The Urban Fantasy Protagonist

Guest blog post for WattPad: "the world's most popular eBook community." 

The Urban Fantasy genre kicks ass. Imaginary cities, flawed heroines and mythical creatures merged with modern, historical or futuristic societies. Team that with distinctive writing style, original storylines supported by straightforward plots, and you have a bubbling cesspool of literary madness from which genre masterpieces are summoned forth by the authors.

The romantic elements are intense, entangled. You’re exposed to that ‘all or nothing’ kind of love that has your fingers sporting paper cuts the next day since you flipped the page so fast, or arm cramps if you have an eReader. And oh the conflict. Every page there’s an issue to work out, or puzzle to solve. There’s no dead space. Everything you read is intrinsically linked to something coming around the corner.

If you were to have a peek on my bookcase at home you would laugh at the how biased my tastes are. I have a few thrillers, a sprinkling of chick lit, a smattering of high fantasy then boom. Urban fantasy novels are flaunting themselves all over the place. The same thing goes for my virtual shelves.

There’s much to consider when talking about the genre, but I’m going to focus on the characters, specifically, the lead protagonist.

In Urban Fantasy this character will have more layers than angel food cake, and is often plagued with such neuroses you thank the powers that be you’re actually rather well adjusted. Like you and me the character is not perfect. They’re grumpy, stubborn and bloody selfish, but at the same time does, or says things that cut so close to home you can't help but love them for it. You shake your head at their mistakes, but understand why and how they made them. You relate to this shady character on a level you never could to one of altruistic splendor, simply because they’re the shadows of who you might be playing out on a page.

My novel, The Demon Girl, follows a fairy-girl called Rae Wilder running helter-skelter around the broken and busted up city that used to be London. She ends up bonded to a maddeningly clingy fairy who wants nothing more than for her to be treated like a princess. But what she wants is to get up close and personal with a vampire. A want she can't undertand as she thinks he's ugly and fundementally a bad person. The main focus of the book may seem to be this twisted love affair, but what actually draws people in is Rae’s self-discovery, and her journey toward accepting who and what she is. As the story unravels it becomes clear to Rae, it's not what anybody else wants to do, but what she wants that counts the most. Even when her needs and actions cause pain to others. It seems selfish, but how many decisions do you make in a day to benefit yourself? I’m guessing the vast majority, so why would that be any different for a fictional character?

Most Urban Fantasy protagonists are strung out, down trodden, deadbeats bordering on sociopathic. But, they manage to have a certain spark that sucks you in, and has you praying they’ll pull themselves together. Books in this genre for the young adult readership tend to lean on the safe side when it comes to the protagonist suffering under the issues we face in the world. Namely drugs, sex, alcohol, psychological and physiological damage, sexuality and abuse. Adult Urban Fantasy is raw in its exposure of these topics. It would be grand to see edgier stories coming forward and pushing the boundaries of young adult urban novels.

Authors who write adult Urban Fantasy let loose all preconceptions of what a protagonist should be, and give it to you straight up. It makes the paranormal that bit more exciting, because the characters are plausible. The imminent danger of the messed up situations they get themselves into allows the reader to feel more. A technique called “stream of consciousness” (often mistaken for bad grammar) is something I use heavily in my own writing (fast leaps in syntax that follows actual human thought, which in reality is fast and fragmented), and a lot of the Urban Fantasies I prefer feature this technique heavily, as it helps me to crawl into the mind of the lead character and enjoy the story more.

With these stronger, more down-to-earth characters we’ll see less formulaic stories (you know the ones I’m talking about, those stories you know the ending, and each major event by page ten), as the characters will take on a life of their own and force the writer to do new, exciting things with their narrative.

In my totally biased opinion, the best fantasies are the ones with protagonists grounded in reality that has been twisted into something new. These are the fantasies that draw you in and stay with you once the last page has turned.

My handle on WattPad is Miss_Fletcher.

Film Review: Let Me In

The Gist: Cute but deadly vampire girl who moves like a spider monkey, moves to a boring apartment block, and gets close to a bullied human boy.
My favorite line: "Would you still like me... even if I wasn't a girl?" (Abbey)

Chloe Moretz. I love her to pieces. At first it was like, blah, she's Hit-Girl, and this isn't going to work. How wrong I was.

That vampire (Abbey) is a freak.

The film was shot beautifully, and the DOP deserves the tip of a hat (I don't wear hats, so if you do, give it a go). My favorite shot is when Abbey emerges from the bathroom in an oversized dress, drenched in blood then hugs Owen tenderly from behind, resting her head on his shoulder as he stares into the middle distance. There are no words, but you can almost hear her saying "Sorry, you had to see, that, forgive me." Simply stunning.

There are some serious issues exposed too. The bulling of Owen (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee), in this film is unreal. I did not like that kid who bullied him. I couldn't help but think "Ha. Poetic freaking justice!" when he got torn apart at the end (and I mean torn apart…even that was shot wonderfully). He causes physical and psychological damage to Owen, for no reason apart from trying to transfer the pain he feels from his older brother bullying him. You quickly understand the almost "serial killer in the making scene" Owen does half naked with a mask, and knife at the beginning.

It wasn’t scary. It was chilling, but somehow left you feeling decidedly warm at the end. The boy was close to breaking point, and this girl he goes “steady” with brings him to life, even though he knows she’s evil.

I suggest you go see it if you want a hard dose of reality when it comes to vampires.

Director: Matt Reeves
Running Time: 116 min

Bad Review Leading to Memories of Rejection

This blog post is crazily long for me, but I truly cannot help myself. ID has been causing me serious problems again. Here is some background knowledge for you. In the early 19th century Sigmund Freud proposed there are three main components’ to our ‘psychic apparatus’. Dudes, and dudettes, I introduce ID, Ego and Super Ego. ID is impulsive. ID had me deciding it was my dream to become a published author resulting in me spending over two years bashing out a manuscript I hoped would make all my pie-in-the-sky dreams come true. There is more on that rascally devil ID later.

After months of writing, and more writing, and more writing, Ego comes along. All organized rationality and sensible logic, Ego makes me rewrite the damn thing again, taking into account the plethora of advice floating around the internet, and makes me research into countless books on query’s, synopsis (which are like devil pitchforks), before putting together a submission package. Upon deciding I was finished, I became ID’s proverbial bitch. It stroked me into contentment when doubts caused by horror stories of rejection emails, and manuscripts never being picked up made me worry.

Before I go on let me assure you I am intelligent, and successful in my everyday corporate profession, and considered myself a reasonable, easy going person, content with her lot in life. That was before I was mugged. Mugged one morning at 12:43AM. I sent a query to an agent and in less than five hours I had a rejection. I thought it took weeks! Was it that bad (twitch, gasp, twitch) that they couldn’t wait to stab me? A person I am naming Rejecter ran away with half my sanity cackling diabolically. Two lines. Let me repeat that TWO LINES was the time afforded to me in the rejection email I received to my first ever manuscript.

It’s kind of poetic really. Two lines for two years.

When I envisioned clocking said Rejecter around the head with my iMac then flying - tiger - crane style kicking her/him in the forehead I should have taken a deep breath, ticked the Agency of my list and moved on. Yes, well, in the last month I have discovered I am not a reasonable, and easy person when it comes to my writing.

Here is an account of the disillusionment and confusion that followed my first ever rejection. After an in depth and deeply emotional experience with Ben and Jerry I tried not to trip and break my ankle, stumbling into my bedroom. Riding high on indignation I shook my boyfriend awake, and tearfully told him of the cruel, evil Rejecter who had torn my heart out. He promised me I was not crazy, and that I was not suffering a myocardial infarction from the stress of the two lines burned onto the back of my eyeballs. And no, a hospital was not at this time deemed necessary. My boyfriend, though troubled by my sugar induced tirade, and declaration of war on the Agency who had sent the rejection, managed to fall back asleep.

With no ice cream left, and no desire to do anything but stomp around, I got into bed and glared at the ceiling. A few hours later on the cusp of sleep I was assaulted by an epiphany sent from Super Ego explaining I no longer wanted to write. That I was over this crap and so much better than such childish behavior. I went to sleep feeling strangely vindicated (against who I still don’t know, perhaps ID?). Then I woke up. As mentioned previously ID has been thoroughly screwing me over. Perhaps if I were a kinkier soul I would enjoy it. The demon otherwise known as my ‘creativity’ haunted me. I was undercover people, it was hard to ignore the girl with sneakers, crazy hair and wild eyes scratching words on the walls.

To quote Sigmund himself ‘Transference neuroses correspond to a conflict between the ego and the id; narcissistic neuroses, to a conflict between the ego and the superego; and psychoses, to one between the ego and the external world’. Translation: ID, the dark twisted side of my nature is kicked Super Ego’s ass. So after seven rejections I decided to self publish, because I wanted to see if my writing really was just bad, and if I should give up.

One month later, here I am trying hard not to become a neurotic mess, or screaming banshee about a bad review I had yesterday. I am striving to be professional, and mature about the whole thing. As I stormed around the living room, (de ja vu anyone?) my boyfriend calmly said, “But wasn’t feedback, good and bad, the whole point of you doing this?”

Yes, I threw my shoe at his face (He’s fine, btw, my aim is terrible. And yes, he loves me more than air, and that is the reason he puts up with me).

To date I have had exactly one bad review. By bad I mean the nameless person said all bad things, and no good things. I have received another review that was quite negative, but it was constructive, so I took it on the chin. This bad review actually had tears threatening to fall and reminded me of the Rejecter’s email, because I know it’s not true. And it’s been posted in a pretty damn importance place too, and the effect it’s having is pretty significant. The three emails I had with praise from other readers afterwards did help ease the pain somewhat though, but still. Look, I’ll share it;

“The writing is horrible. The language is stiff. It sounds as if you were reading the diary of someone with a scientific, rather than lyrical, mind.”

Mouth open wide; ahhhhhhh! *Deep Breath* That was the whole review. All of it. Three bad things, all around the writing style. You don’t like my style, that’s cool, but why do you view a different style as a bad thing… You.. You… You mean person you!

Where is my professional response thanking the reader but redeeming myself at the same time…Well I can’t post one. Because I don’t live in America, and Amazon won’t give me access to comment. *Wailing noise* So I have to site here and glare at my screen. It's an open sore I cannot soothe, and it's itchy! 

Now, I have seen worse reviews than this. I have seen books I thought were fantastic torn to shreds by people who thought they were clever for being so witty, and cruel at the same time in a public forum. Do people forget that there is a human writer who then has to read these reviews? I mean, even when I write a negative review I make sure to write at least one positive to give the person a grain of hope.

I know being able to deal with such things without reacting like a bomb has gone off takes time, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. Thank the heavens my current ratio review ratio is roughly twenty 40:1, positive to negative, or I may get upset and write a thinly concealed passive aggressive blog post…oh, yeah. I’ll stop the rant here.

Music & Writing

I like music. No where near as much as I like books, but it's still pretty high up the 'this makes me feel good' ranks. That said there are some great boogie tracks out this season making me want to go out dancing rather than sit at home writing. 
My solution? Do both.
Na, na, na, na, na, na...once upon a time, in a land far, far away...gimmie, gimmie that base. 
Ahem. *serious face* Music is inspirational. It can make you laugh, cry, or feel stupidly happy. If you're having a great day and need to write a death scene, or concoct a twisted tale of darkness, it can be somewhat difficult to get the words on the page to behave. Music can help create an atmosphere and nudge me into the boundaries of my emotional zones. Then I can draw myself closer toward 'that place' in my imagination, rather than forcing my mind to switch from happy to sad.
I don't know if that works for anyone else, but it's a winner for me.

The Demon Girl's First Blog Review

I've had my first book blogger review. And whilst it didn't make me scream or cry like a baby, it made me blink, pace the room, and say...huh?

It's listed as a horror by the reader? Yes, you read me right...paranormal/horror. Dracula (one of the scariest damn books I've ever read) is horror. My fairy running around kissing vampires and unable to deal with her responsibilities? Hmm. I admit there is death and despair in the book, and vampires have become bloodsucking bad guys (sorry, no diamond skin here guys), but that is life, right? Death is a sad thing, and though it can be violent and disturbing, it is a natural passage of life. 

That said I'm happy with my first blog review, and I appreciate the reviewers comments, just like I appreciate the awesome 5 star feedback I've had from members of the public in the iBookstore, through Amazon UK, or who have found me on Twitter and other channels.  

This review has let me see my work from a whole other angle, which is what feedback is all about!

I'm excited to hear what other people have to say, and if they pick up on the general themes I was trying to promote. I don't think this reviewer was impressed with a few of the darker paragraphs in the book, which seem to have stuck with her more than I intended.

Let's see what others think... is it horror? Or just a book that does not dress up death and danger as good, clean things...

You can read the review here; Bitten by Paranormal Romance