Knowing Your Genre, Part 3: Magical Realism

Hi everyone!

This is the third post on a series where I discuss literary genres. This week I’ll be discussing magical realism.

So what is Magical realism?

Magical Realism is one of the hardest genres to define in fiction. It’s both speculative and literary, and it involves elements that no one can quite pinpoint. When asked about magical realism, agents and editors will give an answer that resembles something along the lines of “it’s a book where something magical becomes ordinary”.

The problem with that description is that it can also describe some fantasy worlds. For example, in the world of “Marked” by Kristin Cast and PC Cast, vampires are normal. Everyone in the world knows about the existence of vampires. Vampires are something ordinary and they are known by other humans. However, the book is not magical realism.

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Knowing Your Genre, Part 2: Science Fiction

Hi everyone, and welcome to the second blog post on the series on Genres I’m doing. Last week I talked about fantasy subgenres, and this week my sole focus is science fiction.

For those who are still kinda confused, there’s a difference between Fantasy and Science-Fiction. People often lump them together, as if it’s one big genre, but in reality, they’re separated mainly by one thing: in one hand we have magic, and on the other, we have science.

Those are the simplest, most basic terms to define what falls under which category. Under fantasy, the world is shaped by magic and its properties, and any event can be explained that way. In sci-fi, the way to head towards an explanation is science. Sure, science in sci-fi isn’t the most accurate thing, but it’s the way we humans dream how science could be.

Of course, there’s a lot more complexity than that. Science fiction doesn’t only englobe maths and chemistry and physics, but also often sociology or history, especially when exploring human nature as a theme. Science fiction doesn’t rely on magic — it relies on understanding humans, and understanding the world around them. Which is often why things like “alternative history” or “dystopia” are also considered in the big wide genre of science-fiction. Much like fantasy, sci-fi has one of the widest range of subgenres, and it doesn’t disappoint.

And with no further ado, let’s discuss some of the genres of sci fi and some of its main subgenres.

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Knowing Your Genre, Part One: Fantasy

Hello everyone! With PitchWars almost in the corner and everyone getting ready for submission, it’s time we all have everything set — there’s always time for last minute revisions and changing your queries, but don’t stress it out.

After posting my wishlist, there was a particular question that I got asked a couple of times: What is the difference between Urban Fantasy and Contemporary Fantasy?

This, of course, led to a big thread on twitter which you can read here. But most of all, it also led people to questioning which genres they write in, and how to classify their story. Speculative fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy, has LOTS of subgenres, and all of them can get confused and mixed up.

In this series of posts, I’ll be discussing what goes where. Part one is Fantasy. Part two is Science Fiction. Part three is Magical Realism and writing literary magic. Part four is Horror. And then in Part Five I’ll wrap up with a post on the “easier” genres to identify, that is — Literary, Romance, Western, Contemporary Fiction. The last ones aren’t exactly my specialty, which is why I’m going to be a little briefer about them.

Remember: genres are a different thing than age category. Adult, Middle Grade, and Young Adult have ALL of these genres. age category determines your audience. Your genre determines what type of story you’re writing for that audience.

Another thing to remember before I really start digging deeper into subgenres for this post. There’s a difference between what we call Genre Fiction and Literary. On genre fiction, we have a plot-driven story most of the time. Literary focuses more on a character, or character journey. Of course, good writers can make those lines blur, and have both a character and plot driven story. But as far as it goes, this is the basic difference between them both.

And now that all those things are out of the way, let’s dig in, shall we?

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Pitch Wars Mentor Wishlist

Did I ever think I would be writing this title? No. Is it very cool that I’m writing it? Hella yes!

I’m so excited to be a mentor for Pitch Wars 2017. If you look down my blog, you can probably see my mentee bio for Pitch Wars 2016 and 2015. I entered but didn’t get in. Which is OK! I also have an agent now, so if you don’t get into Pitch Wars this year, it’s totally fine. You will not be lost in a sea of despair because of one contest.

So let’s get to this bio.

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Your Experience is Not Universal: and that’s okay

There’s been a constant discussion on twitter about writing and who gets to write what. As for contemporary, there’s always been that unspoken rule about #ownvoices — someone writing from their own experience will have better knowledge of the subject, and thus will know what they are talking about, and it’ll be written with better grasp and better research.

But ultimately, the call for #ownvoices books has generated into a problem, and is being used as a weapon against marginalized creators, to supress them in a role that’s “not enough”. I think Justina Ireland’s essay here responds to it in a perfect tone.

It’s ridiculous that a movement originally designed to promote POC, disabled and LGBT writers has now turned into tone policing and being bashed just because the experience doesn’t match the readers own.

Here’s a new piece of information for you: no experience will match your own. NO EXPERIENCE WILL MATCH YOUR OWN.

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#PitchWars: Getting Ready

It’s a little more than a month for PitchWars submission window to open. That sounds like a lot of time, or only a little time, depending on where you stand.

Here are some tips of what you should be doing now.

  • Polish your novel. You have one week or two at most to do any other big edits. There’s no more time to send it to CPs, so now you should be editing the last of things, just making sure it all fits in. Remember: it does not have to be perfect. A perfect novel has no place in PitchWars.  You only need to polish it as long as you think you’re able.
  • Polish your query. Your query should be as good as your first pages. Make sure it has stakes, make sure we know who the characters are. We need to know motivations and why they need to accomplish their goal, and what happens if they don’t accomplish that goal.
  • Write a synopsis. Every mentor is going to ask for one. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to have a beggining, a middle, and an ending. Tell the ending! We need the spoilers just to make sure the story is making sense. Here’s a tip on how to write one from one of our PitchWars mentors. I cannot emphasize enough how many people in my own year went ‘omg I forgot the synopsis!’ after they’d gotten a request.
  • Exchange your first chapter and query. A new reader might spot something that an old reader hasn’t. Be it stakes, pacing, or something else, a new pair of eyes never hurts. Plenty of people are looking for that on twitter.
  • Know your difficulties in a novel. Why are you subbing to PitchWars? Do you want your characters or setting fleshed out? Are you having difficulty with the pacing? Do you think you need a bigger ending, or you are not sure which plot is working? Work out what you want, because mentors are going to ask, and you’ll need to be able to tell them your concerns.
  • Make a list of all these things! Make sure you have all PitchWars dates. Our wishlists go live on the 18th, so you need to take time to read through all mentor’s posts and make sure you select which one is a good fit for your novel. If you have plenty of time, you’ll get organized and no need to fret over your submission.

 

So just checking again, things you need:

  • Polished manuscript.
  • Polished Query;
  • A synopsis;
  • An extra polished first chapter that’s attention grabbing!
  • A list of Pitch Wars dates. You can find it in the calendar on Brenda’s website.

 

Make sure to keep checking twitter because a lot of mentors are giving away first chapter/query critiques (Me included!). This is great because you get expert wisdom from the mentors themselves to your query, and this can go a long way.

If you want to do big edits, there’s still time. Last year I figured out a plot I was missing and did a complete overhaul on only four days. It was insane, yes, but it was also worth it. I deleted about 35k of my story and rewrote many scenes from scratch. So don’t lose hope — there’s still time.

Just make sure you got a list to help you.

 

 

Small Update

Pride Month is here!

I really wish I could do a big blog post on favorite characters, or even writing LGBT characters, or anything like that, but fact is: I’m moving! Yay!

And that’s taking a LOT of my time. I’ve mostly been putting stuff into bags, packing my books, crying over how desorganized it all feels, etc. But the good news is that I have new furniture and will soon be able to set up all my belongings in the best Khloé Kardashian fashion (that is, extra organized and extra labels on EVERYTHING.)

I’m really excited to be staying more in São Paulo, because as you know, I finished college last year. I’ve been doing freelance work here and there (and am open to editing manuscripts!) and it’s so great because I love this city so much. I’m really looking forward to what my mom keeps calling “new stage” in life. I always feel like stages had too much to do with Mario videogames, so that always feels weird.

I hope you guys are having a great month of June, and I hope I can do an actual, proper blog post before the month ends. Any suggestions on themes?

Calling Out Problematic Books

From time to time, we see this come up in book twitter. A book is flagged as problematic, or has some content that we have an issue with.

First of all, this is NORMAL. Not every book is going to be perfect. I dare say we are all problematic from time to time, and make decisions that not all agree with. As you know, POC are not monolithic, and we often tend to disagree on a bunch of things. And that’s OK! It’s normal!

That being said, there are degrees of problematic.

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Discussing Identity, and when it’s not Enough

The other day I read a convo on twitter that made me really think about how we often see ourselves, and how we can hurt someone else when we are hurting.

It revolved around the new Blade Runner trailer, and the fact that there are no visible POC on it. Often in sci-fi movies the future is completely whitewashed, as if no Black people or Latinx exist even exist in this world. It’s a sad thing because a lot of sci-fi movies still do that, with literally zero excuse.

But then someone talked about having a Cuban actress, and was immediately shot down as invalid because the actress is white.

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My trip to Egypt

Hey guys, I’m back!

This is one of the personal posts which I do like, once a year LOL. My recent trip to Egypt was AMAZING and I cannot describe how much I loved going.

I’ve been in love with Egypt ever since I can remember. My mom is a graduate in History, so she managed to pass down the love for anything historical to me and my sister. Egypt was one of the most advanced ancient civilizations and their culture was so rich and fascinating. Can you imagine 5000 people building pyramids without concrete simply with math and the technology available? If you need any more proof that Egyptians were brilliant, I can’t give you more than that.

Or maybe I can, through the pictures of the trip.

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