Must Fictional Parents Always Be Absent?

I recently started a series looking at “uncharted territory” in fantasy fiction, and in the comments I.W. Ferguson very rightly pointed out that something you don’t often see in the genre is parents and their children doing things together:

“I rarely see children and their parents doing things together in fantasy. So often the parents are dead, missing, out of town, unhelpful or antagonistic, or even not mentioned at all. There are many, many books I haven’t read, but if you’ve also found this rare, I would enjoy a post about it. Also, I’d love to learn about examples showing how it can be done well.”

I’ve noticed how common it is to encounter orphan characters in fantasy, but this comment got me thinking about absent or evil parents in general, and I wondered if it would be possible to find examples of more positive, visible parent-child relationships in popular fantasy tales. Continue reading

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How Long Should a Fantasy Book Be?

It’s a question often asked by aspiring authors wondering if their manuscript is several thousand words too long or short, but it’s also an intriguing one for readers to consider: is there an ideal length for a fantasy novel?

Every book is different and for any suggested word or page count you see, you are likely to encounter several popular fantasy books that are outside of it. Nonetheless, as someone who reads a lot in the genre and has also submitted work to competitions, agents and publishers, I thought I’d tackle this topic from three different perspectives:

  • how long popular published fantasy novels are,
  • how long the industry (agents, publishers, competitions) prefers them to be,
  • how long readers prefer them to be.

Continue reading

The Power of Competitions and Selections in YA Fiction

If a best-selling young adult novel sucks me in after only a few pages, it’s often because the book is wielding a secret weapon. Or rather, a not-so-secret weapon, because I’ve seen it many times before. And although I recognise it, it still has the power to peak my curiosity and get me rooting for a character I know next to nothing about. So what is this clever trope?

It has two components, and these usually form a kind of structuring device that shapes the plot and climactic points of the novel: Continue reading

10 Common Mistakes I See in Paranormal Romance and YA Fantasy Writing

Last week, I discussed some common “fatal flaws” that might make me give up on an epic high fantasy novel, rate it poorly, or even avoid reading it in the first place. This week I’ve decided to do the same thing for paranormal romanceYA and urban fantasy novels, because I enjoy reading these genres as well, and I’ve found the problems I encounter in them usually differ to those I encounter in traditional epic high fantasy.

So here are 10 key things that will often turn me off a paranormal romance or YA fantasy (genres I normally like!): Continue reading

Books That Made Me Cry: Fantasy, Sci-fi and Dystopian Tearjerkers

Last week I mentioned some reasons why movies are usually bigger tearjerkers than books for me. However, there are still several books that have prickled my eyes or had me in tears, so today I thought I’d pay tribute these emotional tales.

Before I begin: this list will include SPOILERS. Discussing the sad moments in books necessarily involves mentioning character deaths and tragedies, and while I’ll try to keep it vague, I can’t promise I won’t give away too much. So if you haven’t read one of these books and don’t want a key plot point revealed, I suggest skipping the second paragraph of each section. Continue reading

17 Common Fantasy Sub-Genres

The fantasy genre is rich with a myriad of sub-genres, and each has its own conventions and trends. With the different terms floating around out there it can be easy to confuse or overlook key sub-genres. Finding a succinct list of the most notable ones – particularly a list with definitions and examples – is not always straightforward. So I thought I’d put my reading and researching to use and assemble one. Continue reading

Growing up with Harry: What It Was like to Be a Teen During the Potter Craze

When I was 12 years old, my godfather gifted me a book. It looked terribly uninteresting. The title – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – evoked memories of Oliver Twist, a story I had never much liked. The cover – a black and white photo of a steam train – looked even drearier. I imagined it would be an autobiography of a poor English boy living near train tracks, or on a train. Boring.

Despite my godfather’s assurances it was “becoming quite popular in Europe” and that his children had liked it, I resolved not to read it. Continue reading

Resolving Sexual Tension in a Paranormal or Fantasy Romance Series

I’m having a dilemma at the moment. I’m working on a manuscript, and while I’m nearing the end of it, I can already see that it is too long. And not just a little too long. It’s more than 100,000 words too long. The prospect of editing it down to a reasonable size is nothing short of terrifying.

When I mentioned this to a friend they said, “why don’t you just make it two books?” Continue reading

Accepting the Existence of Magic

If you’re a paranormal fantasy reader you might find this scenario familiar:

The main character, Mary Sue, has finally cottoned on to the fact that things around her aren’t quite what they seem. In fact, things are getting downright weird. The various laws that govern time and space and normality in her world are breaking to pieces around her. In short, she’s encountering the supernatural… either that or she’s just mad. This is a fantasy novel, however, so you can be 99% sure it’s not madness.

The trouble is, Mary Sue continues to insist that she is mad. Continue reading