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Genre Fiction

Most of you probably already know what is meant by the phrase "genre fiction." But just in case, I shall explain.

"Genre fiction" is the term usually reserved for fiction that is specifically in a loosely defined genre, such as "Fantasy" or "Mystery" or "Romance."

Fiction that is not specifically in a genre is called a lot of things, but "Literary Fiction" is one of the more widely used terms. "General Fiction" or "Mainstream" or "Commercial" are others.

Genres crop up that book stores don't know what to do with, too. Look for "Urban Fantasy" in most book stores, and you'll end up browsing the entire Fantasy section looking for things that are "Urban."

So, here's where this is leading. I am writing a mystery/urban fantasy story. It could be a novella, novelette, or novel. At this point, I have no idea where it's heading or how many words it will take to get it there. (At least I finally figured out whodunit, and even how and why!)

When I read the second piece of the story aloud at my writers group the other night, it became painfully obvious that the group members who write YA Sci-Fi, Poetry, Romance, Thriller, Mainstream, Christian/Inspirational, and/or Historical Fiction had basically no clue what to do with my genre. They kept flagging words that I assumed were widely used even outside the genre as "wrong" because they had no idea why I was using them the way I was using them. So I wanted to get your impressions on two of these. The third question is included to let me know if you're "one of us" or "one of them." :)

Poll #1446429 Magical Terminology

If you were to see this sentence in a book that you know is in the fantasy genre: "He set wards around the perimeter of the camp," what would you assume "wards" were?

hospital wing to group patients needing similar care
small room
political entity
person who is under protection of someone else or the state
shield from danger or harm (probably by magic, given the genre)
people named "Ward."
something else altogether (leave comment)

"Smith cast an incinerate spell on his enemy." When you hit the word "incinerate," you: (pick the most appropriate)

think "what's a verb doing in the middle of a sentence?"
immediately recognize it as an adjective for "spell" and move on.
think "incinerate-spell" should be hyphenated.
insist that it should be "incineration spell" or "incinerator spell."
something not described here (please leave a comment).

My most-often-read genres include: (pick all that apply as your MOST OFTEN READ genres)

Science Fiction

Atheists Are People, Too  Antispam  


( 21 hisses — Hiss at me! )
Aug. 20th, 2009 07:14 pm (UTC)
My opinions:

Question 1: With that amount of context, I didn't immediately get what "wards" were. As shown, it's got too many meanings (epecially as coupled with the also-multi-defined 'set'). If the in-story usage of the word had been previously established as a concept I wouldn't have a problem with it at all though.

Question 2: It definitely doesn't sound good as such. It might work as 'an Incinerate spell', or 'cast a spell on his enemy: "Incinerate!"' or something, but as such, it is jarring. Incineration works better in that exact sentence.

Aug. 20th, 2009 07:39 pm (UTC)
Re Question 1: Good point. There was a lot more context in what I actually wrote; the sentence in the poll was short due to space constraint.

Re Question 2: Hm. The capitalization/italic makes sense.
Aug. 20th, 2009 10:53 pm (UTC)
The capitalization would indicate to me a formal system of magic where magic spells are 'properly' labelled. Note that I am a role-player, and when speaking in character we talk like that.
Aug. 21st, 2009 02:37 am (UTC)
I am also a role-player, so it's possible that crept into my subconscious, unbidden. :)
Aug. 20th, 2009 07:32 pm (UTC)
For the second example, I think there you've strayed into gamer jargon more than genre jargon. I think that it should either be grammatically correct (i.e. "incineration spell") or it should be clearly marked as the name of a particular spell (i.e. "Incinerate spell" or "incinerate spell".
Aug. 20th, 2009 07:40 pm (UTC)
Hehehe! "Gamer jargon." I subconsciously strayed into D&D, I think. And you're seconding reo's italic or Capitalization suggestion. Definitely food for thought.
Aug. 20th, 2009 07:42 pm (UTC)
Wouldn't the Smith just stick it in the forge?
insist that it should be "incineration spell" or "incinerator spell."

... I think I agree with this bit of criticism. It comes off a bit Role-Playing-Gamer the way it is, i.e. the player may say "I cast my incinerate spell", but the character would "call forth the elemental force of fire" or some such.
Aug. 20th, 2009 07:45 pm (UTC)
One of my coworkers writes Pirate novels that have some fantasy bits in them. My advice to him was to identify a best-selling author with similar stories and say "Put me next to him". In his case that's probably David Drake, as his stories are very much Lord of the Isle-ish.

For Urban Fantasy you can just say "Put me next to Neil Gaiman".
Aug. 20th, 2009 07:52 pm (UTC)
I am not worthy. :)
Aug. 20th, 2009 09:55 pm (UTC)
Put next to Jim Butcher?
Aug. 21st, 2009 02:36 am (UTC)
I should probably read The Dresden Files at some point....

And--full disclosure--the only reason I haven't is that I kept getting them mixed up with a horribly boring and incomprehensibly dull book I tried to read called The <somethingorother> Files. I seem to have misplaced my copy. And I don't want it back.
Aug. 21st, 2009 03:23 am (UTC)
re: Dresden Files
I look forward to it. My girlfriend and I have only read the first book and have very different opinions about Harry Dresden than our friends who have read the whole series, so I'm curious to see your reaction.
Aug. 20th, 2009 09:00 pm (UTC)
though i like the idea of setting little dickensian waifs around the campsite. When you hear one screaming like a car alarm as a troll eats him, you know the perimeter's been breached.
Aug. 20th, 2009 09:49 pm (UTC)
I believe that's in the 'cost containment' section on page 892 of the health care bill.

Aug. 21st, 2009 02:22 am (UTC)
Bastard. I was drinking water when I read that. I very nearly killed myself by drowning.

And if the right wing is right, I'd have to go before a death panel to get mouth-to-mouth. :)
Aug. 20th, 2009 09:54 pm (UTC)
I find your selection of genres in question 3 a bit puzzling. I consider both "crime" (which is, I assume, the "reverse" detective story, e.g. a caper story or something like Before the Fact by Frances Iles) and "detective" to be subgenres of mysteries. I read both, though I prefer cozies and procedurals.
Aug. 21st, 2009 02:21 am (UTC)
Those came straight off the Wiki page for "genre fiction." :)
Aug. 21st, 2009 01:41 am (UTC)
Your audience (us) would know precisely what you mean. Hell, I use the word "ward" in ordinary speech to mean "place protections around".
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 22nd, 2009 06:55 pm (UTC)
I am coming late to the party but I thought I'd throw this out there in the event it helps you with your fundamentalist readership. :-D

The wards I thought were prison guards of some sort. The incinerate spell I thought was a spell that would cause someone to burn to death.

Go ahead. Laugh hysterically. And, remember that I read fantasy fiction only when the better alternative of having my gums scraped is not available to me. :-D

Except yours, of course!! I love yours!
Aug. 22nd, 2009 07:29 pm (UTC)
You're not the only person who thought that about the wards. One of my writing group members also thought that. And he is also not a reader of the Fantasy genre.

As for the "incinerate spell," that's exactly right.
( 21 hisses — Hiss at me! )

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