Tag Archives: genres

Is It History, Near History, or Alternate History?

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It used to be so simple to figure out “historical fiction”: the date of the setting began with an 18 or less.

But now, in 2016, how do we consider the century-old 1916? Things made then pass through customs now as genuine antiques. How about the approaching century mark for the 1920s, even WW2? And how in the world do we consider a steampunk secret history?

Let’s try to make the easiest cut first, which happens to be the biggest one: real history from alternative history.

It’s only sporting to let your readers know you’re doing alternative history somewhere in the cover blurb, an afterword, or a 50-word intro. Otherwise, there are enough junky writers out there that the reader may think you don’t know that Queen Victoria never remarried or that Napoleon was sent to exile in Elba first. With you sending him to St. Helena’s right away, why, the Hundred Days and Waterloo won’t happen! (And that was your point: France without the great Romantic binge of the Hundred Days.)

Also, there are enough people with poor history retention that they may believe your rendition is fact, and your story, so much more vivid than their high school history class, is going to stay in their head as the real deal. I’m thinking here of a reviewer of the film, The Silent Village, who thought it was a vital documentary, and we should never forget how horrible the Nazis were after they occupied Wales, and why that made our part in WW2 so necessary …
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Time for a New Year’s Change

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If your present methods of work are producing you a stream of stories that are finding homes and an audience — as they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

But if there’s something that isn’t working for you, it’s time for a change.

This includes sheer boredom. If you want tedium, you can find plenty of wearisome ways to spend your time that are much easier work than writing fiction and marketing it, and probably bring in more money or status to boot. (Say, dumpster diving for items to sell on eBay. Game stores and upscale neighborhoods with designer label trash seem to rule YouTube dumpster vids.)
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The Revision Project

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Heaven knows it was useful to me to update my page that gathers all the blogs for the Revision Project. Just a few holes here and there! And maybe someday I’ll get that counting thing straight …

For those of you following that, it may help you catch some you missed, and also explained some apparent non sequiturs.

 

Revision 05.1 — The Method

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Just what you’ve been waiting for — “Now that we have templates and genres and stuff, what do we do with it?”

First off, re-read every good how-to you can get your hands on. Yes, you already wrote the damned thing. If you had remembered everything in the how-to list, in theory you wouldn’t even need to revise. So you want to re-stuff your head, re-activate your Inner Editor, and keep close watch for where you dropped the ball. That includes where your characterization is inconsistent, where you gave the reader too much or too little information (you’ll have to figure out somewhere to stick in that bit of background that foreshadows how the climax works), where dialog is stilted or if everyone talks alike, where you can drive a Diamond Reo through the plot holes, etc.

Writing is re-writing, and that means re-writing, revision, is a case of Read the rest of this entry

Whew!

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Got the genres finished. Single-handed, based on a lifetime of promiscuous reading.

If you have any questions or see any holes, please feel free to use the comments sections. I’d appreciate the help polishing it up.

Back next time with actual revising work. But OMG the templates pages loom on the horizon.

Listening to the Peter Gunn OST album. Sometimes only Cool Jazz will do. I’ve been collecting lists on my 8tracks account. Dark outside the bus windows, rain spattering on them — must have smooth trap set and desperate horns.

Revision 04.1.04 — Fantasy & Science Fiction, pt. 2

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The easiest way to explain the spectrum of fantasy to science fiction is to just paint it on the wall.

•    Fantasy.
•    Science Fantasy, the usual place you find Space Opera and Planet Stories.
•    Soft Science Fiction. Includes “non-magical fantasy,” and “hard fantasy.”
•    Science Fiction.
•    Hard Science Fiction.

Fantasy includes all kinds of things, and they really don’t spectrum — they’re just different settings or things to use as elements or mechanisms. It’s the science fiction folks who get fussy about how much science their stories have going.

So —
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Revision 04.1.04 — Fantasy & Science Fiction, pt. 1

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Fantasy, we all ought to know, is stuff we make up so it isn’t like reality, on purpose. “Fantasy” as a genre, does not require quests, dragons, swords, or strange places. In fact, science fiction is a subset of fantasy: fantasy is the oldest form of fiction (we can track it back into mythic tales, where the tellers may have thought that stuff was real, but it appears at least in Ancient Egypt, in “The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor”), and science fiction is a special form of it that came into existence about 1818, as a fantasy that tried to explain its non-reality in terms of postulated science rather than magic.

That’s the literary approach. In marketing terms, they both come under the 1970s term “speculative fiction,” invented to soothe the ruffled feathers of über-geeks who didn’t want their science fiction called fantasy, like it was icky Tolkien or something. Science fiction at least nods to science and makes up some good-sounding terminology to let them do whatever they need to do: the big word right now is “nanobots,” right? Anything you want to do, someone came up with some free-ranging nanobots that will provide the effect. The other big thing is wormholes, and they don’t even hold them with quantum foam. (Sometimes it’s hard to believe I was raised on Galaxy and Analog, and then again maybe that explains my attitude.) This coming up with good-sounding terms and theories is called hand-waving, smoke and mirrors, or phlebotinum, all meaning “stuff that doesn’t make hard science sense but works in the story.” Read the rest of this entry

Revision 04.1.10 — This, That, and the Other Genres

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Animal Stories

These have non-human protagonists, animals that, nowadays, we don’t want to over-sentimentalize or make into humans in animal suits. Predators hunt, prey has to defend itself in any place not a zoo, and Bambi won’t have any clue as to who his father is.

Of course, children’s fantasies and humor are always another matter. In that case we may be getting into animal fables or anthropomorphized animals, where the squids and foxes are indeed humans in beast suits, acting and thinking like people in similar situations. These range from Aesop’s fables to The Lion King. “Furry fandom” is its own market, where the animals become upright and bipedal with hands and other human anatomy, though usually with fairly animal-like heads. Read the rest of this entry

Revision 04.1.06 — Thrillers & Suspense

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A lot of best-sellers come out of these genres, because if you do it right, the whole idea is to keep people breathlessly turning the pages until long past bedtime. The difference between whether something is marketed as a thriller or as a suspense novel may depend on which is selling better this year: they’re very close, the way fantasy and science fiction shade over at science fantasy.

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Revision 04.1.03.2 Exotic Romance Sub-genres

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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