Category Archives: writing workshop

Writers Unite! Workshop: Song Lyrics

Writers Unite! Workshop

Song Lyrics

A note. A chord. A word. A phrase. A song transports us instantly to the moment we first heard it and often floods us with emotions that the memory invokes, joy, fun, passion, sadness, heartbreak. Music is life.

While melody and rhythm affect us, lyrics speak for us when we cannot speak for ourselves. As writing is an art form, writing lyrics is a specialized version of writing poetry.

Our Attraction to Music

Studies have shown that when listening to favorite music, dopamine, the chemical released when doing other pleasurable activities such as eating or sex, is released in various parts of the brain associated with the anticipation of pleasure and deep emotional responses.  If the tonal qualities of a piece of music evoke this reaction, adding words that have meaning to the listener will deepen the connection to the song and the emotional bond formed.

“Music affects deep emotional centers in the brain. A single sound tone is not really pleasurable in itself; but if these sounds are organized over time in some sort of arrangement, it’s amazingly powerful.”    

              — Valorie Salimpoor, neuroscientist McGill University

Lyricist vs. Songwriter

The difference between a lyricist and a songwriter is quite simple. Lyricists write the words to a song. A songwriter writes both words and music.


 “Lyricists are articulate and detail-oriented, with a keen eye for observing the world around them and the discipline to translate their observations and insights into the formal language of song.”  

                                                                                    — Berklee College of Music

Qualifications for a Lyricist

Formal education is not a requirement to be a lyricist. However, a degree in creative writing with an emphasis on poetry offers advantages in a competitive field. Focusing on an art or history education is also a plus as these subjects provide a strong overview of life. Courses on lyric writing are often part of the curriculum in college and university music departments.

While it is not necessary to play an instrument to write lyrics, it is a valuable skill to have. Understanding the importance of meter in music is as essential as it is when writing poetry, so familiarity with an instrument is helpful.

Writing Song Lyrics

Berklee School of Music offers five tips on how to start writing lyrics:

  • Record your thoughts:  in addition to formal education, journaling daily thoughts and emotions is a valuable way to accumulate ideas and underlying emotions for use when writing lyrics. Take the five senses into consideration, taste, smell, touch, sight, sound, as well as movement, as suggested by the article. These descriptors bring the listener to the exact emotion or visual that you need them to have to engage in your lyrics. Use the “small moment” of a particular sense, such as the waft of perfume or touch of a hand, to capture emotion.
  • Read the words, forget the music: Read lyrics written by others and not to the recorded song.By concentrating on the words and not the music, you will gain a better sense of the simplicity and structure of good lyrics. Pay attention to the hook the lyricist has used and the repetitive chorus that ties the song together. Consider the message you want to convey and use the “small moment” mentioned above to make your point.
  • Speak Naturally: Write as you speak in the language that you speak naturally. Don’t force a word or a rhyme, or you will lose the meaning. Berklee uses the word authentic to describe the language you use, and that word is powerful. As with writing a story, the words must be real to connect to your audience. Don’t forget to change tense as you do not have to always write in past tense but can also write in present and future tense to tell your story.
  • The K.I.S.S. Principle:  Keep it simple, stupid is a wise adage. Write in five to six lines of verse and create repetition in the chorus. Longer lyrics can become confusing and obscure the message.
  • Collaborate:  Reach out to lyricists and learn from them. Collaborate on writing lyrics, especially with lyricists who are also musicians writing their songs.

Other tips from sterostickman.com:

  • First Impressions:  The opening lines of a song matter. Use them to hook the listener and keep them listening until the chorus and the message of the song.

Short Sentences: “I lied / He cried / We were both / Terrified”

Specific Storytelling: “The laugh lines around her eyes / Told a story of loving compromise / But the clothes she always wore / End up screwed up on the floor”

Instructions: “Everybody, clap your hands / Get those feet moving, too / We’re about to get wild / No telling what we’re gonna do”

  • Experiment building on lines. Write a line, repeat it with another word, until you get to the meaning you wish to convey. This technique will keep your listener waiting for the next word.

“I really want you
I really want you to
I really want you to go
I really want you to go further

  • Become a techie. If you run into issues with selecting words or rhyming, a website like http://www.rhymezone.com can help by making suggestions for rhymes, near rhymes, and synonyms. Rhyming is certainly acceptable but remember not to rely on it when writing lyrics. However, as long as the lyrics are authentic, it can work.
  • Time Management. Working under deadlines and being able to manage time is essential for both the project and the content. Commercial compositionsare time-sensitive, airtime on radio stations, for instance, is crucial for the artist’s and publisher’s success. Being cognizant of how to manage writing a song that conveys a message in an acceptable time frame is necessary.

Career Expectations

At one time, professional lyricists were in high demand, but as more musicians are penning their lyrics that need has dwindled. That is not to say that this is not a viable profession. There are still opportunities as top-line songwriters within the recording industry if you have some musical ability and can write a catchy tune. Music publishers also hire staff writers, and a small percentage of dedicated lyricists work independently, promoting lyrics to music producers. Music producers recording rappers also hire staff writers to write lyrics for their artists.

There are also opportunities within the musical theater world to write lyrics with musical theater composers and book writers to produce musicals and adaptations. Opera companies need librettists who collaborate with a composer or work as playwrights creating the plot, characters, and structure of the opera.

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If you are interested in a career as a lyricist or are currently writing lyrics or songwriting and want to learn more, please check out this link. Berklee College of Music offers a free online handbook on lyric writing, which includes material from some of their courses.

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Author’s Note:  I am not a musician or a songwriter or lyricist. This workshop concerns the basics of writing lyrics. A considerable amount of the information included came from the Berklee College of Music website. Berklee is world-renowned for the exceptional training provided to music students.

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Resources:
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_we_love_music
https://www.berklee.edu/careers/roles/lyricist
https://online.berklee.edu/takenote/5-steps-to-start-writing-lyrics
https://stereostickman.com/how-to-write-song-lyrics
https://learn.org/articles/How_Can_I_Become_a_Lyricist.html

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution. Voice sheet music is from https://www.music-for-music-teachers.com/, a free-use sheet music site.

Enzo Stephens: Planning Vs. Pantsing, Part Dalawa

Writers Unite!’s Featured Blog Series!

Writers Unite! is fortunate to have among its members, many bloggers, and essayists who write content about the writing process or their author’s journey or both. We will be posting their articles for your information and enjoyment. Please read and comment, visit the author’s website, blog, or Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and share!

Part “Isa” and Part “Dalawa” are Tagalog for 1 & 2 respectively.

Planning Vs. Pantsing, Part Isa

Planning Vs. Pantsing, Part Dalawa

By Enzo Stephens

When we go on vacation to some warm locale with swaying palm trees and soft, gentle ocean breezes and sand that likes to mysteriously work its way into surprising anatomical crevices, one of the first things I say — usually with a huge sigh, is “Ahhhh, how wonderful it is to not have to wear pants.”

Kind of crazy for a dude to say, but there it is.

The fact is that for a guy (and maybe for the ladies too), pants are binding.  We have to loosen our belts (that hold our pants up) after chowing down that four chili-cheese dogs (topped with fresh onions and cayenne pepper — do it right!), because those damned pants are like a noose around the waist.

So, do you feel me when I breathe that sigh of relief upon arrival at some tropical locale?

As my well-traveled friend would say, “You and your first-world problems.”

So all that said, in the writing community, the inverse of that diatribe is the truth; pantsing is liberating.

“Pantsing” is a term used to describe unplanned writing.  In short, the writer gets an idea or a scene in their mind and then they just… let it fly.

At one time this method used to bug the bejeebers out of me.  Why? Because every time I’d sit down with a fabulous idea and crank it out, it would pretty much just die on the vine.  Ten, fifteen pages of outstanding prose that just peters out.

To me, that was a fail in my quest to write the Great American Novel and supplant Mr. King as the Great American Novelist.  It slew my dream.

It’s a tenuous connection, but then my writing technique was pretty immature back then.  To me, it was all about causality, and if I was going to succeed in my writing career, I needed a different approach.

Ergo the planning method, and I totally embraced that method, and it was a huge success for me.  Again, causality. The more I crafted full-scale novels, the more I embraced planning.

But here’s the thing…

Writing stopped being fun.  It became a job.

And that just took the wind out of my sails, big-time.  I didn’t talk about these fantastic stories at parties anymore; I wasn’t driven by inspiration anymore.  

Over 60 books later and I was feeling pretty burnt out, although the process I’d developed for myself was a significant success, I was — dare I say, bored.  

For a fiction author to get bored?  Well, that just sucks.

Well, then the host of this blog site flashed a picture on Facebook that I saw for the first time last February, along with the words ‘Write The Story,’ and I thought, ‘well, that’s a cool idea.’  Three thousand words? I can do that in my sleep (which was truer than I care to admit).

So what’s the first thing I did?  I pulled out my planning tools.

UGH.

I wrote some ridiculous drivel about the wonders of paint or some such nonsense; read it and promptly threw it in the crapper.  Now, all of a sudden, this little exercise became difficult.

I kvetched about it to my closet confidant, and after she let me blather on for gawd-knows-how-long (and several gin & tonics), she kicked back in her chair and laughed at me.  That kind of got my dander up a bit, but then she ’splained…

“Remember all those times when I’d ask you to tell me a story to help me fall asleep?”

“Yeah, but they put you to sleep, so they must have sucked.”

“No, doofus!  You came up with that stuff on the fly!”

DING

My goodness, that is One.  Wise. Woman.

In other words, I was pantsing, even when I didn’t know the term.  And I dare say that all of us writers do it. It’s inspiration!

That said, I tackled that Write The Story exercise again with gusto and cranked out a strange, rambling dissertation on the possible sinister history of the room in the picture prompt, and I never looked back.

I have re-discovered the JOY in writing, and have since put together some really weird and fun short stories that have helped me to truly express myself; to build a level of depth and humanity in my characters that seemed to have disappeared over the years, and so on and so on.

Pantsing has helped my writing skills evolve to the Next Level (well, in my mind anyway).  I have no idea if I’ll ever supplant Mr. King as the next Great American Novelist, and frankly, I really don’t care.

Because writing is fun again!

Now I am able to combine the best of both and that’s where my path to creation of inspired novels lie, and I’m thrilled to share here that I’ve got a series well underway.  Yes, it’s well planned and meticulous using the tools I described in Part Isa, but the specific scenes, now that’s a different story.

Those scenes are ‘pantsed,’ and by Slocum, they have been an absolute blast to write!

Planning AND Pantsing.  Try them together, and watch your writing take off!

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Next: Ghostwriting.

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Author Bio:

Enzo Stephens has a serious case of professional ADHD.  He’s a professional writer with over 60 novels ghosted and several under his own name.  He’s an active blogger and has fallen in love with knocking out short stories.
Enzo is a retired Marine and a martial arts instructor for longer than most people have been alive, and his cats, wife and kids merely tolerate his nonsense.

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For more of Enzo’s writing visit him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Enzo.stephens.5011 or check out the monthly archives here on the WU! blog.

( Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.)  

Enzo Stephens: Planning Vs. Pantsing, Part Isa

Writers Unite!’s Featured Blog Series!

Writers Unite! is fortunate to have among its members, many bloggers, and essayists who write content about the writing process or their author’s journey or both. We will be posting their articles for your information and enjoyment. Please read and comment, visit the author’s website, blog, or Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and share!

Part “Isa” and Part “Dalawa” are Tagalog for 1 & 2 respectively.

Planning Vs. Pantsing, Part Isa

By Enzo Stephens

Those in the writing community know what these two topics are/mean, but for those of you who are not or who are considering dipping your toes in the water, these two topics — Planning and ‘Pantsing’ refer to a writer’s approach to their craft.

For the sake of brevity, I’m going to refrain from using the single-quotes on Pantsing. We all get it.

I think the way to approach this is to break each method of approach down; discuss pros and cons. By no means are my lists or dissertation intended to be comprehensive. I’m just not smart enough to be able to include everything, so if you can think of anything I miss, by all means, feel free to comment away.

It’s interesting to me how surprisingly adamant some writers are about which method they prefer. The reason why is because it seems situational to me. 

When I work on a full-length novel or even a series of novellas, I absolutely have to use the planning method.

But I’ve recently discovered that there is joy in the pantsing approach. 

Okay, permit me to share-eth my (somewhat colorful) thoughts on the planning approach and why it works for me.

Sucky Memory

I’m sure there are more eloquent ways to say that my memory sometimes feels like a black hole that originates from my frontal cortex, but that’s the truth of the matter, and I’m positive that I’m not the only one with this problem.

A plan is one way to compensate. Let me ’splain…

We’ve all read a GOOD novel, and I’m sure most of us can clearly state why the novel was good. Excellent plot, strong character development, great subplots, dialogue, and character interaction was outstanding, tremendous scene-setting, and so on.

I venture to say that what makes it GOOD is simply… pause for dramatic effect… continuity.

Plots and subplots need to make sense and they need to drive through to a reasonable conclusion. Same with characters. And, the entire work takes on its own pace, building to a crescendo that — if it’s really good, makes for a page-turner.

You know what I’m talking about. That’s what The Shining was for me. I could not get enough of that beast, and it’s the most re-read book in my entire collection.

Now, for as many GOOD novels read, I dare say we’ve read at least twice as many BAD novels.

What makes it a BAD novel?

Well, it’s the inverse of all the stuff I said that makes for a GOOD novel. A bad novel just crushes continuity and pace because it’s just so damned distracting.

Plot holes, total character missteps, aspects that just seem unreasonable / not thought out or not researched; you get the idea. 

My first works — way back when an IBM Selectric was my go-to, utterly sucked. Sure, I’d knock out a scene or two, but good Lord, what a mess they were.

Didn’t take me long to figure out that I ended up spending all my time going back and correcting/revising earlier work just to maintain continuity, and not enough time allowing my creativity freedom (my Muse is still swift-kicking me in the nuts over this I believe — demanding wench!).

Okay, time for a quickie backstory. Not only am I a crazed ex-Marine with over 50 years of hand-to-hand combat experience, but I also have over 30 years’ experience in Information Technology. Ergo, the tools that would help me to elevate my writing hove into view.

In short, planning tools.

All because my memory sucks and I can’t keep details straight. But only when I’m writing them, not reading them. Makes me feel hypocritical in some odd way. Like, what right do I have to criticize someone else’s writing when mine’s just as bad (if not worse)?

Data Flow Diagram

This is a good one for laying out the overreaching plot outline, and then subplot constructs and directions. There’s a definitive beginning and end, and critical milestones to get from one end to the other. 

This is typically one of my first tools that comes into play when creating a novel or a series (shorts, novellas or full-blown works).

There’s a lot of freebie versions of Data Flow Diagrams that can be found via standard Google search. 

Character Matrix

This is one of the most underrated and underused tools I’ve ever seen, but man-oh-man has it been a lifesaver in my writing. 

Mine is home-grown and it’s 9-10 pages of 8-point font extensive. It covers everything about a person that can be imagined — personal stats, usual likes and dislikes, background, jobs, churches, organizational affiliations, relationships past and present and desired. Religion, politics, positions of social issues; personality disorders; strengths and talents; special abilities… the list goes on and on. 

I use this when I’m creating my Main Character, and I use scaled-down versions for other characters; the less impact to the story, the less of a CM I use.

Again, there are variations of this via standard Google search if you’re so inclined to be tightly wound when applying your creative process. That’s a joke.

Decision Tree

So, what happens if Uncle Bob decides to hack his weenie off with a linoleum knife in a fit of pique over his recalcitrant kiddies because they’re such jerks? How does that crazy act impact the subplot, the overall plot, sub-finishes, and so on?

Out comes the Decision Tree

I love this because it really gives me the chance to explore actions and reactions of a character given a specific situation, and then really build on that. From some of the steps involved, I’m able to impart serious suspense when it’s time to write the scene, story, whatever. And when I’ve got a novel done — say 100k words, I’ve probably got 100 pages of decision trees. 

All that is cool, but here’s the neat side benefit of using decision trees: no longer fretting over word count. I have knocked out tens of thousands of words just rolling through one branch of a decision tree. This device is outstanding for me.

You won’t really need to go chase down some Decision Tree template; you can make your own quite well.

The Bottom Line

Okay, so it goes without saying (but I’m gonna say it anyway) that writing a book is a pretty significant undertaking. 

I consider it a project, much like the development and delivery of a suite of software to a client. There is a definitive start and end point. There is up-front work; development work; testing; then implementation. There are milestones and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Behind all of it is a Plan, and what drives the plan is its flexibility and the tools that make planning easier and more effective.

Pantsers, there’s a lot to be said for planning!

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Planning vs. Pantsing, Part Dalawa.
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Author Bio:

Enzo Stephens has a serious case of professional ADHD.  He’s a professional writer with over 60 novels ghosted and several under his own name.  He’s an active blogger and has fallen in love with knocking out short stories.
Enzo is a retired Marine and a martial arts instructor for longer than most people have been alive, and his cats, wife and kids merely tolerate his nonsense.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is divider-2.png

For more of Enzo’s writing visit him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Enzo.stephens.5011 or check out the monthly archives here on the WU! blog.

( Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.)  

Deborah Ratliff: The Better Beta

Recently, in the Writers Unite! Facebook group, a member asked a question about the process of finding a responsible beta to review their work. Another member commented that she was reluctant to be a beta reader for fear of being too harsh. This article addresses both of those issues and we hope brings some clarity to the beta reader process. It’s a valuable resource for a writer but needs to be effective.

The Better Beta

By Deborah Ratliff

“Who wants to beta my novel?”

How many times have you seen this question posted in an online writing group? Often, and with good reason, as beta readers provide a valuable service. They are the buffer between your best friend who loves your story and the editor who could tear it apart.

Along with finding a qualified beta, the question of determining the expectations of the relationship between author and beta is important. Confusion over the responsibilities often keeps both the writer from seeking a beta and a potential beta from offering their services.

A beta reader most often will be someone who either reads or writes in your genre or is willing to learn the nuances of the genre to provide proper feedback. They are usually unpaid participants who enjoy helping writers and usually not trained in editing or story development. They provide feedback on plot, characters, narrative, dialogue, and continuity. The beta is judging the readability and plausibility of the story for the general reader.

Choosing a beta or group of betas to read your manuscript can be daunting. As stated above, finding betas in your target audience is ideal, but someone with experience in offering feedback can be equally as effective. Most online writing groups on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and writing groups on the Internet, are ready sources for finding suitable betas. Websites such as Writing.com or Goodreads.com have beta-reader sites, and there are several Facebook groups including Writers Unite! and Beta Readers and Critiques that offer beta readers. If you are familiar with and trust these sites, you should start your search there. 

When you request a beta, the question posed at the beginning of the article should be more definitive. Ask, instead, would anyone be willing to beta my 84,000-word fantasy manuscript. By clarifying the genre and length upfront, you will receive responses more attuned to your needs.

Also, ask potential betas about their experience. Have they reviewed manuscripts before in this genre, and what do they like about it? What time frame do they usually take to provide feedback? Once you feel comfortable with one or more betas, provide them with an edited manuscript. The manuscript does not need to be perfect, but respect the beta by giving them a readable one.

One of the ways to achieve your goals of what you as a writer need to know about your manuscript is to send a list of questions to the beta pointing out the areas of interest you have.

Your questions can include the following:

  •  Did the opening of the book hold your attention? If not, why?
  • Was the main character relatable? Did you feel a connection to the character and his plight from the beginning?
  •  Were the characters believable? If not, what suggestions do you have to make them believable? Were there too many characters to keep track of while reading?
  • Were the setting of the story and the descriptions interesting and clear?
  • Was the narrative concise and understandable? Was there a good balance between narrative and dialog?
  • Did the dialog seem natural and appropriate for the genre and period?
  • Were there any confusing passages? If so, why were they confusing? Did the story lag at any point? Explain. Were there any consistencies in the storyline or timeframe?
  • Were the tension and conflict in the story, as well as the ending, satisfying?
  • Was the story a fit for the genre?
  •  Were there any obvious grammatical errors? Spelling, punctuation, or grammar. (Remember most betas do not check for these errors but will note what they find if you request it. Do not expect the beta to offer suggestions or corrections. That is the job of your editor.)

The beta reader also has responsibilities. A lot of the author’s time and soul has gone into the creation of the manuscript sent.

Beta readers should do the following:

  • There are several areas of review that a beta should follow when reviewing a manuscript. If the author supplies questions, address those, as well as any discrepancies found. (See link at the end of the article for a comprehensive list of beta reader duties.)
  • Be honest. Beta reviews are not the time to spew platitudes. If something is wrong, bring it to the author’s attention.
  • Be specific. Vague feedback is ineffective. Give a thorough explanation of what you felt was wrong.
  • Meet the deadline agreed to between the author and beta. If you cannot meet the author’s needs, do not accept the assignment.
  • Be respectful. Pointing out errors to an author can be difficult, but if you explain your reasons in a courteous and straightforward manner, the author will accept the feedback positively. Also, always mention the good things that you have found in the story, mentioning positives, followed by the negatives. We all make mistakes, but a little nice goes a long way.

When selecting betas for your manuscript, selecting a few readers is wise. You may write both short stories and novels and wish to have betas who may prefer one or the other. Also, if you are a prolific writer, you may want to rotate your betas.

One thing as a writer that you do need to remember is not to confuse yourself with too many opinions. It could take time to find the right beta who communicates well and understands your work. Sorting out the opinions of several people can complicate your corrections, especially if the betas differ in the things they like and don’t like about your work.

When people are offering their services for free, as most beta readers do, the outcomes are not always what you hope. The good thing is that the vast majority of beta readers are doing it for the pleasure of reading new stories and helping authors and are responsible.

Resources:

This beta reader checklist is from Goodreads Community Forum and is quite comprehensive. https://www.geads.com/topioodrc/show/18274464-beta-reader-checklist

Writers Unite! on Facebook: A list of WU! members willing to beta and the genres they prefer can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/145324212487752/permalink/1039706383049526/

WU! On Dr. Paul’s Family Talk

WU! On “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” Podcast!

If you missed Writers Unite! on “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” on Friday, here is the Podcast of the segment.

Join host Paul W. Reeves and WU! Admin Deborah Ratliff as they discuss the topic, “ Story Structure”.

Story Structure

If you would like to listen to the show in its entirety (and it’s a lot of fun), click on this Podcast link for Friday’s show!

IMPACT RADIO USA strives to provide the best in news, talk, sports, and music 24 hours a day, 52 weeks per year. Our goal is to keep you as the most informed and entertained Internet Radio audience.

Dr. Paul’s Family Talk 11-15-19

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DRABBLE ME THIS! October Winners

DRABBLE ME THIS!

A Writers Unite! Workshop Project

In addition to our Write the Story! project, we thought it would be fun to do something that is one of the best exercises you can do to hone your writing skills. The Drabble.

A drabble is a piece of fiction that is exactly one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is to tell a complete story within limited words which encourages word choice, conciseness, and editing skills.

Drabble Me This! is a monthly contest. Each Saturday of the month, we will post a single word prompt. Members will write a 100-word story. During the week, all members will have the opportunity to LIKE” an entry. The weekly contests will end on Friday nights, a tally taken, and the post removed. The next week’s post will go up the following Saturday morning. At the end of the month, we will post the winning Drabbles from each week plus an Admin choice on the WU! Blog and share the post across our platforms.


A quick history of the Drabble

The term itself comes from Monty Python’s 1971 Big Red Book, which declared the drabble a word game in which two to four players compete to be the first to write a novel, Drabbles emerged within the British Science Fiction Fandom in the 1980s, The Birmingham University SF society is credited as being the organization that set the length at 100 words. (From folklore.com)

October 2019 Drabble Me This Winners


Week One: 
Prompt “Mirror” 

Charles Stucker      

Twelve jurors sat around the table debating the case. John Smith summed it up, “The video clearly shows the murderer was left handed. The suspect is right handed. Despite all the evidence, I don’t see any way to convict.”

“I know how it was done,” Bob Jackson said. “Look at the room in the video. Everything in it is symmetric.”

“So what?” Kelly Myers asked.

“So the suspect arranged for it to be filmed using a mirror. Everything is reversed, but we don’t notice. The power cut off just after, so he had ample chance to change the angle afterward.”


Week Two: 
Prompt “Empty” 

Rylee Black 

Friday. Four-forty-five. Fifteen more minutes and it’s freedom from the drudgery of my nine-to-five. What I’m really looking forward to more than freedom is the package from Momma. Douglas called and told me it arrived. I’m stoked. A package from Momma means a tin of home-made chocolate chip cookies, my fav. Soft, chocolaty, and yummy. I can practically taste them now.

All the way home, visions of Momma’s cookies dance through my head. Come on traffic, move. Douglas isn’t anywhere around when I get inside. I know why when I pick up the tin – the cookies are gone – it’s empty.


Week Three 
Prompt “Letter” 


Calliope Njo

Your body deserved to be burned in the hottest of fires.

Would it hurt for you to offer a bit of warmth? Would it have bothered you to think of something I might have liked? Did you bother to think about me during the day? Of course not, you soulless bastard. I couldn’t express to you how I felt in life. Only after your death do I have the drive, the guts to tell how you deserved to die.

Signed, the Idiot.

I folded up the letter and stuffed it in an envelope to watch it burn in the fireplace.


Week Four
Prompt “Clock” 

Caroline Giammanco 

You twist me in circles, for days, months, and years. I check with you over and over to make sure I’m not off course or running too late or too early. Maybe I should take comfort in your consistency, but I feel myself slip farther away from being me because you rule my day. The alarms go off with a predictability that scares me. Sometimes I wait for the blows, the ringing in my ears that’s about to come. The ticking is the next bomb that will explode. The bruises you say I deserve. What will it be this time?


 Admin’s Choice

Week One
Prompt “Mirror” 

Rylee Black

I felt it as soon as I opened the door. Something was wrong. Energy, painful and unwelcome, danced along my skin. The lights I’d switched on, usually so bright and welcoming, had done little to dispel the darkness.

When my eyes adjusted, I saw them. Hundreds of forms of gossamer white. Angry and pulsing with rage and fear. Red eyes turned to me.

Why? From where? My blood ran cold. The mirror. From the sale. Samuel had declared it to be a portal for the damned. I hadn’t believed him.

I needed to get out. I knew I never would.

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Thanks to all who participated and who read and voted. This has been a fun project and we are looking forward to more drabbles!

If you would like to participate and are not a member of our WU! Facebook group, please join us!

Join Writers Unite!

Please note: The Writers Unite! Admins are selected on a rotating basis for the Admin Choice. The drabble selected is at the sole discretion of the admin. In those months containing five weeks, an Admin’s Choice selection will not be made.

WU! Workshop: The Short Story

WU! Workshop: The Short Story

By D. A. Ratliff

“A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.”  ― Edgar Allan Poe

The short story evolved in the 19th Century as a result of the changing population in America. British novelists published chapters of their novels in serial form in newspapers and then published the entire novel. American novelists began to circulate their novels as serials as well until the population began to migrate from city to city. Serializing a novel for a paper that changes readership often was ineffective. Publishers who needed story content for their newspapers commissioned shorter complete stories, and the short story was born.

Commercialized at first, interest in these stories diminished with the advent of the motion picture. Short stories as we know them today are more literary and not as widely read. Fewer outlets for publishing exist, but the last few years have seen an increased interest in the format. Writing groups are publishing anthologies, and literary and national magazines offer short stories.

“A short story is a sprint, a novel is a marathon. Sprinters have seconds to get from here to there and then they are finished. Marathoners have to carefully pace themselves so that they don’t run out of energy (or in the case of the novelist — ideas) because they have so far to run. To mix the metaphor, writing a short story is like having a short, intense affair, whereas writing a novel is like a long rich marriage.”  ― Jonathan Carroll

The question often asked is, how does a short story differ from a novel?

The clever answer is that they are shorter, albeit a somewhat obvious answer. Writer’s Digest, a well-known magazine and online writing site, defines a short story as ranging from 1,500 to 30,000 words. However, there is a considerable discrepancy regarding short-story word count between ‘experts.’ If submitting to a publication or contest, always check the stated guidelines.

Length, however, is not the only variance. A short story is structured differently. To create an effective short story, you need to simplify and amplify.

Let’s look at the components of a short story.

The Character

Yes, the character. While you will have secondary characters in your story, the conflict, the goal, the action, and focus should be on one character. Keep all other characters to their specific roles to move the story along. Not to say that you cannot develop those secondary characters but do so only in the context of the plot.

You need to develop your main character quickly. It is imperative to establish a connection between your reader and character from the beginning as you would in a novel. Being as concise as possible, give as many traits, positive and negative, physical or personality, as needed to paint a believable image in the minds of your readers. You can still complete a story arc but with fewer steps.

The Opening

The goal of any writer is to gain the attention of your reader from the first word. That is not always an attainable goal but at least have their attention in the first paragraph or two. In a short story, the quicker you get to the action, the better. Open with movement, a vivid scene that puts your reader into the story immediately or something compelling about your main character.

The Plot

A short story should have one plot defined and focused on your main character. There is no room for sub-plots to be incorporated into a short story. You need to keep the conflict, action, and goal faced by your character at the center of attention.

The Theme

While you may have several themes that you wish to convey in a novel, love, friendship, pessimism, hopelessness or hope, or justice, among others, only include one theme in a short story. As with your characters, keep the structure simple and amplify your words. 

The Constraints and Pluses in Short Stories

  • The obvious constraint in a short story is the number of words available to tell your tale. There is little room for backstory or details that you have some leeway to include in a novel. This leads to a plus in that you are forced to be cognizant of finding the precise words to use, such as strong action verbs and the fewest number of words to convey a thought, giving you experience in word selection and editing.
  • Telling a story is not as effective as showing the action, and short stories provide an excellent experience for you to master the art of showing what is happening. Replacing dialog tags with action beats will save extraneous words and help create the show that you need.
  • Learning to craft a short story will help with structuring stronger chapters in a longer work.

Whether you are intending on publishing your short stories independently, in an anthology, through a publication, in a contest, or for your enjoyment, by following these tips, you will create a well-crafted story.

Resources

http://bookcritics.org/blog/archive/a-brief-history-of-the-short-story-in-america

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/short-storiesWU! Workshop:

 

Caroline Giammanco: Book Signing Basics

Caroline Giammanco at a recent Barnes and Noble book signing. Photo courtesy of the author.

Book Signing Basics

By Caroline Giammanco

We spend months or years struggling to complete our manuscripts, and the thrill of signing a publishing contract blinds us to the cold truth: our work isn’t over. Four years ago I hadn’t realized how difficult it would be to market and promote my first book. Few publishers, even large ones, promote authors, so we writers have to do what it takes to be successful. Book signings are a critical part of landing your book in the hands of readers. 

Not everyone is a born salesperson. I know I wasn’t, but I’ve picked up some strategies along the way that have helped me transition from determined writer to successful salesperson. Arranging an event and making it a success may seem difficult and overwhelming. Now that I’m on tour with my third book, with over forty Barnes and Noble signings under my belt, I’m offering tips to make your book signing a win for you, the store, and the readers.

First, let’s start at the beginning.

When you contact a bookstore, whether by phone, in person, or by email, have a game plan.  At Barnes and Noble stores, ask to speak to the CRM (Community Relations Manager). If contacting an independent store, ask to speak to the owner. Once you are connected to the right person, have confidence. Pitch your book and who you are. Be enthusiastic. Explain what your book is about, why it appeals to readers, and what you will do to promote an event. Include press releases, the use of social media, and any print or radio and tv interviews you may do around the time of the event.

Be persistent. Not every store will immediately agree to a book signing. Don’t take that as a definite no. Follow up on the conversation. Send an email including your book trailer, photos of you and your book cover, and a blurb about your book. If you have high ratings on Amazon, let them know. Your job is to convince the management it won’t be a wasted effort to have you in their store. While most bookstores are supportive of authors, sales are their bottom line. Let them know you will be able to bring buyers into their store. 

Be seen as good for business for that bookstore, and be proactive once an event is scheduled. Advertise and discuss the signing on social media. Facebook events are a great way to target people in the area. Use the resources you have available. If you can afford a Facebook or print ad, place one. Ask the local newspaper if they’d write an article. Ask radio stations about interviews they may be willing to have with you. Use Twitter and any other networking sites you belong to in order to spread the word. Word of mouth works.

Even with a full-fledged effort to get your friends and relatives into the store on the day of the signing, the truth is that most of the readers you encounter will be general foot traffic—people who just happened to come to the store on that day. In truth, you don’t want your target customers to be your friends and family. The only way you will be successful is to have complete strangers buy your book. We all hope our circle of friends and family will support us, but that will never get us to the bestseller category. It won’t even produce lukewarm royalties. You have to be willing to expand your comfort zone and reach out to total strangers for sales.

Many writers enjoy being introverts. There’s comfort found in being alone with our laptop and the stack of research we’ve compiled, but once a book signing is at hand, it’s time to come out of your shell. Be prepared to engage customers as soon as they walk near your table. There’s no need to be the heavy-handed used car salesman, but you must initiate the conversation.

At my first Barnes and Noble signing, I had an epiphany. I realized after the first hour that when I smiled and said hello most customers assumed I was a store employee. Yes, I had a big sign sitting next to me announcing my appearance as an author, but few paid attention to it. I adjusted and overcame. I adopted an approach that has worked well for me in stores across the country. As people enter my area I cheerfully say, “Hi, I’m having a book signing today. If you have a moment, I’d love to talk with you about my book.” Bingo! Now I have their attention and they are aware that I am an author with a book they may be interested in. Book sales only happen if readers are attracted to your product. It is your job to get their attention.

I’ve had multiple sold-out signings, and I’ve also seen authors who are doing all the wrong things. They placidly sit at their tables waiting for customers to come to them. Others only schedule an hour or two at a signing. Don’t do that! Devote time to meet as many readers as possible. If the store has been kind enough to give you space in their business, don’t make their efforts to order books, develop signs, etc. be wasted by a half-hearted effort on your part.

Be passionate about your book. If it was important enough to write, it should be important enough for you to promote. This is difficult for introverts. You must put on your performance mask, however, and engage, engage, engage! Keep in mind that many readers are also introverts and may not feel comfortable walking up to you unless you make yourself a welcoming presence. A book signing is no time to be shy. Also, don’t be discouraged. Not everyone you talk to will buy your book. That’s okay. 

Remember to have fun! Book signings aren’t an obligation or work. You are getting to talk about something you love. What better topic do you have to talk about than the book you created and are incredibly proud of? 

Marketing and personal appearances are important. Your fan base grows when you put yourself out into the public. Personal encounters with readers fuel sales and are a rewarding part of an otherwise private journey as a writer. Now get going!

All images are from free use sites unless otherwise noted.
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Caroline Giammanco’s latest book, Inside the Death Fences: Memoirs of a Whistleblower can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Caroline-Giammanco/e/B017KQZRU4/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009880805237

Website: http://www.booniehatbandit.com

Inside the Death Fences: Memoir of a Whistleblower by [Giammanco, Caroline]


Science Fiction Today and Characterizations of the Genre

Science Fiction Today

Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology.”
— Isaac Asimov

From the early days of pulp science fiction, the 1920s and 1930s saw the popularity of science fiction begin in earnest with Philip Francis Nowlan’s first Buck Rogers story, Armageddon 2419 published in 1928. In 1937, John W. Campbell was named editor of Astounding Science Fiction and thus began what many consider the Golden Age of Science Fiction. There is a debate on how long that Golden Age lasted, some feel into the 1950s, but there is no debate that the novels from that era stand today as classics in the world of science fiction.

Among those classics, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series followed over the years by the dystopian Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, Theodore Sturgeon’s More Than Human, an exploration of the future evolution of humans, and Robert Heinlein’s military sci-fi novel Starship Troopers.

During this time the first attempt to separate science fiction from fantasy began when Hugo Gernsback, at the time editor of Amazing Stories used the name scientifiction to describe the genre. He defined the term as “…a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision…

Notable authors such as John W. Campbell J, Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clark, and others added their own opinion to Gernsback’s definition over the years. One point all of these authors agreed on was that the basis of science fiction is scientific theory and technology. Robert Heinlein’s term ‘speculative fiction’ written in a 1947 essay has remained the term most used to this day. The attempt to redefine the genre never completely took hold although speculative fiction is still being used.

In the 1960s and 1970s, a new term arose. New Wave Science Fiction was used to describe a more literary and artistic feel to a sci-fi novel. Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris dealt with human limitations. In 1965, Frank Herbert introduced an incredibly complex and intricate future society in the amazing novel, Dune. Phillip K. Dick, whose novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? spawned the film, Blade Runner. These years also saw an explosion of social and feminist science fiction as exemplified by Ursula K. Le Guin.

The last forty years of science fiction has introduced us to a myriad of sub-genres such as steampunk and cyberpunk as seen in Neuromancer, William Gibson’s first novel published in 1984. Themes such as the environment, the Internet, biotechnology, nanotechnology, post-apocalyptic worlds, and the increasing list of sub-genres like steampunk, biopunk, and others have opened the genre to new horizons.

The most recent trends in science fiction discussed at Speculate, the Speculative Writers Festival in 2019 were as follows.

  • Climate Fiction – Dealing with climate change
  • New Space Opera – A grander, more technology-based and character-driven version of the old Space Opera.
  • Generation Ship – Where original colonists and their descendants travel on slower spaceships. A recognition of the vastness of space and that faster-than-light speed is impossible.
  • Gender-Focused – As we see in our society now, the question of gender fluidity is central to the story.

In reviewing the amazing and innovative stories that form the history of science fiction, it is evident that from the beginnings of Buck Rogers to Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, science fiction continues to evolve with compelling stories to tell.

Common Characteristics of Science Fiction

While there are many aspects of science fiction that are shared with other genres, there are some characteristics that are unique to the genre. These identifiers should be present in the story.

1.       Time Frame – This is the one area where there is some flexibility. While most science fiction is set in the future, a sci-fi story can be set in the present or in the past but other identifying characteristics must be present.

2.       Advanced Technology – In the early days of science fiction, advanced technology while imaginative was not as difficult to create. In present day, technology advances at an exponential rate. It is considerably more difficult to imagine technology for advanced civilizations and stay ahead of current tech. Consider the tech, computers, communication, spaceships, ground transports, etc. that you want your characters and those they encounter will have, and be consistent.

3.       Worlds and world-building – Probably the most formidable and most exciting aspect of writing sci-fi is alien world building. Some authors spend weeks building and creating their worlds. When you are presenting a futuristic Earth or an alien world and civilization, pay attention to detail. Think about how your characters will live, eat, breathe, and what kind of clothing and transport they will have. Every detail is important and will add depth and reality to your story.

4.       Characters Creating a cast of characters for your story can be as much fun as world building. As we know from some favorite movies, there is no limit to the imagination. Again, pay attention to detail. How they breathe, ambulate, dress, communicate, and appear.

5.       Plausibility – This is possibly one of the most important characteristics of your writing. Remember that your reader has one frame of reference, the current world they live in. You need to keep your worlds, characters, and technology within a scope that most of your readers can understand. This does not preclude you from being innovative, but always remember to be plausible. Another thing to remember is to allow your characters to live in this world—nothing that you provide them with, from weapons to transport should surprise them. It should be normal. These guidelines apply to all genres except for fantasy where you can suspend belief. Which is a good thing if you are writing science-fiction fantasy.

Writing science fiction is challenging and exciting. Pay attention to these aspects of the genre and have fun!

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We will be covering world building, character development, and plots in upcoming articles.

Resources

Asimov, “How Easy to See the Future!”, Natural History, 1975

Asimov, Isaac (1980). In Joy Still Felt: The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1954–1978. Garden City, New York: Doubleday. chapter 24. ISBN 978-0-385-15544-1.

Quoted in [1993] in: Stableford, Brian; Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (1993). “Definitions of SF”. In Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. London: Orbit/Little, Brown and Company. pp. 311–314. ISBN 978-1-85723-124-3.

Roberts, Adam (2000). Science Fiction. New York: Routledge. pp. 85–90. ISBN 978-0-415-19204-0.

Sammon, Paul M. (1996). Future Noir: the Making of Blade Runner. London: Orion Media. p. 49. ISBN 0-06-105314-7.

Spivack, Charlotte (1984). Ursula K. Le Guin (1st ed.). Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Twayne Publishers. ISBN 978-0-8057-7393-4.,pp=44–50

http://www.dirkstrasser.com/dirks-blog/current-trends-in-science-fiction

The Genre of Science Fiction: The Beginning

The Beginnings of Science Fiction

Merriam-Webster defines the genre of science fiction as fiction dealing principally with the impact of actual or imagined science on society or individuals or having a scientific factor as an essential orienting component.

This is a prime example of a technically correct definition but does not represent the scope and excitement of the science fiction genre. There is so much more to this fantastic genre, and the many directions science fiction stories can take.

The term is relatively modern. An article by H. Bruce Franklin on the Rutgers University website states that the word scientist was not used until 1840, and the term science fiction first appeared in 1841 in “A Little Earnest Book upon a Great Old Subject” written by William Wilson. Wilson writes: “Science-Fiction, in which the revealed truths of Science may be given interwoven with a pleasing story which may itself be poetical and true.”  A more lyrical definition of science fiction.

Often intertwined with the fantasy which is often called impossible, science fiction falls into the possible or probable realm. Although a modern genre, travel to far-off worlds (granted far off in the Mediterranean) was depicted in Greek writings, but it was not until Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein” that science fiction began to emerge. As the dime novels of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century became popular, the genre became hugely popular and the genre took on a less-than-desirable label as “vulgar and puerile.” 

Fortunately, as we know, the science fiction genre has evolved into a respected and popular genre. In coming articles, we will look at other aspects of the genre from world building to character development.

Attached is a list of the numerous sub-genres of science fiction. As science-fiction writing grew in popularity, authors began to incorporate other genres into the realm of science fiction. The advent of self-publishing added additional opportunities to break out of the traditional publishing guidelines for the genre and create unique works.

The Sub-genres of Science Fiction

The world of science fiction is literally epic and incredibly complex. The genre can be divided into dozens of subgenres, each with their own unique themes and attributes. Any one science fiction story can cross the boundaries of several of these subgenres, or even break off into its own cult category. Charting the entire universe of sci-fi subgenres would therefore be impossible, but here are some of its most heavily populated worlds.

HARD SCIENCE FICTION

Science fiction in which science and technology take center stage, or in which scientific concepts are explained in detail. hard SF is typically concept heavy, and attempts to provide scientific realism, often at the expense of character development and plot.

SOFT SCIENCE FICTION

Science fiction in which science and technology take a back seat to character-driven plots. In soft SF, the how is much less important than the why.

MILITARY SCIENCE FICTION

Science fiction with a distinctly military theme. Characters are usually members of a military organization, and the plot will generally revolve around a war and/or military conflict. Duty, honor, heroism and other military clichés are par for the course.

ROBOT FICTION

Fiction in which the science of robotics is a central theme, typically relating to work of Isaac Asimov and the ideas advanced in his Robot series.

SOCIAL SCIENCE FICTION

Fiction in which future societies are extrapolated, explained and often criticized, usually for the purpose of social satire. The social sciences are the over-riding theme in this type of fiction; however, science and technology will usually play a central role in the structure of the extrapolated society.

Some writers of social science fiction choose to label their work as ‘speculative fiction’, perhaps to avoid the stigma attached to science fiction, and especially when science and technology are not central to the plot (see ‘Speculative Fiction’).

SPACE OPERA

Space opera is one of the more confusing and ill-defined terms that the genre has to offer. It typically refers to long-running science fiction series with continuing story arcs. These are usually set in space (or involve travel between two or more planets), have a large number of recurring characters and focus on large-scale (or “epic”) fictional events, such as galactic wars.

Recurring themes in space opera include politics, imperialism, colonialism, war, space exploration, heroism and rebellion.

STEAMPUNK

Steampunk merges the science fiction genre with alternate history and the design aesthetic of the 19th and early 20th Centuries. It is a literary genre, a style of dress and an artistic movement all rolled into one.

The basic idea behind steampunk is the introduction of modern (or futuristic) concepts and technologies into an earlier setting, or vice versa. It focuses largely on ‘the age of steam’ and the perceived inventiveness of industrial engineers. In a steampunk timeline, for example, computers may have been invented several centuries earlier and used alongside, or even powered by, steam engines.

Since the 1980s steampunk has grown beyond a simple literary genre and expanded into a large-scale artistic and cultural movement. Central to this movement is the belief that 19th Century literature (the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells in particular), technology and fashion was more aesthetically appealing, and ultimately more durable than those produced by today’s ‘throw-away’ culture.

CYBERPUNK

Fiction relating to the science of cybernetics, which views nature as a series of interconnecting mechanical systems. Specifically, cyberpunk deals with the link between biology and computer technology and explores humanity’s changing relationship with computer systems. Virtual reality, prosthetics, cyborgs, and internet fraud are all part of the cyberpunk niche, and usually go hand-in-hand with social decline.

BIOPUNK

Biopunk is similar to cyberpunk, except that it focuses on the use of bio-technology and genetic engineering rather than computer technology. Genetic manipulation, body modification and eugenics are all common themes in biopunk literature, as are social decline and political repression.

NANOPUNK

Nanopunk is closely related to cyberpunk and biopunk but focuses mainly on the use of microscopic machinery (or nanotechnology).

SUPERHERO FICTION

Opinion varies on whether or not stories about superheroes belong to the science fiction or fantasy genres. Personally, I’ve always felt that this type of literature (and media) belongs in a genre of its own, having its own set of rules, themes and characteristics. The level of scientific realism employed by such a work can affect the degree to which it is ‘accepted’ into the genre. Generally speaking, however, superhero fiction is thought to be a sci-fi subgenre, whether we like it or not.

VOYAGES EXTRAORDINAIRES

Jules Verne used this term to categorize his works, long before the term ‘science fiction’ was coined. It means “extraordinary voyages” and says as much about the exploratory format of his stories as it does about the fantastical ideas they contained. Today, the term may be attached to works that are directly inspired by Verne, or which follow the same format and imbue the same spirit of adventure.

SCIENTIFIC ROMANCE

This label was widely used before the term ‘science fiction’ was coined. It generally refers to the works of early British sci-fi writers, such as H.G. Wells.

GOTHIC SCIENCE FICTION

A blurring of the line between science fiction and gothic fiction. Gothic science fiction often takes conventional gothic concepts (mythology, magic, monsters, etc.) and attempts to explain them scientifically. A good example of this would be vampirism explained as a rare blood disease.

MUNDANE SCIENCE FICTION

Science fiction using only currently available or ‘achievable’ technology. This usually discounts faster-than-light travel. The aim is to create realism and explore science fiction ideas that are a little closer to home, such as the colonization of worlds in our own solar system.

Mundane science fiction is as much a movement as it is a genre and recognizes the huge impact that science fiction has on our society. It aims to promote a more realistic view of our universe to avoid future disillusionment. It is hoped that this will lead to a greater appreciation of the natural wonders and abundant resources that exist on our own world, and those close by.

SCI-FI/HORROR

Works that bridge the boundaries of both the science fiction and horror genres.

SCI-FI/COMEDY

Science fiction that is humorous in nature.

SCI-FI/FANTASY (OR ‘SCIENCE FANTASY’)

Works that bridge the boundaries of both the science fiction and fantasy genres. Concepts traditionally belonging to science fiction (space travel, robots, etc.) appear alongside those usually associated with fantasy (magic, mythology, etc.)

APOCALYPTIC SCIENCE FICTION

Fiction concerning a cataclysmic event, typically ending in the decline of the human race, human extinction, societal upheaval, or the total destruction of the Earth itself.

POST-APOCALYPTIC FICTION

Fiction set in the aftermath of a cataclysmic event, in which the world, and human civilization, has been radically altered. Post-apocalyptic landscapes are typically grim, with survivors facing multiple dangers, such as violence, starvation, radiation, extreme weather, and even mutants.

ZOMBIE FICTION

While zombie fiction is also claimed by the horror and fantasy genres, it is sometimes considered to be science fiction at its core. An individual zombie story may fall into any one or more of these categories, depending on its content and theme. However, most zombie fiction falls under the ‘post-apocalyptic’ heading (taking place during or after a ‘zombie apocalypse’) and can therefore be categorized as sci-fi (if not sci-fi-horror).

ALIEN INVASION

Fiction in which aliens attempt to invade the Earth, either through military conquest, political subversion, or a campaign of mass extermination.

ALIEN CONSPIRACY

Fiction in which the existence of alien life, or a government’s interaction with alien intelligences, has been hidden from public knowledge.

TIME TRAVEL

Science fiction in which the character/characters travel into the past or future. This often merges with the ‘alternate history’ and ‘parallel worlds’ subgenres.

ALTERNATE HISTORY

Although not strictly sci-fi, this is a branch of the speculative fiction tree that frequently converges with the ‘social science fiction’, ‘time travel’ and ‘parallel worlds’ subgenres of science fiction. Alternate history stories are set in a world in which history has taken a different course. Often, a single event is identified as the beginning of this change; the assassination of Hitler, for example.

PARALLEL WORLDS

Fiction concerning travel to parallel universes, in which the world is slightly different from our own. The theory of parallel universes states that there are an infinite number of these alternate worlds. The traditional way to visit them is via a wormhole (or ‘Einstein-Rosen bridge’).

LOST WORLDS

Essentially a continuation of Jules Verne’s ‘voyage extraordinaires’, this is more a story-telling format than it is a genre. It concerns voyages to forgotten lands (islands, lost continents, isolated jungles, etc.) and the discovery therein of scientific wonders (living dinosaurs, ancient technology, the secret of Atlantis, etc.).

DYSTOPIAN FICTION

Dystopian fiction deals with political repression and police states. A dystopian society is one in which freedoms are limited and conventional morality has been in some way perverted. This is the opposite of a utopian society. The flagship work in this subgenre is undoubtedly George Orwell’s 1984.

SPACE WESTERN

Science fiction in which a future space-borne society portrayed as being like that of the American West. The comparison may be literal, with astronauts wearing cowboy hats and sporting Colt revolvers; or figurative, depicting a lawless society of traders and pioneers.

RETRO FUTURISM

Retro futurism does for 1950s American pulp science fiction what Steampunk does for the works of Verne and Wells. It is an attempt to recapture the spirit of (or parody) ‘the golden age of science fiction.’

RECURSIVE SCIENCE FICTION

In the words of author Mike Resnick, this is “science fiction about science fiction.” More precisely, it is science fiction in which there are multiple references to other sci-fi works, or which attempts to examine, parody, or pay homage to existing science fiction works (or the genre itself).

SPECULATIVE FICTION

Speculative fiction is an umbrella term, encompassing the larger genres of science fiction, fantasy, supernatural fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, alternate history, and horror. Writers of social science fiction often refer to their work as speculative fiction, perhaps to avoid the stigma attached to science fiction.

SLIPSTREAM

A post-modern crossover, where elements of science fiction, speculative fiction and/or fantasy merge with contemporary and mainstream literature. This is a highly dubious genre, which may or may not fall under the greater science fiction umbrella. Sometimes defined as the indefinable it may or may not exist, according to some critics, who see it as a kind of homeless shelter for those works that cannot be easily classified. Slipstream’s tendency toward the absurd is sometimes seen to be at odds with mainstream science fiction.

Please note, this list of science fiction subgenres are from a blog called Sci-fi Ideas. It is the most contemporary list that I could find, but remember genres are mergeable, but to classify as science fiction, keep sci-fi to the forefront.

Resources

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/science%20fiction

http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~hbf/sfhist.html

http://www.scifiideas.com/writing-2/writing-advice/a-guide-to-science-fiction-subgenres/

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution.)