Whether we want to admit it or not, there’s only so much originality to be found in the idea pool for urban fantasy and paranormal romance authors. There are only so many ways to tell the genesis stories of vampires, and only so many rules that can be used to govern the behavior of shapeshifters. When Stephenie Meyer made her vampires glitter in the sun like Ziggy Stardust, some canon-crazed paranormal fans were shocked. I myself declared, “that’s just not RIGHT!” But props to her, because at least she did something new and different.
I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to world building for a new urban fantasy series, a lot of what authors are doing is culling through what they’ve read in the past (our mental libraries are very cluttered, I assure you) and thinking “would I do it this way? If I were writing that what would I change?” What we end up with is a world entirely our own, of course, but the inevitable comparisons to writers who’ve gone before will always be there.
Am I the first to have a werewolf king instead of just a pack alpha? I doubt it. No others come to mind, but the second this is posted I’m sure someone will be able to list 2 or 10. Is Secret McQueen the first werewolf/vampire hybrid? I sure thought so when I started writing the book eons ago. But since then it’s been done in movies like Underworld, and recently on The Vampire Diaries. Other authors have tread the territory of vampire hybrids as well. Jaye Wells’s Sabina Kane is a mage-vampire; and for awhile there were worries that Jeanniene Frost’s Cat would be an unstoppable ghoul-vampire hybrid.
It’s all been done.
In fact, it’s all be done so often, there are a loving set of standards that we call tropes, to cover the most oft-used plot and character devices in paranormal fiction. Upon reviewing some of the most well-loved/hated tropes, I made a startling discovery. Joss Whedon, beloved creator of all things geeky and fabulous, has used most of them. That wily bastard beat us all to the trope party and used the best bits first!
The top 5 Urban Fantasy Tropes Joss Did Best:
1.) Ordinary Girl Discovers Extraordinary Powers.
Oh Buffy Summers. Once upon a time you were just a frivolous cheerleader at a normal LA high school Once you also thought Luke Perry was sexy and bicycle shorts were acceptable and hip. Tsk tsk, the nineties were not kind to anyone. But here Joss took one of the most popular UF tropes (especially for young adult UF) and made it feel fresh. He’s often said he wrote the Buffy character so the poor blonde girl who dies in every horror movie could finally have her day. I think what he really did was make is acceptable to show powerful women in popular culture. I doubt we’d have such a huge market for female-centered UF and paranormal romance without Buffy Summers.
2.) Hilarious Sidekicks Make Stories Better.
Buffy had her Scooby Gang; Captain Mal Reynolds had Wash and Jayne; Angel had Wesley and later Spike. Comic relief goes a long way when the fate of the world is at stake, and no one showed it better than Joss. The best urban fantasy series out there today know you need to have a little humor if audiences are going to keep coming back for more. A hairless demon cat? Check. A Mustang that eats people? Check. A Chihuahua who can communicate with Scrabble tiles? You betcha. Humor is a must, otherwise it’s just one Apocalypse after another, and that’s no fun to read.
3.) The Big Bad as a Metaphor
Oh Angel, you poor tormented bastard. Before Edward Cullen’s pensive gloomy brooding; before Bill Compton said his first “Sookie” there was Angel and his doomed love for Buffy. A monster with a soul, he was one of the best examples of how something that should be inherently evil could become a beloved hero. While not the first example of a brooding, melancholy vampire, he is probably the one most of us remember best, and made us think “oh vampires, maybe they aren’t all bad.”
5.) All’s Fair in a Made-Up World
Let’s face it, Joss proved you can try anything once. He turned Angel into a puppet; made the whole cast of Buffy sing and dance thanks to a demon; and created a future world populated by space cowboys who swear in Chinese.
So the lesson is, next time you’re reading an urban fantasy, remember that Joss Whedon probably did it first. And if he didn’t, hey, that’s okay. He set a standard in popular culture that makes our favorite genre possible. I thank Joss every time I pick up a new paranormal or urban fantasy series, because I doubt we’d have as many options as we do today without the barriers he broke down.
About the Book:
Some secrets are dangerous. This Secret is deadly.Secret McQueen, Book 1
For Secret McQueen, her life feels like the punch line for a terrible joke. Abandoned at birth by her werewolf mother, hired as a teen by the vampire council of New York City to kill rogues, Secret is a part of both worlds, but belongs to neither. At twenty-two, she has carved out as close to a normal life as a bounty hunter can.
When an enemy from her past returns with her death on his mind, she is forced to call on every ounce of her mixed heritage to save herself—and everyone else in the city she calls home. As if the fate of the world wasn’t enough to deal with, there’s Lucas Rain, King of the East Coast werewolves, who seems to believe he and Secret are fated to be together. Too bad Secret also feels a connection with Desmond, Lucas’s second-in-command…
This book contains a sarcastic, kick-ass bounty hunter; a metaphysical love triangle with two sexy werewolves; a demanding vampire council; and a spicy seasoning of sex and violence.
About the Author:
Sierra Dean is a reformed historian. She was born and raised in the Canadian prairies and is allowed annual exit visas in order to continue her quest of steadily conquering the world one city at a time. Making the best of the cold Canadian winters, Sierra indulges in her less global interests: drinking too much tea and writing urban fantasy. Ever since she was a young girl she has loved the idea of the supernatural coexisting with the mundane. As an adult, however, the idea evolved from the notion of fairies in flower beds, to imagining that the rugged-looking guy at the garage might secretly be a werewolf. She has used her overactive imagination to create her own version of the world, where vampire, werewolves, fairies, gods and monsters all walk among us, and she’ll continue to travel as much as possible until she finds it for real. She’s also a book lover (of course!), obsessive collector of OPI nailpolish and the owner of way too many pairs of shoes.