Urban Fiction Themes
Think about your favorite Urban Fiction book, author, or series…
What makes that book your favorite? Is it the main character? The setting? The story?
Why do you love everything written by that one author? Is it because he or she has a way with words? Is it because they make you feel like they’re talking directly to you? Or is it because they talk about things you can relate to?
And what is it about that series that you can’t get enough of? You don’t care that there have already been five books; you’d read fifteen more if you could. Is it because somehow that series has taken you out of your present reality and into a place that you’ve never known? Is it because that series has taken you to a world that is not your own?
Urban Fiction is a unique genre. The word “urban” carries so many definitions in our current society, and I believe that this contributes to the broadness of this genre. Over the years I’ve read a number of urban books, both old and new, and I’ve seen three common urban fiction themes throughout this multifaceted arena: crime, romance, and family. If you think about the last Urban Fiction book that you read, I’m willing to bet that it was based on one of these urban fiction themes, if not all of them.
As an author myself, I can say that I am intentional about having the importance of family as a central theme in my writing. I love reading and writing about crime, so I always find a way to weave that in there as well. And who doesn’t like a good romance? A love story can serve as the perfect subplot even if it’s not the main storyline, and readers love that.
But what things should writers do to set themselves apart while still holding true to the common urban fiction themes? There are a number of simple things that can be done to make our stories better. As we know, character development is a major key to any book. Giving your characters distinction in what they say or certain mannerisms that aren’t done by the other characters in the book will help them seem more authentic to the reader.
This is something that works well when you have a villain in your book. Give the villain a trademark; a deformity in their physical features (like a scar) or a certain tone to their voice (raspy or deep). Another tip is to use exotic or foreign locations at different times in the book to get away from the main setting. This is where the real work of a writer begins because this will probably require quite a bit of research if the book’s setting is switching to a place that you’ve never been to. For me, since I live in a small city, visiting big cities has helped me bring authenticity to my stories and has provided a great deal of inspiration.
My final tip would be to learn the art of telling multiple storylines throughout the book for different characters. This is definitely a skill that has to be learned, but as writers it’s our job to make sure that every page is filled with intrigue, excitement, and thought-provoking scenarios that serve as proof that we have put a lot of thought and time into developing the plot.
I’d love to hear feedback from other writers and readers about what your favorite themes are in Urban Fiction today. Also, drop a line about what type of things you would like to see other writers do to set themselves apart. We are all in this together.
Books from D.D. Bridges
Thanks for some great thoughts. I also like the theme of triumph over adversity in urban fiction. I'm talking about the type of triumph that is framed so well by Tupac's poem The Rose That Grew From Concrete. It can be dirty and rough but it is triumph over adversity nonetheless.
I love the triumph over adversity themes as well. I know with a lot of urban fiction authors we like to give a favorable ending (not necessarily happy) because too often times in line we've seen people fight through adversity and still lose in the end, and through our writing, we get to change that. But I love a story that has a tragedy so heart wrenching that it not only changes the (main) character, but it gives the reader something to think about such as being mindful of the choices and decisions that they are making in life.