Classic vs. Fan Fiction

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This week’s post seeks to explain the difference between classic fiction and fan fiction:

Classic fiction: a creative narrative worthy of academic discussion. These can be novels or short stories, but must have literary merit. Many of these were written in the 19th century. Most noteworthy are works by Charles Dickens and Jane Austen as well as epic poems such as The Divine Comedy and The Illiad.

Like myself, you are probably aware of classic fiction. But, fan fiction may not have been on your radar. Here is what I found:

Fan Fiction:  the author uses familiar characters and settings from novels, movies, and/or video games from the original creator as a basis for their own writing. TV shows and movies sometimes use fan fiction (Example: The Twilight Series).

Note: Fan fiction is rarely authorized by the original creator or publisher and rarely professionally published. Some people like reading about characters they know and love in new scenarios, but others may feel these are not creative and—even more so—are a form of plagiarism.

Did you know?  Many classic works of literature are actually classified as fan fiction. For example, Inferno by Dante and Paradise Lost by John Milton.

Writing Mysteries and Thrillers

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Mysteries and Thrillers are cousins to Suspense, but they differ in focus.

In a suspense, something is about to happen.

In a mystery, something has already happened.

In suspense, the protagonist strives to get out of a puzzle.

 

 

In a mystery, the protagonist often strives to get into a puzzle.

A mystery, focuses on the crime, which usually happens early in the book. The rest of the story centers around the hero’s pursuit of the villain.

Now, about thrillers: The are extremely fast-paced, whereas a suspense story can have just about any pace.

A thriller is large in scale, perhaps involving the fate of the world as we know it—and the hero often knows who the villain is.

The focus of a thriller? Stopping the villain.

And, it’s as simple as that.

“How-To” books you may be interested in:  Writing the Mystery by G. Miki Hayden; Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron; How to Write a Damn Good Thriller by James N. Frey; and Writing a Killer Thriller by Jodie Renner.

Famous Mystery and Thriller writers: Lee Child, Stephen King, John Grisham,       James Patterson, Michael Connelly.

(Next week, we’ll talk about the difference between classic fiction and fan fiction).

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Writing Suspense

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Last week’s blog was about writing FANTASY. This week, we turn to Suspense

As the story unfolds, the main character attempts to evade potential harm.

Suspense is considered the king of genres. It gets the reader’s pulse going and takes  them on the ride of their life as the worry and angst deepen at every turn.

In suspense, the threat must be clear and present throughout the entire story. The villain pursues the hero (although it can be more than one person) and it is up to the hero(s) to figure out who is trying to get to them, why they are after them, and how they can be stopped.

Most suspense writers aim to include five key aspects:

  1.  Mysterious atmosphere with underlying tension
  2.  Varied pacing and numerous twists
  3.  Likable characters
  4.  Life or death situation
  5. Chapters end in cliffhangers to keep the reader turning the pages and moving       from one chapter to the next.

       TIP: Use time constraints. For example, Has four hours to…

Mary Higgins Clark, Brandilyn Collins, Joy Fielding , and Thomas Perry are just a few popular suspense authors.

These books may be helpful for novice writers:  Mastering Suspense, Structure, and Plot by Jane Cleland and Hallie Ephron; Suspense Thriller by Paul Tomlinson.

Mystery and thriller are genres that are often confused with suspense. (I will talk about them next week).

Let’s Talk Fantasy

 

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Last week’s blog listed the different writing genres and promised to go a little more in depth in the following weeks with each one of them. This week’s blog post is about Fantasy.

This type of writing includes settings that occur somewhere else in the universe. Even though characters may seem strange, they are “normal, or typical” of the “new, or created” universe for which it is written.

Fantasy typically features the use of magic or supernatural phenomena in the plot, setting, or theme. Mystical or mythological creatures such as elves, dwarves, or goblins are a part of fantasy.

Fantasy is freeing and fun to write because it has few boundaries. The setting drives the characters and the plot.

The following are some familiar/famous fantasy books: The Hobbit, Harry Potter, The Wizard of Earthsea, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Last Unicorn.

Books about how to write fantasy you may want to read: The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction by Philip Athans; The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy, Volume 1, Edited by Darin Park and Tom Dullemond; and Writing Fantasy Heroes, edited by Jason M. Waltz.

 

 

 

Genre???

 

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The first time I mentioned to someone that I wanted to become an author, I was asked what genre I was interested in.

Genre???

I didn’t even know what genre meant!  That’s how new I was to this whole writing thing!!!

In case you are new—and we all have to be at some time—here is a common definition:

A genre is a category of composition. Within each genre, pieces have similarities in subject, style, and form. 

Here is a current list of major writing types:

FICTION:

Classic, Crime, Drama, Fable, Fairy Tale, Fan Fiction, Fantasy, Folklore, Graphic Fiction, Historical, Horror, Mystery, Mythology, Realism, Science Fiction, Short Story, Suspense, Tall Tales, Westerns

NON-FICTION:

Biographies, Essays, Personal narratives, Textbooks, Self-help, Journalism

When you begin to write, it is good to have a clear picture of your genre. (Most people write in the genre they most like to read, but that is not always the case.)

If you are writing because you love to write, first and foremost—if self-fulfillment or getting your message “out there” is the motivating factor, then you are free to write in any genre you’d like.

However, if your primary motivation is to make money, then consider the following as they are the most widely-read genres:

Contemporary Romance

Mystery-Suspense/ Thriller/ Horror

Fantasy and paranormal

Young Adult

Science Fiction and Magical Realism

In the coming weeks, I will attempt to feature each of these genres in this blog.

Remember:  Knowing our genres will help us understand our reading audience—one of the most important factors contributing to our success as writers.

 

ECHOES

 

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One of the first books I can remember reading as a youngster was Heidi.

I was fascinated by the life she led on the mountaintops with her grandfather. I begged my parents to take me on a trip up north so that I could hear my voice echo from the  mountains in northern Arizona.

ECHOES.

Who would have guessed that, years later, I would loathe them???

With so many different words to choose from, writers have little excuse for using the same ones over and over again.

There are a number of self-editing programs out there. Each one is able to help authors avoid this pitfall.

In the program I use, this is found under REPEATS (words) and ECHOES (phrases).

Much to my dismay, I always find that I am guilty of many of these on any given page.

Why do I find myself using the same words so often?

I think it is because once I have used a certain word, it is in the forefront of my mind. Then, when the next occasion presents itself, it is on the tip of my tongue, ready to be quickly and conveniently typed onto the page again.

For example, I actually used the word slipped FIVE times in two consecutive paragraphs—each time, referring to a different one of its multiple meanings:

He slipped into (Got into the car easily).

He slipped. (Fell).

He slipped her five dollars. (Gave someone money without others noticing).

He slipped. (Not meaning to, he revealed a secret.)

He slipped up. (Made a careless mistake).

When my editing program flags one of these multiple uses within close proximity, I often use my Thesaurus to find possible substitutes.

Just another one of those pitfalls authors need to avoid…

Readability Defined

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Have you ever chosen a book to read for pleasure, but it drove you nuts because you had to keep a dictionary nearby to help you decipher the meaning of such uncommon vocabulary?

Did you finally toss the book aside and choose one that was easier to read and understand?

What you experienced was a high readability level.

Readability is 1) How well the text is laid out, visually and 2) How well the words and sentences can be understood.

Readability looks at sentence length, syllable density, cultural references, word choice (word familiarity, the complexity of vocabulary and syntax). It even considers font size, line height and length.

All of these factors, put together, yields a score approximating how many years of schooling readers need in order to be able to understand your writing.

Newspapers typically strive for an eighth grade readability level. This will be easily read by a broad audience. The Nielson-Norman group suggests this should be the aim of most general fiction writers.

So, how do you make your writing easier to understand?  

Use shorter sentences made up of short, more common words.

The Dr. Seuss book Green Eggs and Ham has a Grade 1 readability. Perfect for this children’s book.

Romeo and Juliet yields a score of 3.2  Every high schooler should be able to understand it, adding to its popularity throughout the years.

If you are interested in testing out your own writing, here are the most noteworthy scoring systems out there:  Coleman Liau; Flesch reading ease score; Flesch-Kincaid grade level; Fry graph readability formula; and the Gunning fog index.

There is a free readability Test Tool at: www.webfx.com/tools/read-able.

There is a time and place for every kind of writing—books that will appeal to many different audiences. If your writing is more literary, you may want to consider increasing your work’s readability index.