Stories are a commodity. If you’re good at creative lying you can put together a story that other people might want to buy. And there are middle-men who will perform the whole distribution process for you.
Of course not everybody likes the same type of story. While some like romance, others may prefer science fiction. So the middle-men have classified stories as a marketing tool. They have decided what those classifications are and your story must fit, otherwise it cannot be sold.
But there’s a problem. The people who created the genre system had a bias. If it was a story they liked and understood, they created neat sub-divisions Murder Mystery, Detective, Thriller, or Suspense. But if it was something silly that had spaceships or any science that doesn’t actually exist then all of that is in one category: Science Fiction.
What then of Isaac Asimov’s Dr Urth short stories? He’s a science fiction Nero Wolf.
Or Larry Niven’s Gil Hamilton books? A science fiction police detective.
Or Randall Garrett’s Lord D’Arcy? Another detective but this time in an alternate world of magic.
Or Joss Whedon’s Serenity/Firefly: a science fiction Western.
I could go on but the point is this: The concept of genre is completely broken because the one we have was never valid in the first place.
Books do need to be classified, because not everybody likes the same sort of thing, but the system needs to be brought into the real world. So here’s a starter for you:
· All stories take place in a SETTING: A fantasy world, an alternate history world, the real world. And they can be modified by period: Is it contemporary? Or at some point in the past? Maybe in the future.
· Then there is the TYPE of story: romance, thriller, detective, action/adventure and so on.
· A story can have a TONE, for example, is it comedy? Children’s?
There are other ways to classify but we’ll leave it at those three.
The classification does not need to be limited to only one item in each section because you can have merged settings, types and tones. It no longer becomes a question of black and white: it’s now an infinite shading of greys.
An author can define their story as being 40% romance and 60% action/adventure. And a reader could say they want action/adventure stories with no more than 50% romance—and they’ll get a much wider and more accurate selection.
Will we ever escape the arbitrary limits of the worn out genre system? Well, I can’t say if we will, but we certainly should.
About Steve Turnbull
Steve Turnbull was a magazine journalist and editor for 20 years. He has turned his hand to screenplays and prose fiction. Currently he’s writing several linked series of novellas in the same alternate history (steampunk) setting. The main “Maliha Anderson” series, set in India, is typically composed of 20% action/adventure, 30% romance and 50% murder mystery, with adult content. The fourth Maliha Anderson book, a full novel, will be released in January 2015, with the fifth and sixth (and zeroeth) later in the year.
Christmas holds a very special place in my heart. It was always the one time when my family got together, celebrated and just rested. The resting was always the best part for me. Once the gifts had been exchanged and the big meal had been shared amongst all, everyone just let go of their fears and worries. Following this, there was only a complete sense of peace.
This year, letting go was a real learning curve for me, when my own family turned from three to two unexpectedly. But despite all of this, it has been a fantastic year as I found my passion for writing again. It amazes me how many stories a writer can keep hidden inside for years.
I completed one Sci-Fi thriller and am also in the process of writing my second novel, a story for children, which is such fun.
So, what will I be doing for Christmas this year? Editing!
My Sci-Fi novel is really gripping and dark, but requires more review. And when I wrote it, I needed to be careful not to get sucked into the essence of its main character. I gave it a month to settle and I am now ready to tackle the challenge. Unfortunately, discipline is not my strongest point when it comes to editing.
So, my fellow writers found the perfect solution for me “Writing in a Hotel Room Lockdown”. I will be booking myself into a secret location, somewhere in the middle of Ireland and will not come out of the hotel room until the story has been completely edited.
It is definitely going to be painful. On the plus side: There will be room service, no distractions, I can write till the early hours and sleep when I like and the spa will be the ultimate prize.
If for any reason, you may be traveling to Ireland soon and you hear desperate cries from the hotel room next door, that could well be me.
Wish me luck & Happy Christmas.
About Claire Capary
Claire Capary has been writing since the age of 10. She has recently completed her first Sci-Fi novel and is a great fan of Hemingway, Kafka and coffee. Claire lives with her son Ben and her creative coach, Harvey the cat, in Dublin Ireland. For more info, feel free to visit www.clairecapary.com
Juliet whispered, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
As writers, we often search for the right name to embody the soul of our character. The right fit is so elusive.
Would the story smell as sweet or be as powerful or as frightening with a different name—the wrong name?
The name Krueger comes from German and means maker or seller of stoneware mugs and jugs. There is nothing frightening about the name per se, but if you add Freddy before it, it may bring goose bumps—at least for anyone who has seen the Nightmare on Elm Street films. The name instills fear, not because it is terrifying, but because the story makes it powerful.
In other cases, the name defines the character. Think about Cruella de Vil, the beastly nemesis of the 101 Dalmatians. What kind of woman would kill puppies to create a black and white fur coat? Only a cruel devil.
Dr. Jekyll’s name conveys status and intellect—something superior to the common man, but Mr. Hyde is the hidden dastardly side of every man.
Often the name represents the character as he or she is. In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote gives his main character a name that is youthful and ever green (Holly) as well as carefree, especially with regards to her relationships (Golightly). Similarly, Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter series represents a sad oppressor, despite her cheerful pink clothing and her cloying demeanor.
Some names act as both aptronym and antonym. Harry Potter represents the common boy. Every child can identify with his struggles and his anonymity among the Dursleys. Yet, he proves himself the opposite in the wizarding world. He is exceptionally brave, known by all, and capable of defeating the world’s most malevolent wizard.
Names can also foreshadow destiny. In Catch-22, Major Major Major rises quickly to the rank of major, but advances no farther. Luke Skywalker was never meant to be a land-locked moisture farmer like his uncle Lars. He was destined to travel among the stars. A maverick archer who steals from the rich and gives to the poor might have a name that sounds similar to robber or hoodlum. And a middle-class Jewish family living in Chicago—Jami Attenberg named them the Middlesteins. How apropos.
It makes you wonder would the literary world be the same if Fitzgerald had titled his masterpiece, “The Good Gatsby?”
So the next time you decide to put pen to paper—or fingers to keys—to create the next great character in literature, devote the time necessary to find (or create) the right moniker for your characters. What's in a name? Everything.
About John Mattox
I'm a writer with a measurement problem. It's a good problem to have, but let me explain...
Ever since I was a kid, I've been writing. Mostly fiction. But my love of psychology took me to graduate school and I learned to write scholarly papers. I also learned statistics and have made a career of applying them in corporate universities to evaluate the effectiveness of training. So as a professional, I've fostered my love for psychology, statistics and writing. In 2014 I was fortunate enough to publish my first book, Predictive Analytics for Human Resources, with a guru in the HR industry, Jac Fitz-enz.
I welcome the chance to write more articles and books about learning and talent analytics.
Now is the time for me to realize my own natural obsession--writing fiction and sharing my craft with others. You can find my first novel atwww.thirteenbrotherpirates.com and my blog at www.writers-ryno.blogspot.com.
Recently I was browsing the internet when, on my Google+ wall, up popped a book trailer for one of my author acquaintances. I consider book trailers as an excellent marketing tool. Most people browsing the internet will stop briefly when something visual catches their eye, quite often missing the posts of carefully constructed words. I don't have a book trailer believing that I didn't have the skills to create something like that. I browsed YouTube for book trailers and came across a large number of trailers with real people acting out the characters. The concept is great but I felt it was beyond what I was capable of. After searching the internet for a professional company who could make a trailer for me I couldn't believe the price! Most basic packages I found were around $650! No way.
I searched YouTube further and found a trailer that caught my eye. The trailer is that of the book Indigo by Gina Linko. The trailer didn't have actors or motion sequences. It is relatively simple using simple backgrounds and animating the text and a couple of pictures on different slides. I deemed it a bit more eye catching than some of the acted trailers I had seen. Then I noticed that the author was published by Random House and my heart dropped. Could I make a trailer like that when this one was obviously professionally made?
The answer is, "Yes".
I am in the process of producing a trailer for my novel, Sky Stone. I am not sure if it will look as professional as the trailer for Indigo however I am trying. I discovered an article written by Judy Croome called 12 Easy Steps to The Making of a Book Trailer and it lifted my spirits and showed me that it is possible for someone with limited skills in making videos. I took most of Judy's advice, watching this trailer and discovering what made it work. I noticed how much text was on the screen at one time, the length of each slide, the type of music, etc. Then I headed over to a royalty free video clips site to see if I could find any short pieces of animation or video that would look great in my trailer. I used Getty Images to find royalty free video clips. The next step was to find a website for my trailer's music that suited the mood I was aiming for. I have already played a little with Microsoft Powerpoint and I was unable to use the video clips I wanted. I tried using Windows Live Movie Maker and found that it was fine for making fairly simple videos however I wanted further ability to manipulate the timing of my text and images (however I did fine Windows Live Movie Maker to be fairly simple to use and good to get a feel of what I was doing). Next I am going to try Adobe Premier (it looks a little daunting) since I already own the Adobe Mastersuite. Just looking at the confusing layout of this program puts me off a little but I am determined to create the best trailer that I can… but perhaps I am expecting too much of myself. Well, we'll see.
If I am able to create a trailer for Sky Stone, which I am satisfied with, then I will share it with you all. Don't keep your hopes up though.
If any of you aspire to attempt making your own trailers then go ahead, there is nothing to lose by trying.
Hey guys. So since writing this blog post I have found that somethings that I believed to be true were in fact not a great way to approach making trailers. I said above that I was finding video clips from Getty Images to make my trailer not realizing that these clips cost an arm and a leg! Their prices are through the roof. Therefore I will be retrying to make my trailer, scraping this attempt, this time using still images. Audio can still be found for either free or for fairly cheep depending on the owner and how they allow you to use their sound tracks.
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Literature for adolescent readers lives and dies on the strength and development of its characters. As authors of middle grade and young adult novels, we must create deep, rich characters young readers want to follow down the river Styx, through nightmarish simulations, and onto the cancer ward. Young readers cling to the characters in the stories they love, growing right along with them as if they were close friends or even extensions of themselves. The best-developed characters are ones the readers not only want to be, but believe they can be.
But how do we create characters to which our readers can actually relate? Very few adolescent readers are cancer survivors or have facial deformities that can scare the neighbor’s cat. Even fewer have survived plane crashes or are locked into their futures at the age of thirteen (though they sometimes may feel that way). And how many adolescent readers are the offspring of Muggle-born witches or the illegitimate children of Greek Gods? One or two—tops.
So before we can pit our characters in death matches or drop them into revolutions against mind-controlling serums, we have to make them real and relatable to our readers. We have to ground them in some of the same mundane, everyday problems and issues our readers deal with. Our characters are not the handsome, gregarious captains of the football team with 4.0 GPAs. They are not the gorgeous student body presidents with friends coming out of the woodwork. Adolescent readers don’t want to read about heroes who are better than them at everything in the real world AND get to lead revolutions against dictatorial governments. How differently would young readers have responded to Cedric Diggory, with all his strength, popularity, and handsomeness, being the title character in the Harry Potter series?
No, to connect to our readers, our characters have to suffer from ADHD and duck bullies and tormentors before they become heroes. They have to come from broken homes and worry their friends will find out their mothers are alcoholics. They are the overlooked younger siblings of the afore mentioned captains of the football team who can’t even throw. Our characters must fear. Not the obvious, tangible fears our epic plots put them through. They can fight cancer, dementors, death matches, lotteries, and revolutions to our hearts’ desire…but first they have to fear the real things, too, just like real kids.
So what do adolescents fear in the real world? They fear their parents getting divorced and their dads’ new girlfriends. They worry about their grades, making the basketball team, and the volcano-sized pimples on the tips of their noses. They’re afraid that their boyfriends will want to have sex before they are ready and that their friends are going to pressure them to drink or do drugs. Above all, real kids fear being outed as different and inadequate. They think their pubescent voices are the only ones cracking and they’re embarrassed at the collection of five-thousand Pokémon cards that have been hidden under their beds since they were eight. Add to all these fears their incessant desire to make their own decisions and not be told what to do ALL THE TIME! Can you attribute any of these fears to the main characters in adolescent books you’ve recently read? Have you ever connected to a character’s fears of inadequacy?
Once you have developed your characters as real life, living and breathing adolescents with problems just like the rest of us, then the real fun can begin. Bring on the dragons, hexes, shipwrecks, or whatever epic plots you have in mind to put your heroes through their real trials. Your heroes can come of age within the context of plot and defeat the bad guys despite their own deficiencies, both realistic and contrived. If you do it well enough, you may be able to leave your young readers saying, “Hey, I have ____, too (fill in the blank: ADHD, idiot friends, a crazy uncle who’s trying to invent a time machine)! And I’m not going to let it get in my way, either.”
Wouldn’t it be great if, at the end of the day, we can say that we not only inspired and entertained a generation of readers with a compelling story, but that we tricked our readers into learning something about life and coming of age, too? That’s one of the most wonderful aspects about writing for children. They’re only at the beginning of their own stories and we get to fill their imaginations with limitless possibilities.
About Todd McClimans
Todd is an elementary school principal who lives in York, PA with his wife and three young children. His novel, American Epochs: Time Traitor, a middle grade sci-fi/historical novel about two sixth graders who go back in time to thwart a plot to derail the American Revolution, was a finalist for the 2013 NAESP Children’s Book of the Year Award. The second in the series, Time Underground, will be published by Northampton-House Press in June, 2015. Learn more about Todd at his website, www.timetraitor.com, and follow him on Twitter @todd_mcclimans.
Hi everyone. The last couple of weeks have been busy for me. I finished university! I am now a graduate radiographer heading out in to the big wide working world.
Yesterday the lovely Carla Doria Medina hosted me as a guest author on her blog. She asked me to write about myself, my writing, and Sky Stone. Head over and have a read:
In October 2014, I published my first two books, YA fantasy: The Seeker Must Awaken and Book of Shadows. These two novels are the first two books in The Lux Seekers series. I’ve been writing for years, and trying to perfect my craft, daily. It is a struggle and there is always something new to learn. I revised and revised and revised some more. When I thought the books were ready, I decided to self-publish.
I had put so much time and effort into the books, I became attached to the novels and thought of them as my “babies,” an extension of myself. So, when I got two negative reviews, I took it very personal. It felt like an attack. I took it very hard.
I reached out to one of my Goodreads groups with the post: “Bad Reviews and the Star Rating System.” I’m glad that I reached out. I’ve received so many helpful replies to that post. To this date, there are 150+ replies and new comments are coming in daily.
At first, I wanted to give up and quit writing. Then, I was reminded that writers keep writing, no matter what. I learned that I can’t take it personally. I must look for something useful and constructive in the review. There is always room for improvement. I must take the review at face value. I must take the comments that are valuable, and use them constructively to improve my work.
After I calmed down from my initial reaction to the reviews, I decided to email both reviewers. I asked if they would like to be Beta Readers on my next project, a YA sci-fi dystopian, due in the Spring of 2015. One of them has agreed to be my Beta Reader. This reviewer is also a writer and I have agreed to be her Beta Reader on her project as well. I believe this will be mutually beneficial to the both of us. I am very grateful for this reviewer’s honesty.
What I’ve learned:
These have been hard lessons to learn, but this is just the beginning of my writing career. Bad reviews happen. What we do with them, makes all the difference in the world. I hope this article may be of help to any writer going through the pain of a bad review. Taken in a constructive manner, it can be a learning, growing experience.
About Willow Anne Renner
YA Author, writer of fantasy, dystopian, sci-fi, NA apocalyptic
Willow has been furiously working on her three series for many years. She hopes you enjoy reading about the worlds she created as much as she enjoyed building them.
In her free time she enjoys designing and making jewelry, soap and candles. She adores writing with fountain pens and loves collecting them.
She is very active in the Twitter Writing Community.
It is universally known and recognized that Willow is made of awesome.
Willow A Renner, YA Author
A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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