If you’d asked me many years ago if I would write any kind of fantasy, I would have said no. I’d considered it at one point for my second novel, but I kept seeing people talking in loving detail about building the world first. The thought of doing world-building was enough to make me discard the idea immediately.
But I had a lot of trouble pinning down what I did like to write. Some people instantly gravitate to a genre. I read a lot of different kinds of books, so instead, I gravitated to where the idea was. The resulted in a book that I called a mystery, but when I read all the craft books, I didn’t have any elements of a traditional mystery. Yet, I was finding similar books on the shelf, in the mystery section. It turned out it was a psychological thriller.
My next book, with a cowriter, was a thriller, more along the flavor of the ones I really liked. It had a lot of action, a lost treasure of sorts, high stakes — action adventure. After things ended with the cowriter though, I now faced a new problem. While we’d been writing the book, thriller had started to change. Any time I went into the bookstore now, it was hard for me to find thrillers that weren’t crime novels. It was also hard to find thrillers that didn’t have gratuitous violence. A whole lot of books had characters getting hands cut off or eyeballs being gouged out. Not what I wanted to write.
Which meant I had to change genres and figure out what I really wanted to write. So I made a list of the genres I liked to read first. Then I listed what I liked about the genre (pros) and the cons — things I would have trouble with or wouldn’t like if I tried to write them. Some genres I like to read didn’t have enough action for me as the writer. Fantasy, of course, got the world-building con.
Yet, I kept moving back to fantasy, because of the other genres had worse cons. That world building was a huge sticking point, because I truly don’t enjoy doing it. I’m right-brained — I jump into stories and start writing. Planning out the entire setting before I even get the story started? It was too much like doing an outline. I might as well shoot the story now and put it out its misery. It was a surefire way to kill the story for me.
Then — urban fantasy? I’d been reading them and liked the action. Monsters were cool, too. Urban fantasy was set in modern cities with real world things, so I wouldn’t have to build things completely from scratch like if it had a modern setting. Better still, it could be a treasure hunt with magic! So I went off on a hunt to find information on urban fantasy to see what I needed to do to fit in them. I was beginning to discover with this that if you’re outside the genres in the bookstore, there isn’t much on them. There was some scattered sites on UF, and I seemed to fit all of them.
And yet … I didn’t have any vampires, werewolves, or anything supernatural. Mine had more of “B-movie monsters,” created with magic. Nor was the story in the traditional first person most UFs are — mine was in omni. And I needed to set it in a made up country. Deja Vu! I was going back down the path of the problem with thriller again. I’d landed in something that I still didn’t quite fit. I wrote as UF in my head, and it stayed that way for quite a while. At least until I read a description of contemporary fantasy that an UF writer posted on a message board. My fictional setting and the omni viewpoint, as well as the story subject, veered it into contemporary fantasy. I’m not detail-oriented, so I don’t really see much of a distinction, especially when some of the UFs veer away from the supernatural or have other significant differences. What it does have is action-adventure in it, and it’s fun. That’s what I was looking for.
How did you find your genre?