Being a Better Writer: Different Types of Fantasy

Happy Monday writers! How was everyone’s weekend?

Mine was pretty good. Spent quite a bit of time working on the tabletop campaign I’m running this year, since it’s a revision of the tabletop system I used for my Gears of War campaign a few years ago, bur refined and improved in multiple areas. Of course, building a tabletop system from scratch—or even rebuilding one—is a ton of work, so it’s not unexpected that my time this weekend was taken up in a good portion by it. I foresee this being the case for the next few months, easily.

But that’s not all that’s coming up, either! We’re nearly through January, and that means that we’re day by day coming closer to LTUE 2023! Look for a post about that on its own soon, but the gist of it for now if you’re out of the loop is that LTUE (or Life, The Universe, and Everything) is a writing convention given by those who do write and create Sci-Fi and Fantasy for those who want to do so. That means panels on aspects of writing are given by authors who have written those topics. You can check out the guest list of just a few of the guests of honor here, but that should give you an idea of the kind of folks that show up at LTUE each year.

February 2023, three days, this year the 16th through the 18th. Be there! And while you’re at it, swing by a few of the panels I’ll be on.

That said, if you’re unable to make it this year, at least you’ll always have Being a Better Writer to fall back on. So, without any further ado, let’s just jump into today’s topic. Which … is a bit of a departure from our usual writing topics.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. It still very much relates to writing. But what we’re going to talk about today is more of a foundational element, while at the same time not being set in stone at all.

Let me explain: The past few weeks we’ve had a post or two where we’ve talked quite a bit about audience and knowing what sort of audience you’re writing for. Today we’re going to talk about something that a lot of audiences use as a guide for finding material that they like and enjoy.

Yes, today we’re talking about genre. But specifically one type of genre and it’s subgenres. Today, we’re going to talk about different types of common Fantasy and what goes into them.

Now, I’m going to stress something before we start. None of these subgenres is a cut-and-dry. It’s possible for stories to blend them, or start in one subgenre and transition to another. Often, when we say “This book belongs in this subgenre” what we really mean is that the primary attributes of the story that caught our attention were most identifiable with that specific subgenre, though it may have had heavy elements from others.

In other words, what we’re talking about today can run the gauntlet from very straightforward to incredibly nebulous and may be so precariously balanced that it might be hard to tell what subgenre a book is.

But that’s not why we’re talking about it. We’re not talking about the subgenres of Fantasy so that you can try and lock in other Fantasy books you’ve read. No. That’s not the goal here.

The goal here is so that when you think “Hey, I want to write a Fantasy story” but are unsure of what type of Fantasy story that should be, you can look at the various subgenres and what elements identify them, in order to help narrow down what sort of story you want to tell by the elements you may want or not want to include.

In other words, what we’re looking at here today should be considered a set of guidelines, not rules, that can be helpful to you to set a tone or basic feel for what you want to write.

Note really quick that we’re not discussing all the various subgenres out there. The more precise one gets, the more these can multiply, but the less there is different between them. We’re just going to discuss the big ones.

A second note (I know) in that not everyone is going to agree with these definitions. Sands, in pulling up a list of common Fantasy subgenres, I opened two pages that almost completely disagreed about what made a common subgenre. So yeah, while some are agreed upon, some are not. You can still use them

You ready? Then hit that jump, and let’s talk about different types of Fantasy.

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Being a Better Writer: What Makes a Fantasy?

Hello writers!

You know, if I’m honest it feels like it’s been more than a week since the last Being a Better Writer. That’s probably because I had numerous days last week where I was up well past midnight on account of editing Starforge. One week kind of stretched into two.

But, the good news, as many of you saw Saturday, is that Starforge will be going into Copy-Edit this week. Which also means that yes, pre-orders will be opening at last.

This also means that the long-promised pricing adjustment for the rest of my books is on its way, so if you’re looking to grab anything before the prices go up to reflect the last ten years, do so now. Though again, the whole point of this pricing adjustment is to bring the prices in line with inflation-adjusted prices based on paperback prices from 1994. There’s gonna have to be a new post about this to update the old The Price We Pay article.

Anyway, lots to come in the next few weeks. You know, including Starforge itself at long last. You’re all finally going to be able to get it! So keep watching this space.

But right now? Let’s talk about today’s Being a Better Writer topic.

Tackling discussion of a whole genre has always been a dicey proposition, not that we haven’t done it before. BaBW has discussed Science-Fiction, Westerns, and Mystery in posts prior, and each of those is a pretty broad genre all said and done. Especially Science-Fiction, which is both broad and controversial these days (some of the arguments I’ve seen over what is or isn’t Sci-Fi online …).

Fantasy is just as broad a genre, really, though many don’t think of it as such. Which is in part why we’re going to be talking about it today.

So hit the jump, and let’s talk about what makes something a Fantasy. I’ll give you a hint: It isn’t magic.

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Being a Better Writer: The Problem With Proper Nouns in Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Hello writers, and welcome back to another installment of Being a Better Writer, where today we’re going to discuss something that’s actually quite topical! So topical, in fact, that this discussion wasn’t even on Topic List #20. Instead, it was prompted over this last week by some real-life work and discussion.

It’s also a topic that is going to directly reference via-link someone else’s writings on the subject. But with that, I feel we need to move into an explanation directly.

See, the genesis of this post comes from my editing on Starforge. This titan of a book is now in the Beta phase, which means looking for typos, misspelled words, misplaced quotation marks, and all that jazz. However, it also means going through and ensuring proper capitalization of proper nouns. At which point, I ran into a bit of a conundrum. Said conundrum led me to Google, which in turn pointed me to this post from 2009 concerning a similar issue in Fantasy writing—though note that it does address Science Fiction as well.

Anyway, what is this conundrum? Well, before we dive into it directly, I have a sort of pop quiz for you. You can do it in your head, but if you’re really determined you can bring out a pen and pencil and do the classic grade-school exercise. It’ll only take a moment either way, but here we go. Correctly capitalize the following sentence:

The terran vehicle rolled up the hill, backed by dozens of terran marines.

That’s it. Got it? Placed those capital letters where they belong? Okay, check out the answers after the break.

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Someone Please Tell Them …

EDIT: Someone told them. Upvote it so they see it!

So this morning, browsing around, I stumbled across this post on Reddit.

Yes. This is a summation post from someone who reviews cozy, whimsical, slice of life Fantasy books, noting all their recent and favorite reads and, unsurprisingly, on the hunt for more (because who isn’t always on the hunt for more books.

Do you notice what’s missing from that list? I do.

Yeah, there’s no Axtara on there. It’s not even listed or recommended.

Now, I can’t go on there and post about it. This particular sub has very precise rules about self-promotion (with, last I checked, a select exceptions). And they do, to their credit, do a halfway decent job of connecting Reddit accounts to actual authors.

But that list is missing a vital entry. This reader/reviewer clearly has never heard of Axtara – Banking and Finance or it’s many charms.

So, I’m calling on all of you who have a Reddit account (because that is allowed). Someone please go tell this reader what they’re missing out on. Especially when they’ve got Dealing with Dragons: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles on that list, and another story about a young dragon who leaves home to make their way in the world (but sadly, both for the plot and the drive, becomes a human ASAP).

Rare is there a list begging for Axtara to show up in such force. Someone please, for the love of literature, post and let them know that?

Read the First Four Chapters of Shadow of an Empire Absolutely Free!

We understand: Shadow of an Empire can be a daunting prospect for a reader. A nine-hundred-plus page book? In paperback? Is it even worth the money? The reviews say yes, but folks don’t always trust reviews. They’d like to experience what’s between the pages themselves.

Which is why as we’ve done with our other books, we’ve made the first four chapters of Shadow of an Empire free to read for all. Right through your device and broswer. No catches, no subscription needed, no personal information required. Go ahead, open it in an incognito tab if you so desire! We don’t mind! Four chapters of Wild-West Fantasy adventure, right here at your fingertips.

It’s as easy as clicking the cover below. Hit that gorgeous sunny scene, and if your time in the deserts of Indrim leaves its impression, you can pick up a personal copy from our books page (or your local bookstore can order it for you). Enjoy!

Read the First Three Chapters of Axtara – Banking and Finance for Free!

Hey, did you know that if you’ve been curious about whether or not you’d enjoy a tale about a dragon setting out to open her own bank—the very tale contained within the pages of Axtara – Banking and Finance—then you can read the first three chapters absolutely free?

That’s right! The first three chapters, free to read, no strings attached, in your browser. So you can read it on your device, be that tablet, phone, or if you’re really going for the Jetsons look, your smart watch. Properly formatted and everything!

No strings. No catches. Just three chapters of the dragon Axtara and her lifelong dream of owning her own bank.

We even make it easy for you. Just click the cover below, and three chapters of free, cozy adventure with Axtara will open in a browser tab. Enjoy.

Being a Better Writer: “Alien” Aliens and the Conflict of Drive

Hello again readers from across the datanet! Well, some parts of it. Today I woke up to the frantic news announcements that Facebook and all its associated services, from Instagram to WhatsApp, are down. Completely and totally. Very likely not permanently, but as of writing this, it’s gone from the web. You can’t even access it.

You know I’m just going to say it: It’s a good break for people. I usually log on each morning to see if I have any notifications from my family, but I don’t miss not having it this morning. If it were gone for good, well that’d be a different story since I keep a bunch of photos on there and I do use it to keep up with family members since I can’t get any of them to use Discord.

But that’s all I’ll say on it. It’s down, so you’re probably not going to be linking here from there today unless things come back up. No ads on Facebook today! Which almost made me switch topics, I’ll admit, but I’ve wanted to talk about today’s Being a Better Writer topic for some time now. And having Facebook and some of the primary social media sites be down for the other topic would be slightly less than ideal, despite making me thing about it. So that post will have to wait.

So then, what about today’s post? Most of you have read the title, so where is this coming from? Why this topic? Well, hit the jump, and let’s get talking.

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OP-ED: I Have a Confession to Make – I Can’t Stand Dragon-Rider Books

So the other day I was on Amazon, doing the usual bit of browsing, when I spotted one of those little advertisement bars that Amazon uses to get eyeballs on products by advertising things “like” what you’ve purchased or are interested in. To what should be no one’s surprise, Amazon has figured out that I like the book Axtara – Banking and Finance. Which isn’t exactly true, since I love that little book and its characters. Like isn’t a strong enough word.

Anyway, naturally I browsed this little recommended section because hey, I love Axtara, and Amazon thought these books were similar. It’s not always right, but I’m always down for a good dragon book, so I gave it a look. Even clicked on one that from the title, looked a little promising. Lots of reviews, high rating, all about dragons—

Oh wait. Scratch that. It wasn’t about dragons, but about dragon riders. That’s right, yet another book where dragons, intelligent or not, are reduced to glorified flying horses for a surely-not-just-like-every-other-fantasy-protagonist human.

To borrow from River City Ransom: BARF!!!

Look, I’ve always enjoyed dragons, ever since I was a kid. But I never enjoyed books about dragon riders (with one exception) because, well, honestly they never go past the trope. Again, with that one exception. The dragons are just mounts. Spiny, scaled, flying mounts that may or may not breathe fire. Worse, often they’re intelligent, as in fully sapient, but just fine living in a stable, being treated like a beast of burden, and generally only talking so that the protagonist has someone to talk to to reassure them that they’re “doing the right thing” or whatever.

Does it not bother anyone that a massive swath of dragon books involve treating a sentient being like a piece of property? If the dragon were human, we’d call it “slavery” and YA Twitter would descend with torches and pitchforks to burn that author’s career to the ground … even if the book were about how wrong it was and how the cast overcame it or fought against it.

But hey, if they’re not human, that makes it “okay” I guess. Sure, buy and sell the sapient species. They’re made to be mounts anyway! It’s what the universe intended!

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Being a Better Writer: Worldbuilding from Maslow’s Hierarchy

Hello readers and welcome back! I hope you all had a spectacular weekend full of fun things. If you were a Patreon Supporter of the site, I did do a bit to help with that (Chapter 10 of Sunset: Stranded went up for supporters, so check that out if you’ve been following that story). If not, well, I hope you had a pretty good weekend anyway.

Now, before I dive into today’s Being a Better Writer post, there is a bit of news I want to point out. This post is the last topic from Topic List #16. That’s right, once this post is done, the final item on the checklist can be crossed off, and the list itself crumpled up and moved to the cylindrical tube of removal beside my desk.

Now, this is a decently big occasion. I only go through a few of these lists a year (each one has about twenty or so topics on it). Each one is a milestone of how many Being a Better Writer posts have passed since I started keeping track of the lists (which was a few years ago).

But they are also significant for another reason: Because you get to contribute to them. If you swung by the site over the weekend, you might have noticed the Topic Call for Being a Better Writer post. Well, if there’s ever been a writing topic you’d like to see covered on this site that hasn’t sprung up yet (or it’s been so long we’re due to strike again) now is the time to make your request heard!

There have already been some awesome topic requests from readers to add to Topic List #17. This next list we’re going to see posts on “rule breaking,” geography, and executing slow tension among others. But there’s still plenty of room on the list to see your area of interest appear! So go ahead and jump on over to the comments section of the topic call and leave your request!

All right, that’s all I want to talk about news-wise, so with that said (and you left a topic request, right?) let’s get down to the meat and potatoes of today’s post.

This one is not a request. In fact, it’s actually fully inspired by a panel I was on during this year’s Life, The Universe, and Everything convention. Before the panel, actually, while doing some background reading for it in preparation, I jotted this topic down as one to talk about with Being a Better Writer. And since the panel didn’t actually spend too much time on what I’m going to talk about today, it should still be fresh for those of you who attended LTUE. Double win, in that case.

Anyway, enough background. Let’s dive into today’s post. Hit the jump!

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Axtara – Banking and Finance is OUT!

Happy day to all! For it is on this day, December the 22nd, 2020, that one of the standout moments of what many would agree has been a year, has occurred.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Axtara – Banking and Finance is out!

For those of you who’ve missed it (entirely possible, I’ll admit) Axtara – Banking and Finance is a Young Adult Fantasy novel telling the tale of the titular Axtara, a young dragoness leaving the nest and setting out for the edge of the known civilized world with a single goal: to found and operate her own bank.

Naturally, it’s not going to be easy. The small kingdom she’s headed to has never had a bank before.

Of course, it’s never had a dragon either …

Axtara is available as an ebook, and is also on Kindle Unlimited. A print edition is planned for January, but let’s be honest, right now is the season to curl up with a book and read a fun fantasy. So click the cover there and give it a look!

But before you close this tab, I do want to mention one other little thing: In celebration of the season, and of the new book, there’s also a big sale going on the rest of my library. Been eyeing Jungle or Shadow of an Empire for a time and waiting to pick a copy up? Now’s your chance! Head on over to my author page and take a look! If you’re looking for stocking stuffers for a reader out there, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for! Go go go!

And have a Merry Christmas filled with dragons, wild west shootouts, and spaceships!