Genre: Romance — May 13, 2010

Genre: Romance

I’ll admit it.  I’ve been putting this genre off for a while now.  See, I blush quite easily.  And I really don’t want to stumble upon something that is going to make me uncomfortable.  So I tend to avoid this genre.  (Despite the fact that the first short story I wrote and the first novel I wrote are both romances.)

This is a short post today though.  Romance can be done in so many different genres that I’m pretty sure I’ve touched on some already and will address more in the future.

Romance
n. a book or movie dealing with love in a sentimental or idealized way

Now, I’m not saying I agree with this definition.  This is just the one pulled from my dictionary application on my computer.

Characteristics

  • Primary, central focus start to finish is on the development of the romantic relationship
  • HEA is usually a must, at least an optimistic ending (but the type of HEA can vary and isn’t even essential sometimes)
  • Types
    • Category
      • Shorter, roughly 200 pages or less
      • According to some sources, has a very short shelf life in bookstores
    • Single title
      • Longer, 350-400 pages (rough guideline)
      • Aren’t necessarily stand-alone titles, they can be part of series

There are many categories, like historical, contemporary, science fiction, etc.

Further reading

RWA definition of romance
Reader’s Guide to Romance

Tips for writing it (and if you’re not following Roni’s blog, I suggest you do.  I’ll wait while you go over there.)

Don’t be corny or porn-y
Amping up sexual tension

What is your favorite type of romance?  Any squeaky clean recs for me?  Who’s your favorite author?

Side note, are you still enjoying these posts?

Genre: Science Fiction — May 6, 2010

Genre: Science Fiction

Science Fiction is today’s genre.  Wikipedia places it under the genre of “speculative,” but I really feel like speculative is a category of genres and a genre in and of itself.  Science fiction has been so popular in various media in the last decades that it deserves its own post.

Science fiction:
n. fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets.

n. a literary or cinematic genre in which fantasy, typically based on speculative scientific discoveries or developments, environmental changes, space travel, or life on other planets, forms part of the plot or background. (Found here.)

Sub-genres

  • Hard sci-fi
  • Soft sci-fi
  • Space opera
  • Cyberpunk
    • Nanopunk
    • Postcyberpunk
  • Alternative universe
  • Scientific romance
  • Steampunk

Science Fiction

  • Characteristics (not all must be present, this is just a varietal list)
    • Imaginary elements are largely possible within the established or postulated laws of nature relevant to the work
    • Writing rationally about alternative possibilities
    • Settings are often opposite to reality and can include the future, alternative timelines, a historical “what if” following a secondary path, space, other worlds, alien cultures
    • Involve technology and/or science contrary to what is currently known
    • Discovery of new technology or principles, or of new social or political systems
    • Deals primarily with the impact of the new society, new technology, etc. on humanity
    • Always include a human element
    • Should have some basis in reality
    • Not written for the scientific community
    • Present or future
    • Assumptions of technology
    • Monsters as a result of human error or science gone awry
    • Individual conquering technology
    • Life on other planets
    • Fantastical but not magic
  • Examples
    • The works of Philip K. Dick
    • The works of Isaac Asimov

Characteristics taken from here, here, and here.

    Hard science-fiction
    • Emphasizes detail and/or accuracy in the science
    • Should try to be as accurate, logical, credible, and rigorous as possible in the ways the science is applied to the narrative and structure

    Resources found here, here, and here.

    Soft science-fiction
    • 3 senses of the term
      • More focused on the social sciences like anthropology and political science than on biology, etc.
      • More concerned with character, society or other ideas that aren’t critically tied to the science
      • Less rigorous in its application of science

    Resources found here, here, and here.

    Space opera

    • Emphasizes romantic, melodramatic action
    • Set largely or entirely in space
    • Involves conflict between powerful opponents with technologies and abilities equal to their character
    • Large-scale themes, action, etc.

    Resources found here.

    Cyberpunk
    • Characteristics
      • Advanced science coupled with sociological breakdown
      • Conflict between hackers, artificial intelligence, and megacorporations or conglomerated governments
      • Near-future Earth, very dystopian with a great degree of technology use and a relative degree of social breakdown
      • Troubled futures
      • Action in some cyberpunk is set primarily in cyberspace
      • Sense of rebellion
    • Examples
      • William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy (1984-88)
      • Starfish by Peter Watts (2009)

    Resources here and here.

    Nanopunk
    • Characteristics
      • Nanotechnology is the dominant technology of all those that are used in the book’s world
      • The promises that nanotechnology held in the past have become the present’s reality
    • Examples
      • Linda Nagata’s Tech Heaven
      • Michael Crichton’s Prey

    Resources here and here.

    Alternative universe
    • Takes place in any setting from a world within our own to something occurring in a different, parallel spatial axis that we can’t perceive from our own world

    Found here.

    Science fiction romance
    • Three categories
      • Romantic science-fiction
        • Romance is a strong sub-plot but the scientific stuff still drives the plot
        • HEA is not a guarantee
      • Science-fiction romance
        • 50/50 split between the romance and the scientific, both drive the plot forward
        • HEA of some kind is a given, but it won’t always be what the reader thinks
      • Futuristic romance
        • The romance drives the plot
        • HEA a given

    Found here.

    Steampunk
    • Set in a world or era where steam power is still in use (i.e. 19th century, esp. Victorian Era England)
    • There is a prominence of science-fiction and/or fantasy elements like technologies that are existing but are incongruous with the time period it’s set in
    • Often contain alternate history what-if tales involving technologies like dirigibles

    Resources are here.

    Further reading:
    Whew.  We made it!  Now it’s time to let you loose into the comments section.  What’s your favorite science-fiction work?  Anything I missed?  Want to flay me open for overlooking something that you absolutely love?  Any recommendations?
    Hope you enjoyed this post.
    Oh, and because I couldn’t resist, here’s a parting photo.
    Genre: Memoir — April 29, 2010

    Genre: Memoir

    It’s time today to tackle our one and only non-fiction genre: Memoir.

    I have to say, I’ll likely never write a memoir even though I’ve an idea for one.  My life is just too boring and I far prefer making things up for made-up people.

    That said, let’s dive right in shall we?

    Memoir
    n. a historical account or biography written from personal knowledge or special sources
        a record of events written by a person having intimate knowledge of them and based on personal observation
        an account of one’s personal life and experiences; autobiography

    Memoirs
    n. an autobiography or a written account of one’s memory of certain events or people

    *definitions pulled from my computer’s dictionary program and here.

    Sub-genres

    • Autobiographical novel
    • Slave narrative

    Memoir

    • Features
      • Scope and chronology are determined by context
      • Focus on a brief period of time or a series of related events
      • More focused and flexible than an autobiography
      • Usually written in a first person POV
      • Narrative structure, including many traditional storytelling techniques like imagery and characterization, is present
      • Writer’s retrospective musing on the events in question
      • Usually some sort of fictional quality despite the truth of the genre
      • Higher emotional level (than what, I’m not sure)
      • More personal reconstruction of the events and their impact
      • Therapeutic for the writer
      • Attempt to show why and how events depicted are significant
      • Centered on a problem or conflict, its resolution, and why and how they’re significant
    • Some quotes on what memoir is
      • “When you put down the good things you ought to have done, and leave out the bad ones you did do well, that’s Memoirs.”- Will Rogers
      • “Memoirs are the backstairs of history.”- George Meredith

    Sources are here and here.  Oh, and the quotes are here.

    Autobiographical

    • Characteristics
      • Based on the life of the author
      • Carries the stipulation of being fictitious and no expectation of neutrality
      • Names and locations are often changed
      • Events are recreated to increase the dramatic appeal
      • Story still resembles the author’s life and the true facts
      • The protagonist should be modeled quite heavily on the author
      • Central storyline must mirror events in the author’s life
    • Examples
      • Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield
      • Ayn Rand’s We, the Living
      • Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar
      • Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Story of a Part-time Indian

    Sources found here and here.
    Slave narrative

    • Grew out of the written accounts of enslaved people
    • North American tradition
      • Three forms
        • Stories of religious redemption
          • Spiritual journey culminating in Christian redemption
          • Authors characterized themselves as Africans, not as slaves
        • Stories to inspire abolitionism
          • Became more literary
          • Included fictionalized dialogue for dramatic purposes
          • Recurrent features
            • Slave auctions
            • Break-up of families
            • 2 escape attempts, one of which is successful
        • Stories about progress
          • Post-Civil War
          • Shift in emphasis to the adjustment to freedom following the defeat of the Confederacy
    • North African tradition
      • Written by white Europeans and Americans taken captive in the north of Africa
      • Tend to highlight the “otherness” of the Islamic captors where the North American tradition looked more to show all people as having a sameness or equality to them
    • Not common today though it does still exist

    More linkage:

    Memoir Journal
    Amazon’s memoirs page(s)

    Okay, so have you read any memoirs?  Do you think you’d ever consider trying to write one?  Even if it were just for your own posterity and self-published for free distribution amongst family?  Or is this another genre you wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole?

    For those who do read memoir, should I be giving it a shot?  What would you recommend?

    Genre: Historical — April 22, 2010

    Genre: Historical

    Today’s genre is historical.  I have to admit up front that I’m not likely to have recommended readings for this one.  I’ve tried reading historical fiction and I just couldn’t do it.  Perhaps I was selecting the wrong author or wrong title (or both), but I just couldn’t.

    That said, I am going to be as thorough as possible.  Onwards with the journey!

    I do apologize in advance.  This is mostly pulled from Wikipedia.  It’s the last week of the semester and life is crazy.  It’s also likely to remain crazy for a good long while.

    Historical: adj. (esp. of a novel or movie) set in the past

    Sub-genres

    • Historical romance
    • Historical whodunit
    • Holocaust novel
    • Plantation tradition
    • Regency
    • Regency romance

    Historical

    • Real or fictional characters
    • Attempt, often through considerable research, to bring to life a story of the past, be it real or of one’s own devising

    Historical romance

    • Set before WWII
    • Heroines often have more education than would have been normal for the time
    • Often infiltrated by contemporary attitudes
    • Sub-genres
      • Viking
        • Set during the Dark or Middle Ages
        • Alpha male tamed by the heroine
        • Most heroes are “tall, blonde, and strikingly handsome”
        • The setting allows for limited travel because the Vikings did like to travel, trade, and conquer
      • Medieval
        • Set between 938 and 1485
        • Heroine uses her own wits and willpower to find a husband who will both protect her and allow her her need for independence
        • Hero is always a knight who must first accept the eccentricities of the heroine and then fall in love with her
        • Hero dominant, heroine subordinate, but it’s by her own choice
      • Tudor
        • 1485-1558
      • Elizabethan
        • 1558-1603
      • Georgian
        • 1714-1810
      • Regency
        • 1810-1820
      • Victorian
        • 1832-1901
      • Pirate
        • Set at sea
        • If the protagonist is a male pirate, the heroine is captured early on and usually forced in some way to fall in love with the MC or at least submit/succumb to him
        • If the protag is female, the central conflict of the story is often more internal between maintaining an identity and agency while still living this man’s life of sorts
      • Colonial US
        • 1630-1798
      • Civil War
        • Set in the South
        • Focuses on the Civil War and Reconstruction eras
      • Western
        • Set at the frontier
        • Heroes seek adventure
        • Heroines forced to the frontier by external circumstances that they can’t control
        • Characters are forced to face and overcome the unknown
        • Heroes are often portrayed as loners, slightly uncivilized, etc.
      • Native American
        • No reference to specific tribe, location, or even time period
        • Love of nature is emphasized
        • Heroine captured by the tribe
        • Native Americans shown as sympathetic, civilized, and mainly just misunderstood
        • “Exotic” figures
        • Struggle against racism and also a conflict between the way of life they’ve been in and what is pushing in all around
      • Americana
        • 1880-1920
        • Set in the Midwest or a small town setting

    Plantation

    • Set in the South
    • Strong sense of nostalgia for the Antebellum era

    Regency

    • Either
      • Written during the Regency period
      • Set in the Regency period
    • The setting is Regency England, but it can be extended to the European continent and/or to the various British colonies of the time
    • Acute sense of social standing between the characters
    • Emphasis on manners and class distinctions and issues
    • Modern social thought as it emerges in the upper classes

    Regency romance

    • Set during Regency England
    • Intelligent, fast-paced dialogue between protagonists
    • Little to no explicit sex or talk of sex
    • Mystery or farce elements may be incorporated
    • Secondary romances between other characters
    • References to the “Ton” or upper classes
    • Mistaken identity, either on purpose or on accident
    • Fake engagements
    • Convenient marriages/marriages for reasons other than love
    • Common activities such as balls or assemblies or carriage rides are depicted

    So, have you read any historicals lately?  What would you recommend?  Or would you rather not touch anything historical with a ten-foot pole?

    Linkage:

    Historical Novel Society
    Great database of published historical novels
    Historical Fiction Network
    Regency Romance Writers
    Good Ton
    Historical Romance Writers

    Genre: Mystery — April 15, 2010

    Genre: Mystery

    It’s Thursday.  Which means, it’s time for another installment in our genre series.

    *cue dark and ominous music and shadowy figure in trench and fedora*

    Today’s genre is mystery.

    Mystery
    n. a novel, play, or movie dealing with a puzzling crime, especially a murder

    Wikipedia’s list of genres puts mystery under the heading of “suspense fiction” alongside “crime fiction” and “detective fiction.”

    Since I’m using the structure found on Wikipedia for my genre research, I’ll be sub-dividing mystery into all its components and exploring crime and detective fiction, and their sub-genres.

    Crime fiction “deals with crimes, their detection, criminals, and their motives.”  Our popular culture today is saturated with variants of crime fiction.  (Think three incarnations of CSI, two of NCIS, Criminal Minds (and a spinoff next season), all the forms of Law and Order, etc.)

    Where possible I’ve looked to other sources for information.  I’ll include a links section here at the end of the post.

    Crime fiction’s sub-genres

    • Detective
    • Whodunit
    • Legal thriller
    • Courtroom drama
    • Hard-boiled fiction

    Detective fiction’s sub-genres

    • Whodunit
    • Locked room mystery
    • Cozy
    • Sherlock Holmes

    Whodunit’s sub-genres

    • Historical
    • Spoofs and parodies
    • Inverted detective stories
    • Hard-boiled
    • Police procedural
    • Legal thriller
    • Caper story
    • Spy novel
    • Psychological suspense novel
    • Criminal novel
      • Told from the perpetrator’s POV

    Noticing the overlap?  I think it’s pretty typical of a lot of genres these days as we try to freshen things up and create our own aesthetic for coming generations to enjoy and riff on.

    Whodunit?

    • n. a detective story or mystery story
    • Characteristics
      • Complex and plot-driven
      • Puzzle is the key interest for the reader
      • Clues are given so that the reader may solve the crime before the climax and denouement
      • The investigator is generally eccentric and either an amateur or novice detective
    • Examples
      • Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries

    Locked room

    • Characteristics
      • Shares much with the whodunit mysteries
      • Crimes committed in impossible circumstances
      • First assumption is that the criminal seems to have vanished into thin air
    • Examples
      • YA: Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven series
      • Adult: Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue

    Cozy

    • Characteristics
      • Main character is often, but not always, a woman
      • Emphasis on plot and character
      • Sex and violence are downplayed and treated with humor
        • If sex occurs it’s a fade to black scenario
      • Amateur detectives with a college degree and varied life experiences which help them in their sleuthing
      • The MC often has family or a close friend in the police force so they have ready access to the case
        • But the MC is often dismissed by the force as a gossip and thus the MC is able to overhear important details he or she might otherwise miss
      • Eccentric and likable secondaries in a good number
      • Crime is offstage, if it’s murder it’s bloodless and a quick death
      • Small town setting
      • Connected victims
      • Fast-paced with lots of twists and turns
    • Examples
      • Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple mysteries
      • Murder, She Wrote
      • Lillian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who series

    Historical whodunit

    • Characteristics
      • Bears elements of the traditional whodunit
      • The setting must have some historical significance
        • Should involve a time before publication, but there is much debate on just how far back that should be
      • Must have true-to-history elements to distinguish it from pure fantasy
      • Detective can be a real figure from history or one entirely of your own imagining
      • Newer trends
        • Split setting where the modern setting acts as a frame for the historical setting
        • Modern setting where a mystery of the past is solved
          • Fueled by Dan Brown’s books

    Inverted story

    • Characteristics
      • The crime is shown in detail at the beginning
      • Often the perpetrator’s identity is known to the reader at the outset
      • Chronicles the attempt of the detective to solve the case, with the chief interest being in the manner in which he does so
      • Subsidiary problems like motive can be solved along the way
    • Examples
      • Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder

    Hard-boiled

    • Characteristics
      • “unsentimental portrayal of crime, violence, and sex”
      • Hero solves the mystery but faces more danger and is often more violent than detectives in other categories
      • Hero has a “tough guy” mentality
    • Sub-genre: Noir
      • Characteristics
        • Detective is either a victim, suspect, or perpetrator
        • Someone tied directly to the crime (the MC is)
        • Emphasis on sexual relationships, use of sex to advance the plot
        • MC has self-destructive tendencies

    Police procedural

    • Characteristics
      • Several crimes in one story
      • Perpetrator’s identity often known at the outset, at least to the reader
      • Depict related topics such as autopsies and interrogations

    Legal thriller

    • Characteristics
      • MCs are lawyers and their staff
      • Justice system almost becomes a character in itself
      • Lawyers endanger their careers, lives, relationships, etc. in pursuit of their ideal resolution to the case they’re working on

    Caper

    • Characteristics
      • One or more crimes (usually theft, cons, sometimes kidnappings) with readers’ full knowledge
      • Humor, adventure, cleverness, audacity are all distinguishing elements
      • Can sometimes appear as a sub-plot in a work
        • Think of when Huck plots to get Jim out of jail

    Psychological thriller

    • Characteristics
      • Focus on character over plot
      • Emphasize character development over physical action
      • Protagonist and antagonist play mind games with one another to create suspense
      • The danger is on a mental level rather than a physical one
      • The characters rely on strength of mind rather than strength of body

    The “rules” (so you know how to break them!)

    • Plot is everything.
      • Keep each point plausible and the action fast-paced.
      • Limit backstory.
    • Introduce both the detective and the culprit early
    • Commit the crime within the first three chapters
    • Make the crime violent, preferably murder
    • Make the crime believable.
      • The victim can’t bleed out from a scraped knee.  (Unless of course you reveal that the victim was on blood thinners or something.)
    • The case should be solved rationally and scientifically.
      • Just the provable.  No gut intuition or deus ex machina.
    • The culprit must have the capability, both physically and emotionally, to commit the crime.
      • No wheel-chair bound culprit with a second-floor murder unless you set it up properly.
    • Don’t try to fool your readers.
      • No hero as the bad guy.
    • Research.
    • Delay the reveal of the culprit to the last possible page.
    My recommendations:
    Tony Hillerman’s novels.  I’ve read several and would like to someday track down more.  His are largely located on the Navajo reservation in Arizona/Utah/New Mexico, though sometimes he has gone out into the rest of the country with his two MCs.
    Jasper Fforde’s novels.  Love them so much.  Start with The Eyre Affair or with The Big Over Easy.  Both are equally delightful and they start off the Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series, respectively.
    Links:
    Genre: Adventure Follow-up — April 13, 2010

    Genre: Adventure Follow-up

    OK, sorry this is late in the day.  It’s been a very long day for me.  I’m so ready to hit the hay right now.  But I promised a follow-up post for today.

    Sadly, I have few recommendations for reads in the adventure genre.

    There are some examples of adventure novels interspersed in the original post, found here.

    As for my recommendations?

    The 39 Clues books.  They’re fun adventures for the MG/YA crowd.  (One MC is 13/14 and the other is 10/11 so it kind of bridges it all.)

    I do have an idea for an Indiana Jones-style adventure novel floating around in my head.  I’ve been perusing some books from my personal reference library for inspiration and world-building stuff.  I’ll go ahead and include that list here.

    The World Encyclopedia of Archaeology

    Perfect for when you need to find inspiration for an artifact to be discovered or hunted down.  (Great inspiration for fantasy novels as well.)

    The Atlas of Legendary Places

    For when you need inspiration for an exotic setting, or just a location to send your intrepid adventurers to where they will face inevitable danger and excitement.

    The History of Archaeology

    Again, when I need inspiration for world-building or for the quest-object, I look here.

    Guide to the World’s Greatest Treasures

    What’s an adventure novel without its quest-object?  Nothing, I tell you.  (At least, the type of adventure novel I’ve in mind to write.)

    The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology.  (The link is in the fantasy follow-up post.)

    Because sometimes the best inspiration comes in the form of what could have been, but isn’t.

    That’s it for today’s installment in our genre series.  This week’s genre is mystery!  *cue creepy music*

    Don’t forget that all the posts in the genre series can be found by following the “Genre series” link in the sidebar, under the “Must reads” tab.

    Genre: Adventure — April 8, 2010

    Genre: Adventure

    It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for us to visit another genre.  Today we’re going to go on a wonderful journey through the realms of adventure.

    Adventure


    n. an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity
        ~a daring and exciting activity calling for enterprise or enthusiasm
        ~(archaic) a commercial speculation
    v.i. (dated) engage in hazardous and exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory
    v.t. (dated) put (something, especially money or life) at risk

    Characteristics

    • tough, resourceful, ordinary hero
    • determined and strong villains who drive the plot forward
    • threat to person, country, world, etc.
    • high stakes
    • fast-paced, non-stop action leading to an adrenaline-packed climax
    • vibrant and exotic settings
    • numerous action scenes
    • limited character development (clearly one I think can be broken if done well)

    From Query Tracker (written by Elana Johnson)

    Action/Adventure: Often, though not always, aimed at a male audience. Contains elements of physical action, violence, danger (physical, global, etc), hazards, travel to exotic locations (jungles, deserts, tropical islands). Storylines often contain use of weapons, technology, martial arts. Can and often do contain elements of humor. Examples include the James Bond films, Indiana Jones, the Die Hard movies, the Rush Hour movies, the Mummy movies.

    Sub-genres

    Epic

    n. a long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the history of a nation
       ~the genre of such poems
       ~a long film, book, or other work portraying heroic deeds and adventures or covering an extended period of time.
    adj. of, relating to, or characteristic of an epic or epics
       ~heroic or grand in scale or character

    Characteristics:

    • centered on heroic characters
    • action on a grand scale
    • captures impressive struggles (i.e. war)
    • efforts of great size and scope over long periods

    Examples:

    • War and Peace
    • The Lord of the Rings
    • The Wheel of Time

    Imaginary voyage

    • utopian or satirical representations framed in a fictional voyage

    Lost world

    • discover a new world separate in time or space or both (i.e. Michael Crichton’s Congo)

    Milesian

    Characteristics:

    • travelogue carried by MC
    • sub-narratives carried by secondary characters (usually numerous)
    • erotic and titillating
    • features love and adventure
    • verve and panache characterize the voice

    Examples:

    • Chaucer’s “The Miller’s Tale” from The Canterbury Tales

    Picaresque

    adj. of or relating to an episodic style of fiction dealing with the adventures of a rough and dishonest but appealing hero.

    Characteristics:

    • satirical
    • realistic and humorous details of the MC’s life and exploits
    • rogue of a hero surviving on wits alone in what is perceived by MC, reader, or both, as a corrupt world

    Examples

    • Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

    Robinsonade

    • Protagonist suddenly isolated from civilization
    • MC must craft the means of his/her survival from what’s available (usually including whatever supplies survived the crashed mode of transportation)
    • little to no hope of rescue

    Examples:

    • Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island
    • Robinson Crusoe is the inspiration of the genre

    Looking for good adventure reads?



    Stay tuned on Monday for my recommendations in this genre.  (Haven’t quite gotten through any of the books I picked up for it so we’ll see how the weekend goes.)

    Genre series — April 5, 2010
    Genre: Fantasy follow-up —

    Genre: Fantasy follow-up

    I’m breaking with my norm today and posting on a Monday.  I wanted to do a follow-up post on fantasy with some of my favorite resources for writing in this genre.  The following list will include both online and print sources, and I’ll try to give a helpful blurb about each of them.

    Seventh Sanctum
    I love this website.  It’s awesome.  There are at least more than two dozen different generators here for just about anything you could imagine.  (Pirate ship name generator, anyone?)  I can easily get lost on this site for hours.

    Baby Names World
    Aren’t we all searching for that one perfect name for a character?  This is one place I like to come to do a meaning search.

    Baby Names
    When I’m just in the mood to browse, I come here.  The interface is super easy and there’s a good variety of names.

    Baby Hold
    Easily the best variety of names I’ve come across in baby name websites.  And most have a meaning that is made available when clicking on the name itself.  I love it for when I’m looking for a loaded name to give a character.

    Fantasy Name Generator
    When I need names that just sound outlandish, I come here.  I’ve been known to pull place names as well as character names from the depths of this site.  I do think that some of the names might come from literature and other places so do be careful and always change up some letters if you’re concerned at all.

    That’s all for online sources.  (Except, of course, Wikipedia.  Because when you’re looking for all sorts of trivial stuff about random things, it’s a great resource.  I would never use it for a source on a scholarly paper unless that paper were on technology and writing and such.  Or if I needed a brief rundown of an issue before diving into the scholarly research so that I’m not overwhelmed by lingo and jargon.)

    Print resources are varied.  I have multiple books on heraldry so that any time a family crest or royal coat of arms was necessary, I knew what I was talking about and had a good idea of how to create it.  Not that I would go technical in the descriptions, but if I could get a solid picture in my head I could translate that to the page.  I’d recommend doing a little basic research on heraldry to any author of fantasy work.  If nothing else, it’s absolutely fascinating.

    How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card.  This book really helped me when re-working the entire system of magic in Oracles Promise.  It’s an invaluable resource for basics of a variety of different aspects of fantasy.  Everything from magic to medieval societies to fantastical beasts and fantasy races.  This is definitely a book that will get your mind going on all sorts of questions, the answers of which will only serve to enrich the world you are creating.  (Even if they never make it to the page.)

    The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology.  I found this in the bargain section of Borders when I was in grad school.  It’s proved absolutely my right hand man when looking for little things to incorporate into the history of various worlds I’ve created.  (And still proves to be that way.)  This book doesn’t just cover your basic Greek and Roman mythology.  It’s got everything from that to China and Asia.  Leaves out Native Americans and Mesoamerican peoples, though, so that is one drawback.

    Encyclopedia of Superstitions and The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Superstitions.  I go to these when I need just that little something that will give a quirk to the mythology of the world I’m creating and have a deeper symbolism for the characters than anything we might be most familiar with.

    Weaponry: An Illustrated History.  I use this one when the type of weapon becomes important.  And, really, if you’re writing high fantasy there’s likely to be a battle.  Knowing your weapons in such cases is critical because it can lend that extra degree of internal logic and help your reader suspend their disbelief.

    History of Medieval Life.  Let’s face it, the bulk of fantasy that has come before us takes place in medievalistic societies.  It’s important if you’re writing fantasy to know where the genre has been so you can know how to make it fresh and exciting.  Having an idea of the traditional mores of fantasy societies can help in that area.

    The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythical Creatures.  So much fun to read up on all of it and see the varied histories of different beasts.  There are many traditions associated with these creatures, some of which can provide interesting twists on the old.  (Thereby leading to something fresh that might catch an agent or editor’s eye.)

    What People Wore When.  Because, really, clothing is interesting.  And being able to describe what someone is wearing can help put the reader in a scene.  (But only if it’s necessary.)  And you don’t want to be going with the same old same old.  Spice it up and learn a little bit about where we’ve been in our sartorial history.

    FCC notice: I bought and paid for every one of these books myself.  No one paid me to endorse them or even to add them to my collection of books.  These opinions are my own and will remain my own forever.

    Genre: Fantasy — April 1, 2010

    Genre: Fantasy

    Fantasy, that genre I seem to love so much and yet the one that is so all-encompassing that most everyone would be able to find something to like in it.
    A definition:
    “The definition of this fictional genre could be described as something that contains rudiments that are not realistic…Fantasy is often characterized by a departure from the accepted rules…it represents that which is impossible (unexplained) and outside the parameters of our known reality.” (Found here.)
    “An imaginative or fanciful work, especially one dealing with supernatural or unnatural events or characters.” (Found here.)http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/fantasy
    There are many different forms of fantasy.  Some basic characteristics are:
    • Internally consistent setting
    • Mythology and folklore are inherent in the structure of the world and may play an important part
    • Internal and consistent logic
    • May or may not be in a world created just for the book

    “Fantasy stories are set in other worlds or other realities…Magic is a huge element of fantasy stories.”
    These are just some basics.  There are, of course, plenty of variations and other elements that could be incorporated into it all.
    Sub-genres:
    High fantasy
    • Also known as epic fantasy.  Set in invented or parallel worlds.  So, my book Oracles Promise would have been considered high fantasy.  In this case, high doesn’t mean literary or over-intellectual.
    • The setting can either be corollary to the real world or a world that “exists” entirely separate from the real world.  Examples of the former would be Narnia while Tolkien’s Middle-Earth is the latter.
    • Generally more serious in their tone and have a grander scope than other sub-genres.
    • One hero’s POV.
    • Often authors of high fantasy will tell multiple stories from their world since it is so time-consuming and intensive a process to create a new world.

    Sword and sorcery
    • Not to be confused with the company, this sub-genre is more adventure and personal struggles than on the grand scale, humankind and all its cohorts are in danger sort of issues of high fantasy.
    • Swashbuckling heroes.
    • Usually incorporate a strong romance and either a very prominent magic or supernatural something or other.

    Dark fantasy
    • Combines fantasy elements with horror or Gothic elements.
    • Humanity threatened by forces that humans don’t, can’t, or won’t understand in their fullest apparitions.

    Low fantasy
    • Less emphasis on the created world, on the fantastical elements
    • Often take place in real-world locations
    • Perhaps a less derogatory-seeming term would be urban or paranormal fantasy.

    From Query Tracker: “These [urban fantasy] stories deal with magical or paranormal elements in a real world, contemporary (or urban) setting.”
    Comic fantasy
    • Tone is funny, as is the intent
    • Set in created worlds
    • Parodies other fantasy works and worlds in some way

    Looking for fantasy books?
    The Science Fiction and Fantasy Booklist
    Fantasy 100- Top 100 Fantasy Books
    Further reading
    My recommendations:
    High fantasy
    Tamora Pierce (for YA)
    David Eddings (for adult.  Just stay away from his Dreamers series.)
    The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Urban or Paranormal
    Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven series
    Charlie Fletcher’s Stoneheart trilogy
    What about you?  Do you have any recommendations for books we should be reading in the fantasy genre and its sub-genres?
    Sources