Monthly Archives: January 2014

Current Status


Whew! Finished the 3 pages of romance genres and sub-genres. The hard part wasn’t describing them: it was making the lists as inclusive as possible, then aaaagh making all the links on the central romance page and the central genres page. I still have science fiction and fantasy to go, and they may be worse. As so often, if I had known how big the revision project was going to get, I might not have started.

Especially considering our Oceanic Time-Warner modem blew out, and we were without phone, cable, Roku, and the internet for most of a week. Makes research a little hard.

If you want to look at a pretty good parsing of specfi genres before I get my strength back, you might look at the list at Other Worlds Writers Workshop. If you’re interested in the genres, you probably write it and you can use a tough-love workshop.

Revision Exotic Romance Sub-genres


According to the publishers, a paranormal romance is a contemporary romance of any kind with elements that are actual (not faked) magic, psychic powers, supernatural creatures, &c. This includes ghost romances, angel romances — where such supernatural creatures are real and have some part to play, including as the hero — suspense romances with psychic h/h, and what are considered the “dark” paranormal romances of vampire romances and werewolf romances — though I can imagine a fairly light werewolf romance involving dog shows. That’s because “werewolf romance” is often the catch-all for romances involving any shape-shifter or skin-walker, whether were-leopard, were-hawk, or what you will.

The trick is that the paranormal element can’t be just tacked on. It needs to be integral to story, whether positively in that the hero’s angel grandmother shoves him into meeting the heroine, or negatively as in the family curse that makes the h/h draw back from the relationship. As well, if this is a hybrid romance, like a suspense romance, the paranormal needs to be involved in the climax. However, in the relationship half, we like to see people resolve to commit to love on their own, though that may be what drives them into the showdown with their external magical problem.

The remaining three sub-genres have one thing in common: the publishers want pageantry. That is, they want the reader to have a strong sense of the time and place not being their own, not necessarily street parades. Use the differences between here and there, especially any glamorous ones. Give the reader a vacation from the here and now. Read the rest of this entry

Revision Contemporary Romance Sub-genres


Naturally, a contemporary romance is a romance set in the world the author lives in, more or less. It’s real-world stuff. The general term “contemporary romance” covers everything that doesn’t fit into a specific sub-genre based on profession or template. Remember that most of these can be all over the scale on sexiness portrayed, from sweet inspirational cowboy romances to cowboy erotica romances.

A special version is the category romance. This is about 50,000 words, which for modern novels is short. It’s designed to be a fast read, not a big commitment like a door-stopper saga. They’re always contemporary, and some publishers have quite a list of requirements as to age of heroine, if ever married, age and wealth of hero, &c. Do your research at their online guidelines. Read the rest of this entry

Revision 04.1.03: All the Shades of Romance


Romance: The second oldest form of fiction known (the first is the heroic fantasy quest). Ancient Greek novels were based on lovers separated by misunderstandings and adventures.

Like specfi, this has a huge number of sub-genres. Containing a love story is insufficient for a story to be “a romance.” As a sales tag, in romance, lovers don’t part at the end with warm understanding or sudden death. The romance has to be half of the weight of the story or more, and the other half, whether mystery, thriller, quest, etc. has to move the romance forward, not happen in isolation from it. A romance needs to end on a positive note, not only of the lovers together, but with a sense of justice in the universe. Otherwise, sell it as litfi or mainstream or specfi or whatever it’s close to. Women’s fiction is often a good choice if you don’t like the limitations of the romance proper.

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Revision Ahistorical Fiction May Be the Better Genre


The modern historical novel began in Romanticism: escapism to other times rather than exotic places. If it first blossomed with Sir Walter Scott’s Waverly, it steadied and lost its heavy poetical load by 1840 with The Last Days of Pompeii.

Decent histfi requires research. Lots of research. More than you can do by reading websites.

Besides “general purpose” multi-era fast references, expect to read at least 40-50 new books for a new period. If you don’t like reading history, why would you want to write histfi? Set your wonderful story of adventure and romance in a non-magical imagined world (the “hard fantasy” or soft scifi subgenre of science fiction) where history is what you want it to be. Try it: you’ll love the freedom to make this near-parallel world exactly what you need! Read the rest of this entry

Revision Historical Fiction – or Not


Historical fiction attempts to present life in eras before living memory.

Some consider histfi a setting rather than genre since it hybrids so often (but fantasy isn’t so considered when it crosses with romance, mystery, etc.). I think that’s right, and it kind of is about fantasy or science fiction. Like fy/sf, historical fiction uses a great many templates to structure its stories. What all histfi has in common is the setting before living memory. When you get into Vintage fiction (pardon me for coining a term), you are in the living memory of some, but a 20-year-old author would have to research their parents’ youth in the same way as they would something a century ago. It just markets differently, and the genre tool is all about figuring how to improve marketability in revision.

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Revision 04.1.0: Mysteries for Many


The mystery genre is determined by a template, that of the hidden thing revealed. Where or when you set it, who gets the revelation, what is revealed, levels of violence — create sub-genres, but they are all mysteries. As in any large, sub-genred field, some readers read only one sub-genre, but many read anything as long as it is a mystery.

One axis of splitting is who the detective is in the mystery. In the private eye mystery, starting back with Sherlock Holmes, the detective is a professional, dedicated to solving mysteries. Often the simple job like finding a missing sister, starts to accrue dead bodies and threats against the detective, who has to show their professional mettle facing the threats and solving the mystery anyway.

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Revision 04.1.02: Literary Fiction Has No Rules


This is probably the only time that I will directly address literary fiction.

Literary fiction ranges from the Renaissance’s archives to the latest off-world experiments. Literary fiction today often dispenses with plot. It may dispense with either, but not both, character or setting. It can make setting the character. It demands greater engagement and work from readers than other genres.

Litfi can also use every rule in the book, as well as break them all. The writer is completely free of rules and templates provided that their system still works, still communicates to the audience. No one said it had to be a large audience, or that they could interpret the fiction without prior training. In fact, some litfi schools prefer that the reader have to study the author’s life and writings about writing to access the fiction: it deepens the game.

Since litfi has only one rule–what works–one can learn it, but no one can teach it, since the rules change all the time, from complete subjectivity (James Joyce’s Ulysses) to complete objectivity (Hemingway’s “The Killers”), and the extremes of any other spectrum or axis you care to research.

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Revision 04.1.01: Mainstream–Everyone’s Genre


Mainstream fiction can also be labeled domestic drama or family drama (when big or multi-volume, family saga). No outré or exotic elements of adventure or danger intrude on tales of ordinary life, though some characters may be eccentrics, abusers, addicts, and otherwise not mentally healthy. Comic, serious, tragic, or a mixture, it’s tales of contemporary people, whether urban or rural.

Regional fiction (usually of the US or Canada, which are large enough to Read the rest of this entry

About Those Dead Rabbits …


(Did you notice I had a “history” section? It’s not all about writing. Except that I tend to write historical fiction …)

Nowadays, women pee on a stick. It used to be that they had to go to a doctor with a urine sample, and it was sent to a lab, and some rabbit was mysteriously killed or saved. So the phrase, up through the 1970s at least, was “the rabbit died,” meaning someone was pregnant. (And thus the title of the 1978 movie, The Rabbit Test)

Having just received my copy of The Modern Home Physician, A New Encyclopedia of Medical Knowledge, Illustrated with Two Hundred and Thirty-Two Photographs and Nearly Seven Hundred Drawings Made Expressly for This Work, edited by Victor Robinson (Wm. H. Wise & Co., 1938), I went cruising.

In checking the pages on this big puppy (781), I found the Zondek-Aschheim Reaction test, devised in 1927 to give women an accurate and fairly early idea if they were pregnant or not. Before then, it was all symptoms and guesswork. False pregnancies happened out of stress.

The original test was done on immature mice, but a more convenient variation worked out some time between 1927 and 1938 used a female rabbit, inject intravenously with the urine. (You’d think that would kill right there, but the hCG hormone is only in pregnant woman’s urine).

Actually, the test didn’t kill anything. That’s popular misunderstanding of how the test worked.

[Bunny lovers, go away now.]

But to see the changes in the rabbit’s ovaries brought on by the hCG, the lab techs had to go inside. Since anesthesia and post-op on a big rodent seemed silly to the labs, all the rabbits died before being examined.

[Bunny people, you can come back now.]

A little time on Wikipedia turned up a bit more on the phrase “rabbit test,” which doesn’t seem to have been used until 1949, however popular it became. I would guess that “the rabbit died” idea is no earlier than the 1950s. Before then, rather than being cutesy about it, a woman just said the test was positive or negative. It seems right for the neo-Victorian Fifties love of euphemism.

Just an odd bit of everyday life that’s been mostly forgotten, and often displaced in anachronism by writers (no test in 1912, and no phrase in 1943). It’s the sort of thing I love discovering.