Tag Archives: fantasy

Blurring Genres

I always enjoyed Fantasy, as I mentioned in previous entries.  I read to escape reality, and perhaps it seemed the best blurred linesway to do that was to engage in a genre that removed itself from reality the most.

Even in my other free time hobby, video games, I enjoy fantasy – The Witcher series, Elder Scrolls, vampire sagas.

For a time I was interested in The Sims when it first came out (like a decade ago), but when I realized the game dealt with the same crap I had to deal with in real life it lost a lot of interest for me.  Like literally, your character had to find time to crap – go to the bathroom, as well as eat, go to work, shower, talk…  I had enough difficulty finding time for me to do all those things for myself!  I really don’t want to take up precious free time to do it for a virtual me.

So Fantasy was my passion.  It made sense when I started writing that would be the genre I was drawn to.  So my first two manuscripts were clearly urban Fantasy.   My first was a vampire novel, which has yet to see the light of day (seriously – no pun was intended).  Being my first attempt at a novel I made so many mistakes it is in dire need of revamping…okay, I chose that word on purpose, sorry.

My second novel, Natural Enemies, I believe shown major growth (you can check it out yourself here).  But then I wrote my third novel and was half way through it when my CPs mentioned I was writing a paranormal romance not a fantasy.  My opinion about blurred genre lines are posted here.

Now I started another manuscript.  Maybe the fourth times a charm…right?  When I started writing it was to be a good ol’ fashion urban fantasy.  However, as I wrote, as my characters and plots tend to do, it morphed.  As it turns out, it isn’t fantasy, it’s not even magical realism, or any other sub-genre of fantasy.  I thought it would become action/adventure, but I’m not so sure anymore.  In truth, if someone was to put a gun to my head right now and demand a classification I would have to say – incomplete, simply because I wouldn’t be able to answer them, so I they would shoot me, and thus, I wouldn’t get to finish the story.

I know this will be an issue when I finish, unless it develops in some clear and defined way so I can properly query it under the right genre to the right agents and publishers.  But what if it doesn’t?

Many stories overlap multiple genres, and at times it seems almost like a crapshoot when classifying someone’s work.

Yes, classifications are useful and necessary.  Most people when looking for their next book will make a beeline to a certain genre.  I don’t know anyone who goes into a bookstore or library and would say to the staff member or librarian if asked what are they looking for would respond ‘Anything, as long as it has words’.  People have interests matching the classifications of the genres.  I never had an interest in reading Romance novels, and I know others have no interest in Fantasy.  It’s not that one is better than the other, they’re just different.

But some genres can overlap.  Speculative Fiction has many distinct categories, and Romance can contain plenty of action scenes.  Mysteries can have plenty of romance scenes.  How do we know how to properly define a book when the relationship between the two main characters is as important to the development of the story as discovering who the killer is?  Just because there’s magic in the world, does that trump the fact the story is about the coming of age of a young girl trying to find herself in that world?

It seems that writers today aren’t so concerned with making sure they stay ‘inside the lines’ for want of a better expression, when creating their stories.  But if the industry isn’t willing to entertain that sort of flexibility, what happens then?

Be sure to read my latest entry of my Paranormal novel: Daughter of Lilith on Wattpad!

Speculative Fiction – Shaken, and stirred.

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I started writing my most current manuscript, Daughter of Lilith, as another fantasy novel.  However, since the main character of the story is part demon, and there’s a love interest I soon found myself writing a paranormal romance.  Gotta admit, it shocked me when my beta readers came back saying this isn’t fantasy.  I wanted to fight it, not that I have anything against paranormal romance, or any other genre.  Just never thought of myself as a romance writer of any sort.

While the romance sub-plot is important in advancing the story, it’s still a sub-plot.  I didn’t want to be a paranormal romance book like Twilight and the rest…

‘Wait,’ you say.  ‘Isn’t Twilight urban fantasy?’

The genre of speculative fiction is about as clean cut as insurance claim forms and the Federal budget.  What’s the difference between fantasy and paranormal? Can there be paranormal without romance?  If Bilbo Baggins moved out of the Shire and moved to Rivendell to chat it up with Elrond more often would such a story become urban fantasy since Rivendell is an urban setting?  Where are the lines drawn, and can it effect writers who are querying and labeling their works one way instead of an another?

Sadly, yes.  Some agents or publishers will see a genre and dismiss it.  Unfair?  For the writer, sure.  But in their defense, agents may receive hundreds of query requests a week, maybe even a day (honestly).  They need to have some filter in place, and if they select to filter by genre and are looking for urban fantasy and not paranormal romance, a query can be moved to the trash without a second or even a first look.

But many books and movies have more than one speculative fiction component.  I’ll take Star Wars again as an example.  You have space ships, lasers, and alien races.  Clearly this is a science-fiction movie, right?  Well, you have sword fights.  Sure the blades are made of light, but there’s no denying the techniques and battles are grounded in fencing and swordplay, a Medieval component and main form of combat back then.  You also have The Force.  A power that allows seemingly ordinary people to manipulate the world around them without any scientific explanation.  That’s practically a dictionary definition of magic.  Of course this is before the introduction of the midi-chlorides (don’t get me started on that). But for those of us who have grown up with just the first three movies…or rather the fourth through sixth movies, the Force had no explanation other than “an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.”  On Earth this is known as duct tape.  So if it’s a field created by all living things, where do these midi-chlorides come in?  Okay, I’m going off on a tangent here, I know.

The point is many books, movies, and TV shows have both magical and sci-fi elements.  If a mage uses a laser gun, or an astronaut lands on an alien planet where shaman can make it rain by casting a spell, how do we categorize these works?

There’s usually a clear line drawn between what is considered science fiction and what’s fantasy.  It’s only worse between similar genres such as fantasy, high fantasy, magical realism, paranormal romance, mythic fiction, urban fantasy, low fantasy, epic fantasy, dark fantasy…you get the idea.

The truth is most of these sub-genres overlap, and personally, I believe nit picking over what label to attach to one’s work should not be a prime concern for the writer, agent, publisher or reader.

If you want to say the story is paranormal because the main character is a ghost, fine.  If that ghost is also a wizard, call it fantasy, who cares?  And if that wizard created a time machine using midi-chlorides, make it sci-fi, no problem.  But if the inventor is Merlin, I guess we’re looking at Mythic Fantasy, right?  And if that time machine needs to be delivered to Arthur before Morgana unleashes a horrible spell that will destroy the entire planet, throwing it into eternal chaos for one thousand years, and Merlin must trek four hundred miles and battle her forces to get to Arthur we have ourselves a good old fashion Epic Fantasy tale…unless it takes place in modern times and Merlin fails, in which case it would be dystopian.

The aspirin’s on the bottom shelf, I’ll get you some water.

Writing for a character smarter than you.

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As I mentioned before, I love acting, and it, in fact, led me to writing.  I’ve played murders, KKK members, army personnel, spies, and mythical creatures.  Pretty wide range.

As with writing, I’m not one to critique my own work favorably, but no one has ever came up to me after a performance and said, ‘Wow, you really can’t act.  You suck!’  I wouldn’t have been surprised if they did, and it may have prepared me for querying as a writer.    But since I never had fruit, or a chair, or stray cats thrown at me during a performance, it must have not been too bad, despite my lack of military/espionage training, or having the ability to sprout wings.

Now pretending to be a soldier, or spy, or KKK member or faery is one thing.  I’ve seen and know soldiers, watched way too many James Bond films, and seen more than enough prejudice.  As for faeries, okay, that’s a bit of a stretch…  Uh, I’m short and grew up with pet birds and a faery is a miniature person with wings…there.

So playing other types of characters is possible, but feigning intelligence or wisdom is another.

How difficult is it to create a character that is smarter, or wiser than you?  I can’t make myself smarter, and becoming wiser takes time, and a certain amount of intelligence.

It’s not uncommon for characters in the speculative fiction genres (sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, magical reality, etc…) to be immortal, or have lifetimes that span centuries.  Wisdom comes from experience, and learning from it.  Now I don’t think I’m an idiot, but I also know that if I applied to replace Yoda’s position on the Jedi Council I’d be laughed off Coruscant. And not merely because I’m not strong with the Force.

There have been characters that I’ve created where after a certain scene I would read back and think, ‘Gee, if I was half as smart as this person, I would be in a much better position in life right now.  (Not that I think I’m in a bad position, I’d just be in a better one.)

Yet, this character is part of me, at least in some manner.  Sure, I’ve written characters that have interested that I never had, and needed to do research so they can talk their lingo, or at least show they spent time doing something.   But that’s different than writing for someone who is a genius or has wisdom and insight beyond my years.

But people do it all the time.  Let’s look at Yoda again.  900 years old, master of the Force, and capable of amazing feats, and incredibly insightful though perhaps a bit stuffy (probably from all the political crap he’s been dragged through over the years dealing with the Republic and Empire).  Nevertheless, a very wise character.  Yet, his creator also created Jar Jar Binks and midi-chlorians.  I have great respect for Mr. Lucas.  His movies greatly influenced my childhood and generation.  But those moves clearly show a lack of wisdom in my humble opinion.

Despite my limitations, I never felt that it was difficult to create characters that fall outside my areas of expertise, or intelligence.  Yet, when I think about it, I wonder why.  Is it simply because I’m only showing a snapshot of a character within the 300-400 pages?  Or will a reader just accept the author’s description as fact.  You say this person is wise, so they are wise.  What allows us to step beyond our limitations when we are creating?

The waiting game

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Months, sometimes years of writing, editing, revising, getting feedback from friends, beta readers, CPs, SOs, SOBs, and others.  Finally you go over it again; once, twice, dozens of times checking for spelling, stray commas, poor word choice selection.  You know you’ll never be 100% satisfied with it.  You can read it a thousand times and know without a doubt that you’ll make numerous changes each and every time.  But eventually, you succumb to the reality that it’s time to let your characters take their first leap from the nest and try to fly.  You write, revise, edit, get feedback from everyone again and complete your query letter.  That takes weeks, or months.  You write your synopsis, which is another handful of weeks at least.

With all the confidence of a neurotic mouse you write up your email to a handful of agents you’ve researched that claim they will love to review your manuscript based on it’s genre and main character’s characteristics.  You hit the send button and…