Paranormal cozy mystery vs. Urban fantasy

When I started my Designer to the Dead series, my feet were planted firmly in the realm of paranormal cozy mystery. As time went on, the story skewed more toward urban fantasy.

What are the differences between paranormal cozy mystery and urban fantasy?

Paranormal cozy mysteries and urban fantasy are both subgenres of speculative fiction that often incorporate elements of the supernatural or paranormal. However, they have distinct characteristics that set them apart. Here are the main differences between the two:

1. Setting and Worldbuilding:

– Paranormal Cozy Mysteries: These stories typically take place in contemporary, real-world settings, often in small towns or cozy communities. The paranormal elements in cozy mysteries are usually minor, and the focus is primarily on solving a mystery or crime. The protagonist is often an amateur sleuth, and the supernatural aspects are often used as a fun twist or a unique element to the mystery.

– Urban Fantasy: Urban fantasy is typically set in urban environments, and the worldbuilding incorporates a hidden, parallel supernatural world existing within the modern-day setting. Magical creatures, supernatural beings, and various magical systems are integral to the story. Unlike cozy mysteries, the paranormal elements in urban fantasy are usually more central to the plot and are explored in depth.

2. Tone and Atmosphere:

– Paranormal Cozy Mysteries: These stories have a lighter, more whimsical tone. While they may involve mysterious occurrences and supernatural elements, they often maintain a sense of humor and warmth. The focus is on solving the mystery rather than delving into darker or more intense themes. In addition, cozy mysteries rarely including violence, swearing or open-door sex.

– Urban Fantasy: Urban fantasy often has a darker and more intense atmosphere. The stakes are usually higher, and the stories can explore complex themes of good versus evil, power, and identity. The characters in urban fantasy frequently have magical abilities and are deeply entwined with the supernatural world, leading to more significant personal and emotional conflicts.

3. Protagonists and Themes:

– Paranormal Cozy Mysteries: In cozy mysteries, the protagonist is typically an ordinary person who stumbles upon a mystery and becomes an amateur detective. The themes often revolve around community, friendship, and solving the puzzle, with the paranormal elements adding a touch of excitement.

– Urban Fantasy: In urban fantasy, the protagonist is often a character with magical abilities or someone who becomes involved in the hidden supernatural world. Themes in urban fantasy can include the struggle between the mundane and magical aspects of life, self-discovery, and the complexities of balancing power and responsibility.

4. Romance Elements:

– Paranormal Cozy Mysteries: While romance may be present in cozy mysteries, it usually takes a backseat to the mystery-solving aspect of the story. If there are romantic subplots, they are often sweet and lighthearted.

– Urban Fantasy: Urban fantasy often includes stronger romantic elements, with relationships and romantic subplots playing a more significant role in the character’s development and overall story arc.

While paranormal cozy mysteries and urban fantasy differ in terms of their settings, tones, focus on mysteries versus supernatural worlds, and the nature of their protagonists and themes, both genres provide readers with exciting and imaginative experiences that blend the mundane with the magical.

What about Paranormal Women’s Fiction?

I think this lean toward urban fantasy explains my dip into paranormal women’s fiction (PWF). While some people insist the stories are just para cozies with older heroines, I believe they’re more urban fantasy with a main character who is an older female and a focus on that character’s emotional development and platonic and romantic relationships.

So, what do you do when your story is in the edge of one genre or bleeding into another? I’d like to know the answer to that myself! I believe there is often overlap, which may be one reason die-hard cozy mystery readers aren’t always fans of the para cozy sub-genre.

Thoughts? Leave them below!

Categorized as On Writing