Tag Archives: fantasy

Embarrassment: Being an Adult Reading YA (This is Totally Me!)

92800243_463415080d_zI am an avid reader. Well, I go through cycles where I devour book after book, and then I lose the drive to read for a while. Typically in those dry book spells I watch too much TV.

But that’s getting away from today’s topic.

Let’s talk about embarrassment. When I was a teenager, I could get away with reading any young adult novel I wanted without feeling guilty. After all, YA books are meant for the 12-18 year old age range. However, with my teenage years growing further and further behind me, I find myself not wanting to read YA books in public.

Why?

I’m embarrassed. I feel like people will somehow look down on me for enjoying books that tend to not have much depth. (In all fairness, I get embarrassed over reading adult urban fantasy books as well.)

In reality, I realize most people aren’t paying any attention to me. Yet, there are those few who are, and after having some of my professors (I’m currently working on my master’s thesis) proclaim that they have less respect for people who read any sort of YA, fantasy, or science fiction, I’m all the more aware of what I read in public.

When asked what my favorite books are, I have two responses: one for the academic world and one for the social world. In the academic realm, I’ll say Jane Eyre, Beloved, and Dubliners. For friends and the more casual social world, I’ll say the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, the Abhorsen series, Born to Run, and Into Thin Air. (The first two series are YA, while the second two books are non-fiction.)

I shouldn’t feel this way. I should enjoy what I enjoy. After all, it is my life. And I’m not the only adult who enjoys reading books targeted for a younger audience.

Several years back (okay, a few more than several), my friend convinced me to go see the second Twilight movie in the theaters with her. We ended up sitting between a group of three or four fourteen-ish looking girls and a trio of middle-aged women. When the character of Jacob Black (played by Taylor Lautner) took off his shirt, both the fourteen-year-olds and the middle-aged women squealed in delight. The look on their faces was pure, girlish glee.

Neither group was at all embarrassed at being excited over movies that stemmed from books many people vehemently denounced as an author’s teenage wish fulfillment.

For a moment I found myself relaxing, thinking that it’s okay to enjoy some silly, shallow, and melodramatic things. But, even all those years ago, when anyone asked me what I thought of the movie, I’d say it wasn’t worth seeing again and tell the story of the middle-aged women, as if somehow by shifting the focus onto them no one would notice that during the scene where Jacob Black takes off his shirt, I appreciated his muscles too.

Do you feel embarrassed reading certain types of books in public?

(Photo courtesy of Jimmy Emerson, DVM.)

When Romance In Novels Overwhelms

6963846677_95eb7308b8_kBy the title of this post I’m not referring to romance novels. The concept of a romance novel is romance. What I’m talking about is fantasy, science fiction, and other genres.

Based on the genre, readers have different expectations. Fantasy includes supernatural elements or magic as an integral part of the plot. Science fiction deals with futuristic technology, space travel, extraterrestrial life, parallel universes, and more. It’s rare to find any sort of supernatural element within science fiction, unless you begin delving into science fantasy, which combines elements of both science fiction and fantasy.

However, it’s not unusual to find a romance subplot within fantasy and science fiction. Romance is marketable. But what happens when the romance overwhelms the intended plot?

Ever read a back cover blurb and gotten excited about a book? You purchase (or borrow) the book and as you’re reading discover that the book is nothing like the blurb? I have. It’s not a good realization. Most times the book is much heavier on the romance than the blurb indicated. (This is one of the reasons I tend to read reviews before spending money on a novel. Romance is great…in moderation. If I purchase a science fiction novel, I bought it for the science fiction, not the unexpected romance.)

I am a fan of the TV show The 100. The first season was a bit iffy, mostly because it felt like a young adult show and I found myself questioning some of the main characters decisions. But then the show got good, fast. So, I thought I should read the books, since books are most often better than the TV show or movie.

Once I read the reviews on this book series, I decided against reading it. Many people stated that the romance, a love triangle, took over the plot to the point where the book was no longer a “post-apocalyptic tale of survival,” but a teenaged romance. (The link leads to an expletive heavy review. Be warned. (Here’s a link to The 100 blurb and other reviews: The 100 book series.) Other issues with the series was noted, however most of the issues related back to the romance.

Now, some people loved this book series. That’s fantastic. Everyone has different tastes and I encourage everyone to take the time to decide if this book series is something they might be interested in reading. I happen to like my romances as subplots, unless I specifically choose a romance. Otherwise, when I’m expecting an epic space battle, but all I get is googly eyes, I feel cheated.

Some books that are romance light:

  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • Sabriel by Garth Nix (This is one of my favorite YA trilogies, though it’s nothing like the YA novels of today’s literary world. Much more mature.)
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

What do you think when romance overtakes all other plots in non-romance novels?

(Photo courtesy of darwin Bell.)

What is Magical Realism?

249116968_020dadfb09_zThere are so many different types of literature in the world. So many that often writers don’t know about all the varying branches. One type of literature I’ve recently been familiarizing myself with is magical realism. I’ve always been a fan of escapist literature (by that I mean fantasy and science fiction). However, when I read Sea Oak by George Saunders I wanted to know more about the category his short story fit into.

Magical realism is a type of postmodern writing. It attempts to show readers the truth behind a specific reality or worldview. What’s interesting about magical realism is that is introduces magical (impossible) elements into a real-world story. In other words, the ghost that’s haunting the attic isn’t part of a fantasy narrative. It’s the expression of peoples’ beliefs that ghosts exist.

Think about the show Ghost Hunters. A team of paranormal investigators investigate paranormal activity at various sites around the United States. Many people believe the otherworldly experiences of the investigators to be a hoax, yet there are those whom believe the experiences are fact. For those individuals, the ghosts are a real part of contemporary life. (In other words, individuals who believe in the paranormal have a different reality than those who don’t believe.)

Magical realism attempts to show the world through eyes other than our own.

It may seem like magical realism is close or the same as fantasy, but what makes it different is:

  • When done correctly, magical realism doesn’t require the suspension of disbelief (the reader’s decision to set aside his disbelief and accept a story’s fantastic premise as being real), as much as readers automatically accepting the sublime as part of normal everyday life.
  • Magical realism strings events together in such a way that readers automatically accept the fantastic as reality. For example, in One Hundred Years of Solitude one of the characters is shot and killed. His blood flows down the street, climbs stairs, and navigates around corners to reach the character’s mother. A miracle.

Magical realism depicts unreal features as part of mundane life. It blends the magical with the familiar.

Here’s a great summary of magical realism:

“In magical realism the writer confronts reality and tries to untangle it, to discover what is mysterious in things, in life, in human acts. The principle thing is not the creation of imaginary beings or worlds but the discovery of the mysterious relationship between man and his circumstances. In magical realism key events have no logical or psychological explanation. The magical realist does not try to copy the surrounding reality or to wound it but to seize the mystery that breathes behind things.”

Know of any examples of magical realism?

(Photo courtesy of Kathy.)

Do Your Research. (It’ll save you a headache later on.)

When diving into the world of publishing, it’s important to know what you’re diving into. The publishing world is complex. Agents. Editors. Publicists. Publishing houses. Contracts. Publishers. And more.

And before all of that you’ve got to write your novel.

This is why doing research is vital. Research before, during, and after writing your book. Continue researching even after you’ve been published. Stay up to date on what’s happening.

There are three main types of research you should do when involved with the literary world:

  1. Your book. When you get an idea for a novel, it doesn’t matter whether it’s fiction or not, you need to get the facts straight. As an avid reader, one of my biggest issues is reading a book where I know the author did absolutely no research. If half the teenage protagonist’s house gets burned down, the mother and police won’t just shrug their shoulders and leave the teenager alone (without having done any investigating), especially when she tells them that she has no idea why so-and-so tried to burn the house down with her in it. Not to mention having no idea what a normal high school day is like. (Please, if you’re writing YA and have a high school in your novel, know what the typical teenage schedule is like. Even if you’re writing fantasy and school is only a small portion of it, teachers will not make fun of a teenage girl when she comes up and tells them that a guy is making her very uncomfortable.)
  2. Your competition. Know the books that are similar to yours, or at least share the same category. You want to know why certain books were successful and why others weren’t. More importantly, you want to be able to communicate to agents and editors why your book will succeed despite what’s already published.
  3. Agents and Editors. The Internet has made access to information much easier. It’s also allowed for an influx of information that can be overwhelming. However, you want to know which agents and editors would be interested in your novel. If your book is an adult fantasy, you don’t want to waste your time querying an agent who only represents YA contemporary. You can also find information on when certain agents and editors will be at writing conferences. Go to those conferences. Meet those agents and editors. Give them a face and a name to remember. (In a good way only. If they remember you as the creepy stalker, who trailed them for the entire conference without saying a word, they will most likely not represent you.)

Creating lists of agents and editors, and documents for your book research and on your competition will help you to keep everything organized.

Bottom line: By doing thorough research, you will save yourself time and a headache. Plus, you’ll know what you’re talking about when you do get that call from an agent.

What kind of research do you do?