Urban Fantasy discussion

UF BOOK CHAT > UF Writing - Likes and Dislikes

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message 1: by Lisa M (new)

Lisa M | 311 comments I am currently working on a Urban Fantasy book, and I decided to open a discussion about what authors do that you love, annoy you or ruin a book. I appreciate any advice you can provide, especially any that is specific to this engaging genre.

As a sidenote (if this affects your answers), my novel is more action oriented, and not a paranormal romance. It involves murder, magic, werewolves and vampires. Good times, all around. :)

message 2: by Sandy (new)

Sandy | 122 comments If I don't care about what happens to the characters then I have no desire to finish a book. The things that annoy me are inconsistancies in the world building or the characters behaving in ways that don't make sense with how they've been portrayed so far.

message 3: by Jamie (JK) (last edited Mar 29, 2010 04:19PM) (new)

Jamie (JK) (eimajtl) What annoys me most:
1.Too many sex scenes: sex scenes don't make the story more mature. They just don't. No matter how much an author may think this, it is NOT true. If I wanted to read smut, I'd be reading today's romances. There are times when it's appropriate for what's happening in the story or if a relationship has developed, but when they are thrown in just to be thrown in - that's when I find it hard to keep reading.

2.Overuse of vampires and their link to the above [quit making them sex obsessed people and nothing more - what happened to them being frightening monsters?:]

3.Clothing descriptions: I DONT CARE ABOUT WHAT THEY ARE WEARING EVERY FIVE SECONDS! Sure explaining the outfit when you first meet the character can be good, especially something they treasure, but when they just need a change of clothes I don't care that they are now wearing faded blue jeans, a white t-shirt with a stupid phrase on it, a black pair of socks, white Nikes, a large jacket with multiple pockets made of this kind of material with this type of liner... sheesh.

4.Boring, unimaginative world/creatures: There are a lot of UF novels out there, something needs to set your world apart from the others. Same with the creatures - we've all read our share of zombie, vampire, werewolf, ghost, etc, etc, etc stories so you need to do something unique with those as well. I personally enjoy wildly different takes on things we've seen done time and time again with no changes.

5.A lot of authors get caught up in how depressed/cool their main character is an forgets to develop them: giving a bit of info into what sort of things the character likes can tell a bit about that character, but if you keep talking about it over and over again, well, it just makes your character seem stupidly obsessed with that band, movie, author, etc.

6.Main characters that are too powerful: we all like a badass, but when there is never a struggle for that character, well, it just gets boring. Ya gotta give them limits.

What I love:
1.The worlds that are created: it's fun thinking about modern day with a magical side and the various ways it is portrayed.

2."Cases": Having the overall plot of the series and character interactions is good, but what makes UF stand out is the various plots of each individual book. They are usually packed with extra characters and interesting tidbits about the universe that's been created.

3.The characters: A lot of 'em are pretty awesome, but that takes development and time. I like that a lot of these characters are real people [insomuch as a fictional character can be:]. They aren't perfect and they don't always win. There's usually a large cast as well, which I thoroughly enjoy. It's nice seeing characters here and there throughout the series without having to see them all the time.

4.One point of view: I really enjoy being able to read from one point of view rather than a cycle of a few different characters.

5. Non happily-ever-after endings. I like to see the good guy win in the end, but everything turning out perfectly and without consequences is boring. Most UF have this and it's great.

A lot of those likes and dislikes are seen throughout all genres, but I notice them more in this one for some reason.

Jim Butcher is pretty awesome when it comes to UF I think, he does so many things right and rarely do I find anything wrong with his books. They are just amazing. He develops all of his characters and his plots, small things will happen in a book and then a few books down the line that one little thing will come back into play. Nothing is ever done without a reason.

Simon R Green's Nightside series falters quite a bit in the genre though. The man has an amazing imagination. His worlds, creatures, and cases are amazing – they feel fresh and new, which is pretty rare. His biggest problem though is that his characters aren't developed at all. The feel utterly dry in comparison to other author's characters. He constantly repeats information about his main character, but never shows us anything of him really.

I can sit here and say all these things, but as an author, I'm sure it's a lot easier said than done. Just please don't forget to develop the characters and their relationships [not in a romance sense:]. Even if the worlds and creatures are similar to what we've seen before, it can be overlooked if you make amazing characters. If you can leave me depressed or outraged because of what's happening with them, I'll forgive everything else... mostly.

message 4: by Lisa S (new)

Lisa S (kasey_k_fan) I agree with on the too much description. Who wants to read a whole page on what some clothes look like.
Also the sex. Some sex is ok, but not through out the whole book.

message 5: by Dawn (new)

Dawn (dawnv) | 367 comments I third that on the sex front. I would like to also add I am sick of the relationship triangle?? First off this is urban fantasy not PNR plus the hero is fighting the enemy or what have you, I would think you would be plotting your next move because the hero is normally dealing with a life and death situation. Watching the hero try and choose between John and Paul gets old.

Equally on the relationship front why is it a man is all alpha with the rest of the world and a sniveling idiot when it comes to the fated girl? Sorry but and alpha is usually an arrogant a$$ and that is ok because it is part of who he is. Stop making them fall to pieces and become a tool just because they are in love.

Last comment an all things annoying, world building. We can all agree a good UF book needs world building and the best way to do that is through a back story (sorry not sure of the proper term). Here is the thing at some point the world needs to be in place, I hate when I am coming to the climax of a story and I am still getting the back story...I am like why?? Having said that I love a book where I can fall into the world and not even notice. Like Harry Potter or Rachel Morgan, I was reading a long and before I knew it I was transfixed into this world. I have no idea how you can accomplish that but it is so wonderful when you can.

Ok now on to things that are old and just tired, why is every UF hero suddenly brilliant at fighting?? One of the things I love about the Kitty series is she was weak and had to learn to fight and learning was hard because she had to sneak around to do it and hide her strength. Then she had to deal with personal issues. Really refreshing. The other things is if you have a normal life you must leave it behind OR you are a misfit. What happened to Buffy...awesome popular high school girl that killed a vamp then gets crowned prom queen. Now we get depressing Bella, awkward and self centered UGG. Also can we get a break in the law enforcement super woman? How about an a$$ kicking bartender? Finally can they be older than 25?? Who wears more than low rise jeans, shirts showing their belly button and tattoos that mean nothing??

My final suggestion is the who done it. One of the reasons I love UF is for the mystery. If you have to kill characters off to make a better mystery then do it. Don't get me wrong I hate for beloved characters to die but sometimes they need to ...how could a world be dangerous if we all live??

Just write a story you love and I am sure me the reader will love it too. I do not care which POV I read the story in because I have seen them done well in 1st and 3rd.

Hope that helps!

message 6: by Dawn (new)

Dawn (dawnv) | 367 comments Geez that was really long sorry :-0

message 7: by Tasha (new)

Tasha (tashapost) | 10 comments I don't mind the sex. I don't mind a lot of sex, but I don't particularly like it when the story revolves and is solely about sex. If there's a good story line and sex is involved, rockin'! If the story line is about sex, well if I wanted an erotic novel, I'd buy in that genre.

I love a strong female protagonist. I love a unique view on the paranormal. I'm not picky, if it's a good story line is intriguing and unique I'm happy. I get a bit annoyed with certain little quirks, but nothing to make me put the book down. It's probably why I'm stuck on so many UF series lol.

 Danielle The Book Huntress  (gatadelafuente) | 237 comments I have to agree with a lot of what has been said.

To reiterate things that annoy me:

1. The dang love triangle/polyamory obligation--not every worthwhile has several men that she is dating, used to date, is getting ready to date, or just has sex with occasionally. Gasp, some women are celibate! If sex is in the story, fine. Please hold the kinky stuff. If I wanted to read erotic, kinky sex, I'd read an erotica book. If an author wants to write that, please make sure the book is appropriately marketed so it can be avoided by those who don't want to read it. As has been said, sex is fine. But it doesn't and shouldn't be the story.Neither does it have to be obligatory, anonymous, or meaningless. I love romance, esp. paranormal. But I read urban fantasy for a paranormal mystery and for good supernatural fiction/occult detective plots and storylines.

2. The kickbutt heroine who needs no one and is completely infallible, except with relationships. I like to see flawed, vulnerable characters. Maybe she could be an inept fighter initially. And the alpha hero doesn't have to be her sensei. She could learn from someone else who is not destined to be her man or one of her men.

3.More male UF protagonists. I love reading about women. I am a woman. But it's fun to see things through the eyes of the opposite gender.

4.The over-reliance on vampires and witches. Been there, done that. I'd like to see more unique plots and stories.

5.Poorly researched, paper-thin world-building. This is more of an issue with some PNR. But it should never be an issue with urban fantasy. The folklore/mythological origins should be treated with respect.

What I love

1. Lots of action. Lots of dangerous situations that the character just squeezes through.

2. I also agree that I like seeing cases solved. I like each book to read differently. It can have an over-arching storyline, but it should also be somewhat self-contained.

3.More ethnic diversity. There is no reason why there cannot be characters of different races interacting. That's real life. There are few urban environments that are monocultural and monoracial.

4.Excellent world-building, and when I read an UF and I can believe that the author did her/his research.

I think that's it for me.

message 9: by Lisa M (new)

Lisa M | 311 comments Hmmm, I wrote a fairly long post about my loves/hates and my computer crashed. Now all that's gone. Grrr. I hate computers. Before my computer dies again, I wanted to say there's some really great feedback listed here. Thanks for taking the time to do this guys!

I'll try to retype my own list again later, and hope my computer works. I need a new one. *cry*

message 10: by Julia (new)

Julia | 615 comments Thank you for asking Lisa!

What annoys me:

1. I read a lot of urban fiction, fantasy, science fiction. Please, tell me a new unusual story, characters, and/ or settings. It all blends together after awhile unless it's different.

2. Whining teenagers, or characters who are chronologically older, yet still whine incessantly.

3. Characters who are not very bright, yet they do a google search and now they know all there is to know about being a shaman, a person who relates with ghosts or all there is to being a werewolf. Get a helpful teacher! In fact, get a bad teacher, then get a good one. It's not like these people are in the Better Business Bureau (usually).

4. This isn't my personal thing, but a friend's. She wants to read sometimes about fat characters. She's fat, or that's how she thinks of herself, and rarely sees people who look like her in books.

5. If you're going to do cultural diversity-- and I encourage you to, please do it well, don't cause me to wince with racism or cultural insensitivity.

6. Please have your work copy edited. Too many typos and grammatical errors can send me right out of a well- built world.

What I like:

1. Teach me about the city you are writing about. What's important to your main characters about where they are located? A map, especially of a city, suburban or rural area that isn't well-known, or even if it is, helps.

2. See above, in my head at least, urban fantasy doesn't have to be in a city, a suburban or rural area is fine.

3. Faults, I like characters to have them. Fears too. Regret and loss are also biggies.

4. I like characters to be made up of shades of gray, not black and white.

5. Well-built worlds!

message 11: by Betelgeuze (new)

Betelgeuze | 114 comments Dislikes:

1. Lack of cultural diversity. The vast majority of UF characters are Caucasian in their 20's, heterosexual, Christian or come from a Christian background. I have read only one a few books were the main character isn't white. In two of them the Main character is of Native American descent, yet Chistian. If you create a Native American character why not give them a Native American religion?. I would also really like to read a book where the main character is Lesbian/gay and/or not in their twenties and/or not white.

2. Endless descriptions of appearence, which has been mentioned before.

3. repetitive phrases/words.

4. Sex scenes that do not serve to further the plot/ character growth.

5. Unoriginal mythology. As mentioned before there are a lot of books about vampires/ werewolves, and it is becomming difficult to find an original take on the mythology. Shapeshifter and vampire mythology is not limited to the West. Many cultures have their own versions of vampires and shapeshifters that are sufficiently different form the western variety. Unfortunately i have not found many books that are completely based on non-western vampire or shapeshifter mythology.

6. Annoying characters: I also do not like characters that whine (other than Twitards who does?). It is also important to me that the characters are not one-dimensional. Don't focus to much on one aspect of their personality.


1. Morally gray characters. A main character does not have to have be completey good. it's o.k if a character is motivated by self-interest or is more concerned about protecting who/what he/she values than doing the right thing.

2. Original mythology.For example non-Western mythology, or Ancient Western mythology done in an original way.

3. Good world building.

4. Character development. I like to see characters learn from their experiences. I really like characters whith complex personalities. It is not necessary that i like every aspect of their personality.

5. I agree with previous poster that characters should have faults and regrets. i also don't mind if they make mistakes as long as they learn from them.

6. I like to read a book where the love interest isn't an alpha male/female. Especially in books with female lead characters the love interest is always an alpha male, this is becomming somewhat boring to me. I'd like a book where the love interest either male of female is geeky or shy. I'd also like it if the love interest of the main character is a sexualy submissive male. There are enough books with submissive females, but not as many with subnissive males.

message 12: by chucklesthescot (last edited Apr 15, 2010 10:23AM) (new)

chucklesthescot 1-It must have a likeable female lead character.I can't stand books by L.J. Smith because I hate all her so called heroines! Her in The Vampire Diaries was obnoxious.

2-I HATE the Anne Rice school of describing every piece of clothing, every bit of furniture in every room and all the bloody family portraits on the wall etc. Stuff Great Aunt Nellie, get me to the throat being ripped out parts!

3-Sex is fine if there is a point to it. I hate this once a chapter sex scene thing-it just gets boring. Keri Arthur did this in Beneath a Rising MoonIt seemed like every ten seconds the wolf guy was saying 'right woman more sex!' and it spoiled what was a decent story.

4-I like the relatable lead girl-she does get it wrong,she can cry,she is vulnerable,she's real even if she does have a few powers.

5-Repetition-a good example in Dark Days: Nightwalker and Dayhunter by The vampire/dhampir(can't remember which now)and the hunter are forced to work together. Every ten seconds they are doing this "I hate you' 'I hate you more and will kill you'...yes yes we get the point! You don't have to act this scene out 300 times in one book, I GET IT!

message 13: by Lisa M (new)

Lisa M | 311 comments Heh, I just realised I never posted up my likes/dislikes. Whoops.


1) Believable and likable characters. I have to care about them, otherwise why read the book?

2) "Wow" (or "OMG") moments. I love scenes that completely take me by surprise. I never saw that plot twist coming. Then I can't put down the book because I have to know what happens next. The really good books keep those moments coming. Then I have a grouchy family because the dishes are piled up and dinners not made, but Mommy just wants to read one more page...

3) A good whodunnit. I want to be kept guessing who the real villian is. And I want it to be someone I could (maybe should) have guessed, but never suspected.


1) Unbelievable plot/characters/events. In UF we have to suspend our disbelief to a point, but don't tramp all over realism. I need to believe what I'm reading.

2) Mary Sues. I don't know where I heard this term, but a Mary Sue is a character who the author's trying too hard to make into a perfect person. This person is usually beautiful in some way, everyone likes or will like her (or him), is able to do amazing feats, etc. It could be any or all of those. Flaws? What are flaws? She (he) doesn't have them. Yawn.

3) Repeating the same descriptive phrase. I don't think authors realise this, but a unique description is pretty cool ... once. The second time is forgivable. More than three time is annoying.

4) Cookie cutter characters. I see a lot of cool main characters, but for some reason the secondary people are just blah, no personality, nothing.

5) Forgotten sub-plots/unanswered questions. Doesn't happen much, but so annoying when it does. When I finish a book, I want all the little questions answered, unless the author plans on doing that later in the series.

6) (This doesn't apply that much to UF but) things that don't belong in that universe/reality. In traditional fantasy, don't make references to modern pop culture. Eldest did that, and that ruined any believability I had for that world and I won't read the rest of the series. (I was struggling with it before I read that. That was the proverbial "last straw.")

message 14: by Kal (new)

Kal I agree with most of what everyone's written here, but I have to say that after the amount of UF I've read recently (and it's a lot), I've gotten to the point where I'm a bit sick of the whole magical mystery/private investigator spiel. I'd really like to see other aspects of such worlds.

Something I like to see in any novel is progression, but in UF, particularly the character's powers, or changes to the world that's been built at the start of the series.

I've never liked werewolves from their own POV, but I guess that's personal taste. Mostly it's that whole alpha male dynamic that they all seem to insist on pulling.

I enjoy politics within a UF world for some reason (but not in real life).


message 15: by Natacha (new)

Natacha (tacha) | 9 comments Sorry that this has nothing to do with writing, but I just felt I had to mention it, as it can be kind of a hang-up for me when choosing books to read, though if a book comes highly recommended, I can ignore it...BUT also important to me - though in a lesser way - is the BOOK COVER!

Book cover art is becoming more and more popular. There are books I'd love to pick up...but (and maybe you can call me a little backward) but I'm somewhat embarrassed to be caught reading books with smutty covers on them. And most of the time they're great reads - but if I can find them in hardcover, so that I can remove the jacket I will!

Check out covers like Shiver by Maggie Steifvater or the Twilight Saga - to me those are beautiful books inside and out!

message 16: by Starling (new)

Starling | 153 comments Natacha, buy yourself a book cover for those books. I used to read all kinds of books that wouldn't have gone over well for someone in lower management. I bought a nice, fabric book cover that zipped and had a small pocket. I put my lunch money and my key card to get back into the office in the pocket, which "excused" using a book cover, but which basically made reading romance or science fiction or anything with a weird cover, acceptable no matter where I was.

Since they never saw me without a book that was covered, no one thought anything about it. Since I paid for my lunch out of the book cover pocket, that took care of anyone wondering why my book was covered.

message 17: by Natacha (new)

Natacha (tacha) | 9 comments Starling wrote: "Natacha, buy yourself a book cover for those books. I used to read all kinds of books that wouldn't have gone over well for someone in lower management. I bought a nice, fabric book cover that zipp..."

Thanks for the idea Starling! I'll look for one of those!

message 18: by Lisa M (new)

Lisa M | 311 comments Natacha wrote: "Starling wrote: "Natacha, buy yourself a book cover for those books. I used to read all kinds of books that wouldn't have gone over well for someone in lower management. I bought a nice, fabric boo..."

Some of the bible covers out there are gorgeous and come with pockets and handles. They look almost like purses.

message 19: by Schnaucl (new)

Schnaucl | 30 comments Likes:

1) This is the one genre where world building is as important as well developed characters. Are supernatural creatures in or out or some out but some in? If at least some are out, for how long? How are they dealt with legally? Second class citizens? Equals? Is there a special branch of government/unit of local police that deals with supernatural crime? What is the magic system or systems? Has it had an impact on the rest of the world a la Ilona Andrews? How did it get there? Was it always there or did it just happen one day? Can anyone use magic? Maybe there's no magic but there are supernatural creatures. What laws of physics do they obey? Do weres have conservation of mass, for example. Above all be consistent. It's really helpful to have a new take on it, too. I can tell Andrew's Atlanta from Harrison's Hallows from Hunter's enclaves but an awful lot of the worlds just blend together in my mind.

2)I think a well developed protagonist goes without saying, but the secondary characters are almost as important. Few urban fantasy protagonists do everything alone. Most have a fairly constant of friends/allies throughout the series, but others have a large group where one may help in one book but not show up again for the next two books only to reappear in the fourth (Jim Butcher). How do these characters compliment the abilities or knowledge of the protagonist? Why is the main character in charge (please make it something other than s/he's "the Chosen One").

3) Think local, not global. Most successful urban fantasy series have protagonists that focus on saving their corner of the world from whatever. There are a few good series about saving the entire world and/or certain population from destruction, but that means unless you are incredibly skilled, the entire series has to be about saving the world from x because after you've stopped the apocalypse, what else is left? How do you raise the stakes? Save the world again? It's not as powerful the second time around and certainly not the third or fourth. (Note, there's a difference between keeping a person/organization/entity from gaining enough power to do real damage and actually saving the world).

4) Romance. It should never be the entire focus of the story, that would be PNR. But I like to have some there. Sometimes a sufficiently strong non-romantic relationship works almost as well (siblings works best but maybe best friend or something). Just don't be surprised if people slash them. It's a nice subplot.

5) Doubt. Let your characters doubt themselves. Not all the time (angsting all the time is irritating)but at least some of the time. Maybe it's doubt not expressed to others most of the time but at least some self-doubt, particularly if he or she is knew to this whole crime solving/saving thing.

6) To some extent, creatures should behave differently depending on average lifespan. A truly immortal creature is probably going to have a very different view of time than a creature who generally lives 5 years. They may have trouble adjusting to current times, or maybe they're all adjusted because otherwise they'd be picked off. Immortality does not necessarily grant fabulous wealth. And if immortal creatures aren't out, how do they explain themselves. Forging identities was a lot easier in the pre-digital age.


1) Protagonist must not be the best thing since sliced bread/walk on water. Everyone s/he meets does not need to instantly think he or she is hot and sexy and instantly fall in love with her. Almost as annoying is everybody hates her and dismisses her even when she's been right repeatedly in the past. Then those people/organizations just look like idiots. Almost as irritating: everyone immediately hates her.

2) Romance is good. Encouraged, even. But if you drag out the will they or won't they for more than a few books I will stop caring what the answer is and just want them to make a freakin' decision (Kim Harrison, I'm looking at you).

3) This may be a personal quirk, but the totally possessive partner? Big turnoff. I like Henry Fitzroy, but it creeps me out that all the people he's drunk from "belong to him" now. It's one of the reasons I rarely read were stuff, the whole giving up the identity for the alpha/pack thing doesn't work for me. If the partner ever locks up or otherwise restrains the protagonist "for his or her own good" you're on notice and I may or may not read the next book. If partner ever hits/strangles a character in order to keep her safe, we're done (Lilith Saintcrow). The immediate need to protect at first sight is extremely annoying and also more PNR.

4) Otherwise smart and confident characters can have doubts or insecurities about love. They shouldn't become utter morons. One of the few places I've seen this done well is The Closer. Brenda is amazingly competent at her job and amazing incompetent in her personal life. I still don't know why Frits is with her.

5) If your characters are going to fall in love (as opposed to lust) you need to SHOW me that. Falling into bed together does not equal love (incidentally, I'm fine with a sex scene or two). Just because six months has passed between books does not mean the characters are suddenly in love. Knowing someone for a few days probably isn't love either.

6)The clothes thing irritates me, but it's not my biggest issue. Some girls are very into clothes. I'm not but I understand some protagonists are. And if it's a plot point (going somewhere that requires a different look) then yes, you should probably say something about it. And if it's not something your character would ever choose for him or herself, how does s/he feel while wearing it? Girly, uncomfortable, naked?

7) Characters that don't act their age. If she's 28, I don't want to hear her whine that she wants her mommy every time she hits a snag. (Pahedra Weldon)

8) Avoid tingly girl bits, tingly girl parts, wet/damp/gushing panties. Thanks.

9)Antagonists that are evil because all x creatures are evil. That's lazy writing. It's like having a Nazi antagonist and deciding you don't need to show why that person is evil because she's a Nazi ergo evil. Tell me WHY she became a Nazi.

10)Mistakes are understandable. It's even likely the protagonist will make the same mistake once or twice. If the protagonist never learns from mistakes or realizes she's doing the same destructive behavior but does it anyway that's a problem.

If I think of anything else I'll let you know.

message 20: by Starling (new)

Starling | 153 comments Hum... I've got a couple of comments. Just who is Rachel supposed to make up her mind about? She isn't human. She is literally another species and I haven't seen her going out with a whole lot of witches.

Fritz loves Brenda ANYWAY. Which is what I think all of us wishes would happen. He also gets her.

Some of the time the clothes thing drives me nuts, some of the time it is just who the character is. I can think of two protagonists who constantly talk about clothes, and one who talks about them to make a point about where she is and where she normally is and it is OK with me. But most of the others, not so much. I can even deal with Sookie describing cleaning the house, at least some of the time.

I'm with you on the PNR Alpha Male (werewolf or vampire). It is one of the reasons I rarely read PNR.

I really liked a lot of your world building comments and boy do I agree. One of the reasons I read UF is the world building. If I can't tell one series from another why would I read either of them?

message 21: by Lisa M (new)

Lisa M | 311 comments A lot of people keep mentioning the clothes issue. Are there certain books/authors that are bad at this? I've never really noticed any problems with too many descriptions. Maybe I'm not reading the right (or is it wrong?) books.

Jim Butcher likes to mention Dresden's duster a lot, or sometimes his sweats or other oddball outfits he finds himself in. That helps build his image though, at least to me, so it's never bothered me. Sometimes knowing what a character's wearing helps me know him/her -- are they neat/sloppy, fashionable/practical, rich/poor, etc.

When do the descriptions become too much, and what's an acceptable amount? Just curious about everyone's thoughts on this, since it's been mentioned so much.

message 22: by Emmett (new)

Emmett Spain | 33 comments I think it's important to give a sense of the character more than anything, which can often be done quickly and effectively by descrbing their appearance. I'm not a fan when it gets unnecessarily specific... the only time I think that makes sense is if the character themselves is fashion conscious, therefore the description reflects the consideration taken with respect to their clothing. Outside of that I prefer simple descriptions that reveal character (i.e. if they are wearing comfortable clothes or formal clothes, or if their outfit is neatly pressed or not... all of these speak to the character and don't take forever to describe).

The other problem I think is that a long, unnecessary description takes you out of the flow of the story. It can feel like, "Okay, we're going to stop the story now and describe everything, then start the story again". The descriptions should really 'put you there' but not interrupt the story flow, otherwise the reader gets lost.

message 23: by Schnaucl (new)

Schnaucl | 30 comments Starling wrote: "Hum... I've got a couple of comments. Just who is Rachel supposed to make up her mind about? "

Ivy. There's been this will they or won't they thing and I thought they finally resolved it two books ago (which was originally supposed to be the end of the series) and then she's back to gee, I don't know. I'm not attracted to women. But I'm attracted to Ivy. But not enough to have sex. But Ivy's home. I don't know. I can't decide. Just pick one and stick with it. That's all I ask.

colleen the convivial curmudgeon (blackrose13) Lisa MH wrote: "A lot of people keep mentioning the clothes issue. Are there certain books/authors that are bad at this? I've never really noticed any problems with too many descriptions. Maybe I'm not reading the..."

The first book that comes to my mind was the first Sookie Stackhouse book. I remember being irritated with not just the continuous clothing description - every time she changed you got a complete wardrobe layout (not to mention how out-of-date the clothes seemed to me, which really threw me off), but also random stuff like whether or not she chose to shave her pits in the shower that day.

There's another series I read that I really enjoy, that's non-UF, called Chronicles of the Necromancer, which has a little bit of this problem - especially the butch warrior male guy noticing clothing things that you wouldn't necessarily think of his type as noticing. It was really bad in the first book, but's been toned down since then.

I can't really think of any other egregious examples off the top of my head, but I know it does happen.

message 25: by Lisa M (new)

Lisa M | 311 comments blackrose wrote: "The first book that comes to my mind was the first Sookie Stackhouse book. I remember being irritated with not just the continuous clothing description..."

I actually haven't read Sookie yet, altho I plan to. I want to finish Dresden before I start any other large series.

colleen the convivial curmudgeon (blackrose13) Lisa MH wrote: "I actually haven't read Sookie yet, altho I plan to. I want to finish Dresden before I start any other large series. "

I never got past the first book, but I know a lot of people like it. *shrugs*

message 27: by Julia (new)

Julia | 615 comments Chelsea Quinn Yarbro spends a lot time describing clothes and rooms and places in her historical horror/ romance-ish series about a 4,000 year old vampire Saint Germain, but then she needs to for world-building. It doesn't take place in the here and now so I want to know what Saint Germain is wearing-- even if I have to look it up in a dictionary.

With Sookie and her fellow characters it's about class in describing her clothes and her friends' clothing.

Same with Mercy Thompson's series; she talks about how, as a car mechanic, her hands never look completely clean.

message 28: by Literary Ames (new)

Literary Ames (amyorames) | 33 comments blackrose wrote: "I never got past the first book, but I know a lot of people like it. *shrugs* "

Same here. It was a task reading Storm Front even though I listened to the audio with the wonderful James Marsters.

colleen the convivial curmudgeon (blackrose13) Amy or "Ames" wrote: "blackrose wrote: "I never got past the first book, but I know a lot of people like it. *shrugs* "

Same here. It was a task reading Storm Front even though I listened to the audio with..."

I meant with Sookie. I am a fan of the Dresden series, though I haven't read the latest 2.

message 30: by Emmett (new)

Emmett Spain | 33 comments I started with book 3 of the Dresden Files: Grave Peril by getting the audio book (it was the only audio book of the series available from where I bought it), then I went back and read the first two. All I can say is that the third book really kicks the series into gear and it never lets up from there. Worth sticking with.

message 31: by Dawn (last edited Apr 22, 2010 09:19PM) (new)

Dawn (dawnv) | 367 comments Personally I find the clothing thing distracting at times. I totally agree with Julie Chelsea Quinn Yarbro spends a lot time describing clothes and rooms and places in her historical horror/ romance-ish series about a 4,000 year old vampire Saint Germain, but then she needs to for world-building

Then there are other times when it gets cliche' and it kind of destroys my own picture. It just seems like every other heroine wears tight pants and a belly shirts. The author always feels the need to say something like "I wanted to feel sexy so I threw on my tight vest showing my navel and my sexy black leather pants that fit like skin". I do not think I noticed it in like the first 50 books but then by book 51 I was like again?? It goes hand and hand with butts on book covers...why do so many books have a picture of a girls butt?? I digress though I just wish they could wear maybe yoga pants or better yet just say I slipped into something comfortable and let me the reader create what she wore.

 Danielle The Book Huntress  (gatadelafuente) | 237 comments The trope of the UF heroine in tight leather pants and a midriff-bearing shirt is very passe' (or other sexified clothing). It speaks of objectification to me. That's what I liked about Kate Daniels from the Ilona Andrews books. Her clothing choices are very practical, and she's still an attractive women.

message 33: by Starling (new)

Starling | 153 comments Sookie does talk about clothes a lot, but I think that the comment upthread that is is really about class is right on.

And it gets important when Sookie dresses up to go on the vampire jobs. Because she does know HOW to dress up for the places she is going. Because Sookie isn't all that educated, but she is very bright and the clothes tell you a lot about her. She uses them as "uniforms" to telegraph who is is being right now.

I don't mind Sookie and clothes. It really does tell you a lot about who Sookie is, and isn't.

On the other hand the Chelsia Quinn Yarbro clothing descriptions can drive you crazy because you really do have to look up half of the words in the descriptions. And I never really know what her characters look like.

message 34: by Schnaucl (new)

Schnaucl | 30 comments Rachel Caine is more PNR but she does it a lot. So does Kim Harrison. Both the characters are fashionistas so it makes sense, but since I don't care about fashion I usually skim those parts.

message 35: by Starling (new)

Starling | 153 comments The funny thing about Kim Harrison describing what Rachel is wearing is that you can watch Rachel grow up as she stops looking like a little whore. It is even funnier when her boyfriends shop her closet for grown up clothes, and it turns out that she has them. She just doesn't know enough to wear them right.

So Harrison is saying some interesting and subtle things with the clothing descriptions in much the same way that Charlaine Harris does when she describes Sookie getting dressed.

And although chick lit bores me to tears there is one "urban fantasy" series that I'll actually read and look forward to where the heroine (Queen Betsy) is a real air head on the surface complete with a shoe collection, but under it all, she is surprisingly clever. It is just part of her persona.

message 36: by Angelika (new)

Angelika | 24 comments Dawn wrote: "I third that on the sex front. I would like to also add I am sick of the relationship triangle?? First off this is urban fantasy not PNR plus the hero is fighting the enemy or what have you, I woul..."

I second you on the hero/ine part. Why can't they be older than 25?? Become stronger in character as they grow in the story? I love a kick-ass heroine but how did she get there?

I agree on pretty much what everyone else is saying, especially the sex bit. I'm no prude and it has it's place but seriously, if it has no bearing on the story or furthering any relationship, give it a pass. I don't need the details for a whole chapter.

message 37: by Shomeret (new)

Shomeret | 233 comments Re main character being smart--That's important to me too. I recently gave up on a UF because one of the two main characters didn't know something that he should have known and the result was the most inane dialogue exchange. I believe that the purpose of the inane dialogue exchange was the paragraph of non-background that followed it--in which we are told what one of the main characters isn't. I found that so unnecessary. It made me think of previous instances I'd seen of non-background in this book and my annoyance with it increased, so that I couldn't read another word.

So non-background is another serious no-no for me. Please don't keep on telling me what your characters aren't. It's annoying and a waste of space.

message 38: by Jamie (JK) (new)

Jamie (JK) (eimajtl) I'm curious, what book was it? >_>

message 39: by jD (last edited Aug 01, 2010 09:07PM) (new)

jD (jd_4everbooked) | 67 comments Keep it edgy like Jim Butcher and Simon Green. The Mattew Swift stories could be great if they did not read like a video game. It is like pacman going from one kill or be killed scene. I have read two of the books and don't really know who he is. Make sure you include reflections that make sense and are not too criptic. Vamps, witches, weres can add or detract. If they are the main protagonist, make sure readers know that upfront. If you are going to use the fae, do the research and don't take too many liberties. If the world geography is leaning towards fantasy, add a map. If you use a unique language, add a glossary. If you use foreign languages, translate. Don't frustrate the readers. Also, sex does not have to be 3 pages long, it can be kissing, fall on the bed, then sunrise. If the hero or heroine is in a relationship, sex is natural however the details do not have to be narrated.

message 40: by Shomeret (new)

Shomeret | 233 comments Jamie wrote: "I'm curious, what book was it? >_>"

It was Blue Diablo. I really wanted to like it, but the author was consistently making poor choices.

message 41: by Stacia (the 2010 club) (last edited Aug 01, 2010 10:17PM) (new)

Stacia (the 2010 club) (stacia_r) jD wrote: "Also, sex does not have to be 3 pages long, it can be kissing, fall on the bed, then sunrise. If the hero or heroine is in a relationship, sex is natural however the details do not have to be narrated.

I agree with this for UF. If I want to read something with more detail I'll just pick up a PNR or traditional romance.

Although, I can't stand it when it takes 3 books in a series for two people to finally just get around to sharing a kiss when it's apparent that they've wanted to jump in bed since book 1. Tension is one thing, but that's a bit much.

message 42: by jD (new)

jD (jd_4everbooked) | 67 comments Tell me about it. I just finished Friday Night Bites, book two of the Chicagoland Vampires, and the heroine needs to make a move. I beginning to wonder if maybe she doesn't like men. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it's the teasing of the romantic storyline has gotten annoying.

message 43: by Kal (new)

Kal Heh, I get that. I was kinda hoping that with the Chicagoland Vampires that the whole reason for the delayed relationship would be that the main character ends up so manipulated and betrayed by that guy that she ends up hating him. The idea of love between two people who butt heads frequently is well explored in literature. But the idea of a protagonist/antagonist who have history and reason to hate each other is something that rarely comes up. It's usually just good versus evil.

Incidentally, someone mentioned keeping things local as a good thing in UF... I'd just like to say that that's in every UF I've read for quite a while. I recommend finding a way to go in a different direction if you want don't want to follow the herd. I'd really love to see UF characters involved in world politics and stuff, though I can imagine that it'd be difficult to pull that off.

Finally, the clothes thing that people mentioned before. That bugs me too, I think it's especially when there are frequent references to fashion over and above practicality from an action figure. One instance that bothered me recently was the main character from the Weather Warden series, who is constantly assessing the fashion of people around her, and worrying about what she's wearing when she should be concerned with survival. I think it's meant to make her look more badass, being concerned about trivial things while crazy stuff is happening, but it doesn't quite work. Otherwise as a general rule, I'd say if you're describing an outfit more than once, you're probably overdoing it.

message 44: by Malin (new)

Malin (Tusenord) | 9 comments This is such an interesting and daunting discussion. As a writer, I keep asking myself "would all these people like my writing?"

The quickest way to lose my interest when reading:

1. Start off with describing your character and everyone he/she meets into details about looks, job, education and their past.

I barely could hold on to Jim Butcher's first after that slip on his part and I've never been able to start another by him.

message 45: by Kal (new)

Kal Quote: 'As a writer, I keep asking myself "would all these people like my writing?"'

Eheh... the answer is probably no :p But that's okay. You can't expect everyone to like your writing. Personally, I think you should aim to please yourself. Think along the lines of what things you'd like to see more of, and write it. Then, even if everyone hates it, at least you get to see more of that thing that you love.

Btw, I didn't find Jim Butcher easy to get into either at first, but I thought all his books were better after that first book and overall The Dresden Files seems to me like the best UF series out there today. Maybe it's not your kind of thing, but if you like the basic concepts - wizard fighting bad guys/monsters in a modern day city - then you should stick with it. The cool stuff quickly outweighs the annoying.

message 46: by Kal (new)

Kal Oh, I should add that I totally endorse The Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine... even with that one thing that bugs the crap out of me, this is one of the coolest UF series out there -- the whole series, though it follows the adventures of one character, it takes a new direction with every book. The main character is always gaining new powers or losing them, or finding new obstacles, facing different enemies... and yet it's quite coherent. Also, the last book just recently came out, so no waiting around for more.

message 47: by Malin (new)

Malin (Tusenord) | 9 comments Josh wrote: "Quote: 'As a writer, I keep asking myself "would all these people like my writing?"'

Eheh... the answer is probably no :p But that's okay. You can't expect everyone to like your writing. Person..."

I didn't mean "all" as in "everyone", just a statement that I didn't mean any particular member :)

I liked the concept, but I have issues with blatant and easily remedied flaws (in my unhumble opinion) such as infodumping. I might take it up again on your suggestion, but then, there are a lot of good writing out there and I see no reason wasting time reading average writing when there might be something ace on the next shelf.

message 48: by Colette (new)

Colette  (abuckeyegirlreads) | 1 comments My dislike is short: I hate it when it takes more then half the book to finish the world building and for the story to happen. I want to get the world within the first 150 pgs or so. (I have a short attention span sometimes.)

message 49: by Shomeret (new)

Shomeret | 233 comments It definitely shouldn't take 150 pages just for world building. A skilled writer knows how to start the plot right away and give us whatever we need to know at every point in the plot in no more than a paragraph. I never excuse infodumping in any type of fiction.

message 50: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Jackson (melaniejaxn) | 13 comments One thing that has put me off a couple series-- in spite of solid writing-- is having characters who don't live up to their reputations/roles. You can't have a bad*ss demon-slayer who never actually slays anything and cries when she has to be mean. After a few books of cliffs conveniently collapsing on bad guys or heroes rushing in so the heroine doesn't actually have to be mean and kill something, I just give up. Make up your mind who a character is and then stick to it-- the sweet and weak and weepy are not also courageous superheros.

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