Tag Archives: genres

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.)

Picking the Right Genre

No matter whether you choose to self-publish or go the traditional route through an agent, selecting the correct genre for your novel is important. It can be the difference between your novel selling thousands of copies or falling into obscurity.

Genre is defined as the type of story you’re writing. Examples are romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, thriller, etc.

Genre is important for many reasons. First, agents and editors tend to specialize in only a few genres. If your novel doesn’t fit an agent’s genre, it gets tossed. Second, genre is used to determine if you know what you’re writing. It focuses your writing for a target audience and aids in marketing your book. Third, readers use genre to find books they’d be interesting in reading. If you book is primarily a dystopian but is labeled under romance, you’re going to miss out on a lot of potential readers.

Here are some simple steps to help you choose the correct genre:

  1. Get familiar with the different genres. Go to a bookstore or Amazon’s Books page. Look at your favorite books, or if you were inspired by a certain novel or author, see where their work fits in. Another thing you can do is select a specific novel on Amazon and then look at the recommendations it has for other novels.
  2. Identify what’s most important in your novel. All novels have multiple plots, but they have one main plot. Your novel should go in the genre your main plot fits in. Also look at setting, whether or not you’ve got supernatural elements, etc.
  3. Know your target audience. Beta readers and critique groups can help you with this one. What gender are you targeting? What age group? What type of reader?

Choosing the correct genre will help will sales and give you readers who appreciate your work.

How do you choose the correct genre for your novel?

Finding the Perfect Title for Your Novel

Are titles important? Yes.

Titles are the first aspect readers see. If the title’s interesting, readers will read the back cover blurb. They’ll open up the novel and read through the first pages.

Titles also represent your work to the world. Therefore, your title needs to appropriately represent your novel.

Strong titles are distinctive. They’re not over-the-top. Finding a balance between a forgettable title and one that causes people to roll their eyes is key. You want readers to think your title is fantastic.

Here are some tips on how to get that reaction:

  • Research. If you already have a title in mind, Google it. Make sure it’s original. You don’t want a title that’s been used countless times, and you don’t want one that’s already attached to a recognizable novel. For instance, you wouldn’t want to title your novel To Kill a Mockingbird. That wouldn’t help you sell your book because people associate that title with Harper Lee’s novel. Now, if you’re set on using that title, you probably could. Titles aren’t copyrightable. However, agents and publishers might not pick up your book. If you don’t have a title in mind, find books on Amazon that are in the same genre as yours. Write down titles you like and figure out what attracted you to those titles.
  • Make it easy. Choose a title that’s easy to remember. When word of mouth starts spreading about you novel, you want people to recall the title. That way, when they get home, they can go buy your novel. Plus, complicated and unclear titles can turn people off from even reading the back cover blurb. Some good examples, Carrie, Angela’s Ashes, and Cold Mountain.
  • It’s appropriate. The title must match your story. Think of Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. If you’ve read the book, then you’ll know just how appropriate this title is.
  • Multiple meanings. Successful titles usually have a deeper meaning. Often they mean one thing at the beginning of a novel, and something else at the end. Having hidden layers of meaning within a title adds an extra punch. Think of The Silence of the Lambs or Catch-22.

Some people choose titles easily. Others don’t. However, titles should be thought out and not simply slapped on the title page of a novel. You’ve spent a lot of time writing and editing your book. Give it the title it deserves.

How do you choose titles for your novels?

New Adult Fiction: Filling in the Gap

There are children’s books, young adult novels, and adult books. Now, there’s a new genre on the rise: New Adult.

Though new adult fiction has been around for a number of years, it’s only recently that it’s becoming a more common term.

New adult fiction is aimed at readers who are typically between the ages of 18 and 30. It’s a genre for those who enjoy young adult but are looking for more mature topics, without jumping into characters nearing middle age.

These books bridge the gap between young adult and adult populations. They reach to both older teenagers and adults, and tend to focus on the transition from innocence into complicated adult issues. These issues could be living on one’s own for the first time, losing one’s virginity, the trials of one’s first professional job, preparing for a wedding, etc.

In young adult books, sexual interactions and more gruesome or socially unacceptable acts of violence tend to be alluded to instead of shown in any sort of detail. New adult books include more graphic scenes, both violent and romantic.

However, there has been some hesitation about new adult fiction. Books falling into this genre find themselves in the in-between territory. Stuck between adult and children’s literature (children’s and young adult), there is some difficulty finding the genre its own bookshelf.

Here’s a short breakdown of genres to help with differentiating new adult from already established genres:

Young Adult

  • Age appropriate for 13 to 18 year olds (the high school age or those about to attend)
  • Coming of age, but not in a hugely graphic manner and usually without losing all of one’s innocence
  • Easy to comprehend tone (aka fast reads)

Young adult books are stories with language that is easy to read and to the point. They are the PG-13 rating of movies.

Sample Books: Harry Potter, Twilight, The Lightning Thief, Delirium, A Great and Terrible Beauty, The Golden Compass

New Adult

  • Age appropriate for 17 and older (undergraduate, graduate school age)
  • Main character typically 18-25 years old (instead of 13-17, like in YA)
  • Contains both straightforward writing and adult situations
  • Deals with life between the end of high school and full-fledged adulthood (i.e.- you’re legally an adult but you’re not quite ready to be completely on your own)

New Adult books contain some of the same aspects that young adult books do, but with adult situations added in (i.e.- steamier physical interactions) or situations that are harder for younger teens to relate to (i.e.- getting engaged, first professional job, college, having a baby, etc.)

Sample books: Easy, Losing It, Beautiful Disaster, Slammed

Adult Fiction

  • Adult audience, so technically ages 18 and up. However, many adult books include main characters and situations that teenagers won’t relate to and that 18-25 year olds may have difficulty relating to.
  • Can have either straightforward or more complex writing that takes longer to digest
  • Typically includes sexual scenes, sometimes cursing
  • Erotica is considered adult

Sample books: A Game of Thrones, Fifty Shades of Grey, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Da Vinci Code, Jane Eyre, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Notebook

The new adult genre is in the midst of development. This can make it difficult for them to find homes among traditional agents and editors. Therefore, some new adult books have been self-published instead of going the traditional route. For example, Beautiful Disaster was self-published in June 2011 by Jamie McGuire. It was picked up by Atria Books and published through them in August 2012.

Literary agents and publishers are starting to pick up on the new adult genre as a potential moneymaking category (it certainly has a large enough audience). However, this genre is still budding and isn’t seen in traditional bookstores.

Without support it will not grow to the likes of young adult and adult.

What do you think about new adult as an emerging genre?