Fantasy: It’s all in a Name…and the Spin

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 I was looking for the old manuscript of one of my out of print mysteries the other day—okay, I know, this is a fantasy blog.  Bear with me— and I came upon my first fantasy (got there!) attempt.  I say attempt because it failed so miserably.  I couldn’t get the mix right.  Mix, you say?  What the hey?  Is this recipes? No.  It’s worlds and magic.  In the general sense, that’s what makes it fantasy, but it’s the mix that makes it addictive.  Kingdoms, princes and princesses, a pirate or two, a rogue, a mage or sorcerer, attack by demons and dark forces, maybe some romance tossed in, a witch or seven, or in my case, a seraph or two, give it a good stir in the imagination.  That mix, if it works, is what give us that addictive book that we can’t put down.  Oh – and it also gives us subgenres. I once heard an agent ask an unpublished fantasy writer, “What’s your subgenre, here?”  Manuscript pages turning.  “Romantic epic?  Erotic standalone?”  The writer’s answer was, “Uh….”  Which is the way many of us feel when we are starting a new series or new manuscript and are in the phase of world building.  IE: trying to figure out what we are writing.  Yeah, even after multiple books, sometimes we have that problem, too.  Which is why my first attempt at fantasy remained an unfinished effort. My favorite type of fantasy is urban fantasy.  Sometimes dark urban fantasy.  And I’m not averse to dark urban erotic fantasy. What’s that?  It’s a current day, alternate reality universe, where vampires and werewolves and/or other mythical (wink-wink) creatures live among us humans.  When you mix into the story some of the current geopolitical reality, a few gritty subtexts, like American cops and American mythos and lore, you get urban fantasy.  When you make it violent and dangerous, it becomes dark urban reality.  When you add in hot sex, you get the erotic part.  Duh. In the failed attempt, I didn’t know what I was writing.  Frankly, I still don’t.  But the medium-dark urban fantasy I’m writing now is…OMG!  I love it!  I’ll be posting things about it here off and on. Someday, perhaps fortified with a good cigar and a small tot of brandy, I’ll read my failed attempt.  And try to laugh.  For now, I’ll just keep trying to write two books a year and make the mix work.  And come to think of it, maybe I won’t ruin the cigar and the brandy with reading failed material.  Maybe it should stay in the big trunk in the parlor (Yeah. I got a parlor)…hidden away from the world.

Faith Hunter

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6 comments to Fantasy: It’s all in a Name…and the Spin

  • Ah, subgenres. One of my pet peeves. It’s not that I don’t like subgenres of fantasy, but rather that I resent the tendency to pigeon-hole every book. I’m working on something right now that might be called urban, or contemporary, or mystery/fantasy (Fanstery? Mystasy?). I adore the book and I know it’s different from what I’ve done before. But I don’t think in terms of subgenres. I tend to leave that to my publisher. I write what I love, which, I think, is why I love to write.

  • True, David, to a certain extent. Two things may make you think differently:

    One — unpublished writers have to think in terms of the market. Knowing what they have written is important at that point of their carreer.

    Two — I like to know what I have written. Why? Because what I say to my editor and agent about my own work get stuck in their brains and often pased along to marketing. I made a few massive errors early on by not knowing that. Seeing one particular result was a shock. It meant getting my editor to do a lot of rethinking at the last minute. It was not a happy time.

    So, now, I *always* figure out how to pitch my own work. I include that desctription when I send in the pitch and when I send the deadline version.
    Faith

  • Fair point. Knowing where to market is important. I see many people trying to write to one market or another, and I don’t think that works. But once a manuscript is complete, or at least nearly complete, we, as businesspeople as well as writers, should be able to figure out a brief, effective pitch. And you’re right: that pitch should speak to marketing and, thus, subgenre.

  • Part of me just loooooves subgenres. What fun to explain your book in a long, wacky phrase – “I’ve written a high fantasy pirate adventure with a soupcon of romance sprinkled on top!” Wheeee!

    Then again, doing that can sound as if you have no idea what genre you’re in, and you’re just trying to cover all the bases in the hope of landing on the right one. Which comes off as amateur behavior to the professionals. That’d probably be a fabulous idea for a workshop – How To Determine Your Subgenre.

    As for reading the old stuff, I can’t help it. I think I’m looking for a way to rescue it from its mediocrity, some way to dig out the shiny parts and leave the crap behind, you know?

    Although it never occurred to me to try it with a good cigar. Maybe that’ll help. 😀

  • A good cigar always helps!
    But with Brandy….

    Bring your ciggie over and I’ll open my old bottle…
    We can sit on the deck and puff and …

    Hey, David. You’ll be in this area in a couple months. Do you puff? Then all we’d need was a visit from one C.E….
    Now that would be totally cool!

    Faith

  • I do not puff, but I will gladly sip….