Does genre really matter anyway? Isn’t it more important to just tell a good story?
Yes, no, maybe?
For me as a reader, genre is a way to narrow down the search for new books to read. Instead of looking at All Books, I can look at Books In The Genre I Like, and I’ll have an easier time finding something that I’m in the mood for.
As a writer, I know that not everyone will enjoy what I’m doing. Knowing what genre best fits my book will make it easier for me to find readers who might like it.
When I first came up with the idea for Lost Dogs, I envisioned it as an Urban Fantasy story, but these days, I’m no longer so sure. In this article, I look at a few different definitions of the genre, and I’ll try to answer the question: Is Lost Dogs Urban Fantasy?
- If Urban Fantasy is fantasy that takes place in a city, then yes.
- If Urban Fantasy is about hot chicks in tight black leather staking vampires and playing fetch with werewolves, then no.
In fairness, neither of the above are good definitions of Urban Fantasy. The first is too vague, and the second too specific (and maybe just a tad sarcastic). It’s a little bit more complicated than that.
When I think of Urban Fantasy, I think of fantasy stories taking place in a modern day, real world city, but I also think of stories in that setting with a certain feeling, and a certain vibe. Stories with attitude, with action, and with a bit of mystery.
- Lost Dogs isn’t big on action, but it’s there, in almost every book.
- The story has attitude, but it’s not the snarky, confident, kick-ass kind of attitude.
- Is there mystery? No, not really.
Sure the world and the characters may be mysterious to the reader, and there are plenty of things to wonder about, or to jog your imagination, but the mystery isn’t central to the story. It’s not about uncovering a secret, or solving a riddle, or exposing a conspiracy.
It’s about a middle-aged man trying to come to terms with his past, and it’s about a young woman trying to find her place in the world. It’s about how both of them struggle against the monsters living within them.
Going by my own definition, Lost Dogs is not quite Urban Fantasy, but close.
Let’s see what others have to say.
In this article, Mishell Baker lists five elements that Urban Fantasy must have (let’s take that with a pinch of salt):
- The City – yep, got that.
- The Magic – got that too.
- The Mystery – nope.
- The Point of View – yeah, kinda got that.
- The Sizzle – hard nope.
The fourth element, Point of View, is about how Urban Fantasy is heavily character-driven, and how that shines through in the voice of the story. Lost Dogs is all about character, and although it’s written in third person, the characters definitely come through in the narration.
However, even with the best of good will, I can’t in good conscience claim that the story has “sizzle.” There may be a hint of it in books seven, and a little more in book ten, but other than that, there’s nothing.
Considering that one of the main characters lets his love for a woman rule his every decision, this may seem a bit weird, but there you go.
Much as Lost Dogs does not include all the “required” elements, I still think that the list is a good one.
I’m not ready to settle just yet, though, so I dug up this article from Reedsy. It explains how the term Urban Fantasy has been used in the past, and then moves on to say:
I like this definition. It fits with my own thoughts, and it meshes well with the list of elements above.
The thing to call out the bit about how the story should be set in our world, which Lost Dogs isn’t.
Lost Dogs is set in a fairly traditional fantasy world (elves, dwarves, dragons, magic), but in a time period that’s roughly equivalent to the real world of today. This isn’t very common, and from what I’ve found, there’s no widely accepted genre for that.
Now, can I answer the question?
Is Lost Dogs an Urban Fantasy story?
I’ve checked my own understanding of the genre, I checked the elements listed by Mishell Baker, and I checked the definition provided by Reedsy.
For better or for worse, Lost Dogs doesn’t match any of these definitions. It’s close, but it’s not quite there, so the answer will have to be a reluctant “no”
Why reluctant? Does it really matter what genre it is as long as the story is good?
This ties back to what I mentioned at the start about how I, as a writer, want to find readers for my book.
I believe that people who like Urban Fantasy will enjoy Lost Dogs, but I also believe that if they’re looking for a story that matches the definitions of the genre, they might be disappointed – not because the story is bad, but because it’s not what they expected.
As such, I’ll keeping hanging out in places where people who enjoy Urban Fantasy meet. I’ll talk about my books when it’s appropriate to do so, but I won’t be making out that they’re the next big thing. Since, after all, they’re not Urban Fantasy, but Urban fantasy is closest to what they are.