The Difference Between Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy

The Difference Between Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy

Paranormal Romance vs. Urban Fantasy: What’s The Deal With These Two Subgenres of Fiction?

Urban fantasy and paranormal romance are two popular genres of fiction that often get confused with each other. While both genres have supernatural elements, and both feature paranormal creatures, monsters, and races, there are some significant differences between the two. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between paranormal romance and urban fantasy.

What Is Urban Fantasy?

Urban fantasy is a genre of fiction that combines supernatural elements with contemporary settings. The stories are typically set in cities, where the supernatural and the ordinary exist side by side. The genre can be traced back to the early 20th century, with works like H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu and Algernon Blackwood’s The Willows. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s and 1990s that the genre really took off, with authors like Emma Bull, Neil Gaiman, and Charles de Lint paving the way.

In urban fantasy, the supernatural is often hidden from the general public, with only a select few knowing about its existence. The protagonist is usually a human who discovers this hidden world and becomes embroiled in it. They may have supernatural abilities themselves, or they may be an ordinary human trying to navigate a world filled with vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural beings.

Urban fantasy is often characterized by its dark and gritty tone. The stories are often violent and deal with mature themes like death, loss, and betrayal. The romance elements in urban fantasy are usually secondary to the main plot, with the focus being on the supernatural elements and the protagonist’s journey.

One of the most popular urban fantasy series is Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. The series follows Harry Dresden, a wizard who works as a private investigator in Chicago. He often finds himself caught up in supernatural conflicts and has to use his magical abilities to solve cases and save the day.

What Is Paranormal Romance?

Paranormal romance is a genre of fiction that combines supernatural elements with romance. The stories are often set in contemporary settings, but the supernatural elements are front and center. The genre became popular in the early 2000s, with authors like Laurell K. Hamilton and Sherrilyn Kenyon leading the way.

In paranormal romance, the romance is the main focus of the story. The protagonist is often a human who falls in love with a supernatural being, like a vampire or werewolf. The romance is usually forbidden, with societal norms or the supernatural world getting in the way of the couple’s happiness.

Paranormal romance is often characterized by its steamy and romantic tone. The stories are often lighter in tone than urban fantasy, with a focus on the relationship between the two main characters. The supernatural elements are usually used to enhance the romance, rather than being the main focus of the story.

One of the most popular paranormal romance series is Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. The series follows Bella Swan, a teenage girl who falls in love with Edward Cullen, a vampire. The story follows their forbidden romance, as they try to navigate the difficulties of being in love with someone from a different world.

The Primary Differences Between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance

While both genres have supernatural elements and focus on romance, there are some significant differences between urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

1. Tone

One of the biggest differences between urban fantasy and paranormal romance is the tone. Urban fantasy is often darker and grittier, with a focus on violence and mature themes. Paranormal romance, on the other hand, is often lighter in tone, with a focus on the romantic relationship between the two main characters.

2. Focus

The focus of the two genres is also different. Urban fantasy puts more emphasis on the supernatural elements and the protagonist’s journey. The romance is usually secondary to the main plot. Paranormal romance, on the other hand, puts more emphasis on the romantic relationship between the two main characters. The supernatural elements are usually used to enhance the romance, rather than being the main focus of the story.

3. Protagonist

In urban fantasy, the protagonist is usually a human who discovers the hidden supernatural world and becomes embroiled in it. They may have supernatural abilities themselves, or they may be an ordinary human trying to navigate a world filled with supernatural beings. In paranormal romance, the protagonist is usually a human who falls in love with a supernatural being.

4. Plot

The plot of urban fantasy and paranormal romance is also different. Urban fantasy often follows the protagonist’s journey as they navigate the hidden supernatural world and face various conflicts and challenges. The plot may involve solving a mystery, stopping a supernatural threat, or trying to survive in a dangerous world.

In paranormal romance, the plot often revolves around the romantic relationship between the two main characters. The story may follow the couple’s journey as they fall in love, face obstacles to their relationship, and ultimately overcome them.

One way to tell whether a novel is urban fantasy or paranormal romance is to remove all the romance elements and scenes from the story. If the story stands on its own without the romance elements and scenes, then the novel is urban fantasy. If not, the novel is paranormal romance.

5. World-building

World-building is an important aspect of both genres, but it is approached differently. Urban fantasy often takes place in a world that is similar to our own, but with supernatural elements added. The author may create their own rules for how the supernatural world works, but the setting is usually recognizable as a contemporary city.

In contrast, paranormal romance often takes place in a world that is completely different from our own. The author may create their own supernatural creatures, societies, and cultures. The world-building is often more elaborate and fantastical than in urban fantasy.

The Bottom Line? Read What You Like!

Urban fantasy and paranormal romance are two popular genres of fiction that share some similarities but are also quite different. Urban fantasy is characterized by its dark and gritty tone, focus on the supernatural elements, and the protagonist’s journey. Paranormal romance is characterized by its romantic tone, focus on the romantic relationship between the two main characters, and the use of supernatural elements to enhance the romance.

While both genres have their own unique characteristics, they are each popular among readers who enjoy supernatural fiction, with or without a touch of romance. Whether you prefer the darker, grittier world of urban fantasy or the steamy romance of paranormal romance, there are many excellent authors and novel series to be found within these two genres. Find an author and series that appeals to you and your reading interests, and read what you like!

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About the Author:

Larry the Chupacabra is the world’s foremost expert on fine vegan meat snacks and plant-based charcuterie. When he’s not traipsing around the world at Colin’s side, he’s likely to be found hanging out with other cryptids, cooking up plans to give various three-letter government agencies (and CERBERUS) plenty of grief. He’s also a pretty decent ninja, despite his lack of opposable thumbs twenty-nine-ish days out of the month.

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