Monday, July 30, 2012

Contemporary or Urban Fantasy?

What is the difference between contemporary and urban fantasy?

Just two different terms for stories with magical or supernatural elements set in the real world.
Do you agree? Subgenres are a topic of debate.

But "contemporary" and "urban" as terms are fairly synonymous.

Now as far as setting is concerned, contemporary or urban fantasy sticks to the present day. I was just reading through E.M. Forster's classic, Aspects of the Novel. He offers an explanation of fantasy that is as good as any for its simplicity: "It implies the supernatural."

In another section, Forster compares nonfantasy works to fantasy, saying that the writer of nonfantasy says, "Here is something that might occur in your lives." Forster then points out that the "fantasist" says, "Here's something that could not occur."

Combining what could occur with what couldn't in your life is the realm of contemporary or urban fantasy. It is what excites me about the subgenre. That is why my Mall Demons series is set in a modern-day mall.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Why I Like Urban Fantasy

Imagine you're at the mall in the middle of the day. You're hungry. So, you head on over to the food court for some noodles.

What if...

While you're standing in line for a bite to eat, something is stalking you, and you don't even know it. Hidden in plain sight is a demon intent on taking your soul. He's attacking you this very minute. You just don't feel it. You can't see him because this demon exists in a spirit realm your eyes can not penetrate.

And the story begins. It's an urban fantasy with a spiritual twist because the setting is a modern day mall. It could be any mall. They are all basically the same. But spirits roam here. They're demons who hope to create a Hell on earth. You're the first target.

Of course, that's the basic premise to my Mall Demons Urban Fantasy story. I like the sub-genre because the setting is familiar to readers. It's the mall in my story. For Harry Potter, it was mostly modern-day England. And yet, there's more to the setting. There's a dual reality that categorizes such stories as fantasy - and because that reality (or those realities) includes a familiar cityscape, we have what is known as urban fantasy.

We're not talking Tolkien's Middle Earth here. Since I often take walks around the nearby mall in between classes, my setting in Mall Demons resembles a typical urban American mall. I can make quick references to the food court, for example. An image immediately pops into the reader's mind of the food courts he or she has frequented.

I've colored my fictional setting with the sensory memories of my readers by simply mentioning two words: "food court". That's what I find comforting about Urban Fantasy. The way I see it, I don't have to spend as much time with description - unless it's necessary to the plot. That might cause a problem if one of my readers has never been in a food court. But since I see my core audience as middle school/teens, I feel pretty safe assuming my readers won't draw a mental blank when I say "food court."

Of course, I could be wrong. What do you think?


Friday, July 27, 2012

Stress-related Writer's Block? A Solution For Releasing Pressure So You Can Write Again

Do you know how to make origami cranes? How about paper airplanes? 
Crane or dragon?

When I am feeling stuck in my writing - which usually happens when I am feeling stressed about something like grading a mountain of papers, my daughter asking about dating, or ... nope, the dating thing is the big one. It usually sends me into a wicked stress spiral... like right now. It has me all knotted up.

I'm sure other parents can relate. 

During such times, I have a lot of nervous energy that must be released. Think tea pot that's reached a boil. The steam whistles out with a shooting force that can't be held back. Unfortunately that nervous energy hasn't helped much with writing. Actually, it has produced some frenzied speed writing sessions, but mostly describing fantastical plans to turn my home into a fortress guarded by dragons or some of my mall demons with an appetite for overly-curious teenaged boys trying to get my daughter's digits. 

Yeah... 

So, I have resorted to other ways when I need to expend that nervous energy: origami and paper airplanes. Especially origami. 

It's hard (well, harder) to dream up tortures for teenaged suitors when you are making paper flowers and cranes. The cranes do resemble dragons though. Hmmm...

The point is I am able to get back to writing that essay, short story, etc., once that nervous energy has been released. Do you have ways to de-stress so that you can get back to your writing? Find what works for you. Take a break from that manuscript. Water the garden. Re-arrange your sock drawer. Get rid of all that junk mail. Then come back to your writing.

Maybe it is as simple as taking a walk around the neighborhood - especially if you also want to see where that boy lives. 

Just kidding.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Writing Prompt: Alternate History for July 4th

What if July 4th wasn't what we here in the United States know as Independence Day? What if history had turned out differently?

That's what writing Alternate History fiction is all about. I've been watching old episodes of "Sliders" lately. With the 4th of July holiday fast approaching, it got me to thinking about writing an Alternate History short where July 4th is quite different from what it is now.

I don't know yet what that means, but I'll be exploring that concept over the next week. Have you ever tried writing Alternate History? If not, why not give it a shot - even if it's a flash fiction piece. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Then speed write. Simply ask one basic question to get you flowing: "What if...?"

What if the American colonies had never revolted?
What if Rome had never fallen?
What if a famous person's grandfather and grandmother had never met?
What if a young Bill Gates had decided to move to L.A. and start a hair band instead of go into computers?

Whatever. Just start with "What if...?" You never know what intriguing story you might stumble upon.

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