Question For Writers and Readers: Urban Fantasy

I’m used to giving my opinion on things, but here’s a question I’m putting out there:

Why are so many Urban Fantasy novels written in first person?

Do they tend to sell more?
Do readers connect better with the character?
Feel free to post your opinions…

19 thoughts on “Question For Writers and Readers: Urban Fantasy”

  1. I’d never thought about it but they all do seem to be first person, don’t they.

    So, here’s my take on it – I think first person gives them an air of immediacy that is more compelling than third. It literally puts you into the story because, at least for me, I become the “I” to one degree or another.


  2. I tried writing my UF in third and it just didn’t fly, so I had to redo a half-written book in first.

    I like writing both ways and while I think the 1st person was just author preference in the beginning, I’ve seen it actually written into UF definitions lately–as if it’s a must have for anyone wanting to publish them. This bothers me a bit. I wouldn’t want to see the genre so narrowed down.

    I have like one major sex scene in my book and it happens near the end–so choosing first isn’t always for that purpose. 😉

  3. CJHill – I agree that a good writer will put bring you more into the story that way.

    Robert – Hah. I think that’s more for Paranormal Romance authors…

    Rinda – Woah, I bet that rewrite was frustrating!
    I’d hate to see first person written into UF definitions. It’s very limiting! And not all writers can pull it off successfully.

  4. I have seen some YA urban fantasy authors writing in third. I believe Melissa Marr is writing hers that way.

    I enjoyed writing my last one in 1st. It was my 1st attempt and there were times when I felt I could really crawl into the story that way.

  5. I think the limitations on 1st person is that you only know whats going on in the scope of the ‘voice’ thats talking. You can’t see whats going on in the next room, so to speak ,cuz your not there to witness it.Unless it’s written in a ‘this is what happened’ memory recap style where you would have all the facts in hindsight kind of way.

  6. I think of Urban Fantasy as a millieu or setting, not as a sub-genre in itself. As such, what best to contrast your character or his “quest”? First POV gives the possibility to contrast, and both benefit immensely for it.

  7. The settings, characters and storylines of urban fantasy are very noir, and noir is often told in a first POV. There’s a long tradition of the cynical noir detective telling his story, and urban fantasy is just an outgrowth of that. Often there’s a mystery involved, often the main character is taking the role of a detective in the story even if she’s not an actual detective, the settings are dark and gritty, etc.

    This isn’t true of all UF, of course, but there’s a fine line between UF and paranormal romance, paranormal chick lit, etc.

    Plus, I think editors just like a snarky first POV. It establishes a voice on the 1st page, which is an important component of getting a manuscript noticed.

    Some of the stuff I’ve read lately which is basically fantasy noir include the Dresden books, Nightside books, Nightlife, Unshapely Things, Greywalker, and Moon Called.

  8. Also interesting is that in UF there is often only one point of view rather than multiple points of view. I think the first person though grows out of the detective fiction that Urban Fantasy is partially rooted in (a lot of it anyhow).


  9. I think the readers connect more with the character because your right there in his/her head and you see things unfold as they do.

  10. Interesting question, though the majority of urban fantasy that I want to come back to and read more of tends to be 3rd person POV… I think it’s easier to create “snap” in a voice and add humour to 1st person though, as 3rd person is hard to do without getting a little more wordy and you do lose the immediacy of the whole thing if you aren’t careful.

  11. I think Shawn and Diana Pharaoh Francis hit it on the head–the noir/detective influence. That was the first thing I thought when I read the question, and I wasn’t surprised to see that others beat me to that answer.

  12. Good points with a lot of Urban Fantasy having a definite noir detective feel as well.
    And it does seem that YA Urban Fantasy has been the exception (to both the detective and 1st person narrative).

  13. Whoops SciFiChick just beat me to the punch. A lot of Urban Fantasy seems modeled on private detective fiction. This is part of what drew me to The Dresden Files in particular and Urban Fantasy in general. Well, that and the wizards and demons and magic.

  14. Angela, I really like the new site design!!! It’s the best one yet. As far as urban fantasy goes, 1st person just seems help the reader “feel” the setting and scenes better. And I especially like those witty narrative voices that give you a real sense of the character in a short time.

    p.s. I added a banner of your site at the bottom of my Think Virtue! blog. Keep up the good work!!!

  15. I gotta say that I haven’t given this a lot thought but as we’re often seeing our world with a twist to it it might be easier for the writer to show us those alterations through the eyes of one person rather than using a overseeing eye

    Plus a lot the recent UF is series based it’s easier to follow a series with a strong central character as you get closer to them.

  16. Until you asked the question I’d not really made a distinction between books written in the 1st or 3rd person. In thinking about this, I agree with what some others have said: it simply makes it easier for readers to identify with the main character.

  17. Speaking as an amateur writer, I like to write in first person because it immediately draws the reader into the action, allowing you to put your own life away for just a short time and transport you to a world where your normal cares are forgotten. If a book is written in 3rd person, and it falls even a little short of interesting, the reader has a tendency to let things simmer in the back of their mind and can’t fully immerse themselves in the work. Of course, that can happen with a poorly written 1st person book as well, but it at least helps to counter it somewhat.

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