Tag Archives: genre tropes

Is My Book Historical, Traditional or Epic Fantasy?

Posted by January 7th, 2014

fantasy_what_is_epic_fantasyThe fantasy genre has a complex and diverse landscape–and incorporates the kind of assortment of tropes, conventions, and magical creatures that can make you head spin. The challenge of writing fantasy comes from having a good overview of the genre, knowing to nod to what’s come before, and build upon it. In fact, one of the SF/F editors I talked to recently said that the two most common mistakes writers make in submissions are that they either try to reinvent the wheel and, unbeknownst to them, write a story that has a plot similar to one of the all-time SF/F classics or they rely on genre paradigms that were the rage decades ago and are no longer popular. If you want to be published today, you have to be familiar with what’s published today as well as know your ABCs when it comes to fantasy: J. R. R. Tolkien, Mercedes Lackey, George R.R. Martin, Philip Pullman and so on. You have to be fluent in fantasy.

That’s why we wanted to spend some time on the epic fantasy genre–a pretty “hot” genre of late, and demystify the small but significant ways in which is differs from other fantasy subgenres such as historical and traditional fantasy.

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The New Adult Genre Demystified

Posted by November 8th, 2013

new_adultEver since Nevena and Alex Maurer first explained to me what the “New Adult” Genre was, I’ve been super curious to do a deep dive into this exciting new territory of the Genre Map. In some ways, it feels like the genre I have been waiting for my whole life, as a reader and as a writer. In fact, I am so enamored with this literary category that I decided on a whim that my NaNoWriMo project would be a New Adult novel and I am having a blast with it.

Alex was kind enough to share her analysis of New Adult with Book Country today: already this is a genre with its own tropes, quirks, triumphs, and guilty pleasures. As I’m crafting my New Adult novel, I’m very grateful to have Alex as my genre expert. ~LS

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New Adult is a literary category occupying the middle ground between YA, contemporary romance and “chick lit” (the 90s most prominent women’s fiction subgenre). The storylines are adapted for the 18+ audience interested in characters that are in college or are newly minted grads heading into the world. New Adult shoots for the audience who’s graduated from YA and is not quite ready to read about divorce, re-marriages, or children.

Some paranormal and fantasy stories have college-aged heroes/heroines. But those books aren’t necessarily New Adult, because New Adult is similar to contemporary romance:the love story is the meat of the book. Because let’s face it. After YA, we as readers are looking for something steamier.

New Adult spans heroes and heroines that are between 18 and 25 years old. (If characters are in their mid-twenties, the book is pushing contemporary romance (i.e., Samantha Young’s ON DUBLIN STREET, Raine Miller’s The Blackstone Affair series, and Sylvain Reynard’s GABRIEL’S INFERNO). While all of these have young 23-24-year-old heroines, the heroes are older, and the story lends itself to more traditional contemporary romance tropes.

So what else differentiates New Adult from contemporary romance, chick lit, and YA? We look for the following themes!

The Reformed Man-Whore: The too-good-to-be-true hero who was essentially formed by the gods. Besides fantastic hair, piercing eyes, square jaw, high-cheekbones, and a smokin’ body, he most likely has a “little black book” the size of Webster’s dictionary. This reformed man-whore changes for the heroine and boom! the college big man on campus is now a sworn monogamist (for the most part!).

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Know Your Vampires

Posted by March 8th, 2013

A glimpse into adult vampire fiction across the urban fantasy and paranormal romance genres.

 vampire_fiction_smAn editor once told me that an understanding of magical creature lore is as important to her as craft when it comes to scouting for new paranormal authors. Writers must know their vampires, werewolves, and shifters inside and out, and how they are represented across famous paranormal titles.

In other words, writers must be expert readers.

You know how prevalent vampires have been for the past decade. Your vampires must build upon existing tropes and conventions, and also offer something new and unexplored.

To lend a hand, here’s a crash course in vampire lore from key urban fantasy and paranormal romance titles.

(Warning: fangs and spoilers ahead.)

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (2001)

Dead Until Dark

The series that inspired True Blood chronicles the adventures of charming waitress and telepath Sookie Stackhouse. It has set the standard in sexy bloodsuckers. Here, vampires love human blood and exist for hundreds of years, but they no longer have to hide from the world because of Japanese synthetic blood. Vampires still prefer to stick to their own kind; only a few “mainstream” with humans. Many live in nests, where they sleep during the day (they’ll deep-fry if caught in the sun). These vampires have immense physical strength, and many have special abilities such as sharp hearing, flying, and super speed. To become a vampire, a human is drained of blood and fed vampire blood, bringing him or her over to the other side. Vampires tend to be good in the sack—they’ve had centuries to hone their lovemaking skills.

This series draws on the legacy of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, another classic in the vampire genre.

 Dark Lover by J.R. Ward (2005)

Dark Lover

J.R. Ward’s vampire world in Dark Lover couldn’t be more different. The series revolves around the Black Dagger Brotherhood, a group of hunky vampire warriors tasked with protecting their race from the Lessening Society, soulless creatures trying to wipe them out. Vampires here are not “dead” but a different species, and they can’t convert humans through a bite. In their twenties, vampires go through a sort-of puberty when their vampiric nature appears. They get bigger and hotter, and their strength quadruples. Vampires prefer to feed from and mate with their own kind. You got that right—human blood is not as sweet and tantalizing to Ward’s creations. However, male vamps can have children with human women. In the first book, readers meet vampire king Wrath and his beloved, Beth, who’s the half-breed daughter of Wrath’s late friend Darius. Most books in the series revolve around a different “brother” and his romantic interest.

If the leather-clad, motorcycle-gang-like vampires are your type, also check out Lara Adrian’s Midnight Breed series.

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost (2007)

Halfway to the Grave

The Night Huntress series, of which Halfway to the Grave is the first book, gives us vicious vampires whose eyes glow emerald in the heat of action.

Cat, the half-vampire protagonist, is just as “if Buffy and Angel had a daughter”*: a feisty vampire hunter. Because her mother was raped by a freshly-turned vampire, she is trying to kill as many vamps as she can get her hands on. Cat’s mixed lineage is unique since, in this worldview, humans and vampires can’t normally have children. When she meets British vamp and bounty hunter Bones, she needs to accept that not all of his kind are bloodthirsty monsters. Together they kick some bad vampire butt, and star in steamy sex scenes.

If Dead Until Dark fits the urban fantasy genre and Dark Lover the paranormal romance genre, Frost’s book walks a fine line between the two. The attraction between Cat and Bones is too center stage for the novel to be straight urban fantasy. The lack of HEA, or Happily Ever After, at the end of the first installment, means that it can’t be categorized as romance either. As readers continue through the series, they discover more details about the feudalism-like vampire system as well as vampire physiology (e.g., drinking vampire blood makes humans stronger, faster and adds years to their lives). Here, vampires inherit abilities like flying from their makers, but these specific abilities appear as they age.

What about Twilight?

Young adult vamps like those in Twilight abide by a different set of standards. Check out these cornerstone series if you’re writing YA: Vampire Academy, House of Night, and The Vampire Diaries.

Today’s adult fiction vamps are buff, leather-clad, emerald-eyed, often impotent, undead or a different species, and have a thing for human women.

How do your vampires build on these tropes?

*Description from the book jacket.

©iStockphoto.com/IvanBliznetsov

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