6. This was a great comparison list. I love both genres and like to write in both as well.

    My fav Urban Fantasy: Rosemary and Rue, Seanan McGuire. Amazing! Love this series for a lot of reasons, but mostly because they are very well written and take place in my fav city in the world, San Francisco, CA

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    1. Seanan McGuire is really good. If you want really dark and gritty, try some Harry Connolly.

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  7. It was great to see Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere on the list for Urban Fantasy - it is lurking on my bed-side table - next in line to be read.

    I have to admit, I'm a fan of most of Christine Feehan's novels that have "Dark" in the title ;)

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    1. Neil is fabulous! I have his books in my shelf in my bedroom too. I've read all Feehan's Dark books. I like the Ghostwalkers series a lot as well.

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  8. I'd never thought about this before. Thanks!

    Of the two, I prefer paranormal. However, I haven't read many urban fantasies.

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    1. You're welcome. :) The two blend a lot. It's more about if you like to read more romance in the story or not.

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  9. so interesting--i do not read either very much--but probably would have to say i prefer the paranormal--i know i love to watch this!

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    1. I love those sorts of shows too. Buffy, Angel, Supernatural. I get addicted!

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  10. Great look at the differences between the two. Of course the romance is a big deal in a paranormal romance, but it's nice to see the smaller differences between the subgenres. :)

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    1. Thanks! It's difficult to say definite differences because they blend so much.

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  11. So far, I've read more from your Urban Fantasy list than I have from your Paranormal Romance list. I just got done reading the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning (and I loved it!) and had a giveaway of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.
    This was a great look at the difference between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. A lot of times, these two can have the same elements (vampires, werewolves, etc) but still be completely different because of the take on those elements.

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    1. I've read an equal number of books from both genres, but they blend together so well. I just love the supernatural worlds created.

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  12. thanks for the breakdown comparisons! that cleared up a few misconceptions i had! great job!

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  13. Really good explanation and examples of the differences.

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  14. Interesting post! I'd wondered about the difference between the two before, so these definitions were helpful.

    You named two of my favorite Urban Fantasy books--HP and Neverwhere. :)

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    1. Thanks! The Harry Potter series is my all-time favorite. I've been thoroughly captured by that world and I've been for a very long time.

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  15. Thank you for this, I have been wondering for a while what the difference was and couldn't find a good enough explanation till now!

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  16. I prefer urban fantasies because I'm not a big romance reader.

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    1. My husband is the same way. He won't even pick up a book if I described it as romance in any way!

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  17. Great post! UF is my fave genre. I like some romance, but not as the main focus.

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  18. I didn't know that most urban fantasies were written in the third person. That's an interesting tidbit of information.

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  19. Great differentiation... I love both urban fantasy and paranormal stories:)

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    1. Thanks! I do too. They're closely related, so I read equally from both genres.

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  20. I dig this post a lot, Christine, and I want to toss a question at you that's been in the back of my mind for a while: with paranormal romance, is it necessary for either the heroine or hero to be some kind of supernatural being? Or can the "paranormal" exist in the story with the lovers being totally...er...normal (human)? Whatcha think?
    Some Dark Romantic

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    1. Thanks! Oh yes, the heroine or hero can be human. I actually like watching how a human struggles with supernaturals or in a supernatural world. Though, more so in YA, I think, readers like the protagonist to feel special and have some sort of paranormal element.

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    2. Thanks, Christine. That makes sense to me, that you see more magical whatnot in the protag in YA vs other fiction. What if both hero and heroine are "normal?" (Not just one or the other.)

      Appreciate the feedback! :-)
      Some Dark Romantic

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    3. That's rare to find in paranormal romance, but I think it would be interesting and unique for the genre. It might be neat to have a story of a supernatural world where ordinary humans are rare.

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    4. Yeah, I was thinking it a bit rare, as well. Maybe that wouldn't really fall under the paranormal romance umbrella, eh?
      Some Dark Romantic

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