Dark urban fantasy. You see this term tossed about quite a bit. The word “dark” gets attached to other fiction as well. My debut, Deadworld, is considered a “dark urban fantasy.” So, what does it mean exactly? What is it about the term that makes it a selling point to readers?
The term can apply to a variety of elements within a story. You can have dark characters, people who are pretty flawed, who don’t live particularly ethical/moral lives, and are just downright difficult to like in some significant way. The plot can be dark, which can mean a lot of things, but usually is a step up in graphic violence, bad things happening to good people, and/or involving content that pushes into the realm of disturbing. It can be dark in mood, such that the overall feeling is is one of gloom, where you get the feeling, sometimes literally, that it’s always night and raining, or the setting is run down, over run, in other words, the bad side of town. You can have all of these in a story, but suffice to say, it isn’t glitz, glamour, and sparkling rainbows in this story.
Some might say dark means more realisitc, because let’s face it, there’s some pretty dark shit that goes on in this world, but you can just as easily find the lighter, feel good aspects of life to write about. Urban fantasy, crime fiction, horror, science fiction, thrillers, all lend themselves well to making things dark. I think a lot of readers like to immerse themselves in it because it’s a way to vicariously experience a life too dangerous to exerience on one’s own. But let’s face it, reading in general is a way to take us to places unknown, too dangerous, and/or unaccessible to us in our normal lives. It’s fun, and when it comes down to it, that’s what the reading experience should be. Light or dark, it should always be an enjoyable experience.