In an earlier post, I discussed the difference between how I see urban fantasy and how the world at large generally sees urban fantasy. A lot of what makes the average urban fantasy is a collection of tropes that at least approach being cliché. Chicks with leather pants and sawn-off shotguns? Overplayed. Sexy vampires and werewolves? Killed for the next few years by Twilight.
If urban fantasy wants to evolve as a subgenre, it must move beyond these clichés. This doesn’t mean that there can’t be werewolves or vampires, but they ought to keep their shirts on unless the situation absolutely demands otherwise, and the vampires ought only to sparkle if they’ve been attacked by some variety of glitter elemental. We, as writers, must push the limits of what urban fantasy is to realize what it can be.
This does not require so radical a change as you might imagine, though. I’m not suggesting that you or I must completely do away with the basic tropes of urban fantasy; without those tropes it would be a different genre. What I’m saying is that we must understand which tropes are essential and which ones are cliché. With that understanding, we can move forward to write more interesting stories which challenge readers to reëxamine their ideas about what urban fantasy is.
Don’t reinvent the wheel–it works well enough–make a more pure wheel. Build from the foundations that have been laid, but don’t just build another samey-samey block house. This is our mission, and we have no choice but to accept it.