Monday, February 21, 2011

Monotonous Monday

~Dirty Grammar Bite for Today~

I keep seeing/hearing this on TV and it makes me a little nutty. Less vs. fewer, from The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition (5.202):

"Reserve less for mass nouns, or amounts--for example, less salt, dirt, water. Reserve fewer for countable things--fewer people, calories, grocery items, suggestions. One easy guideline is to use less with singular nouns and fewer with plural nouns."

Currently, there are commercials running that promise "less cavities" and "less calories." Not. Don't believe 'em. They're liars. If they said "fewer cavities" and "fewer calories," then I might buy the products they're schilling. Otherwise, not so much. Faulty advertising practices probably means their products will give you cavities AND make you fat. That's bad.

Another thing I wanted to address: genre. People who read books know what they like. Some folks like fantasy, some like romance, others like thrillers, horror, action, or crime stuff. Some like it all, whereas other readers are fussy and will only read authors they know and trust. Lately, I've actually started talking about my book project, out loud, and I've found that explaining what the book is has proved challenging. Not everyone is a nerdy bookface. Not everyone understands what genre and target market means. And writers, like every other profession, often find themselves lobbing blobs of jargon about that perhaps they understand, at the inherent risk of alienating potential readers. It's fun to learn what stuff means, and when we know what we're saying and use said words properly in conversation, we feel as though we belong to something greater than ourselves, that we are a collective of creatives rather than individuals holed up in dank attics and slouched over desks in cluttered kitchens. But thrusting our industry-centric words around in an environment in which not everyone is a player in the business of words will not earn us friends. Or readers.

As such, today I will risk looking like a moron (I'm good at that) and provide a few definitions for folks who might not otherwise know better. There is the chance that I am the last person in the reading world to understand this stuff, and if that's true, then I apologize in advance for rambling about stuff you already are privy to. I've mentioned before...I'm a slow learner.

YA = young adult ... While not technically a genre but rather an age classification, YA books are geared toward an adolescent crowd, often featuring an adolescent protagonist facing those pesky coming-of-age conundrums, even as they relate to post-apocalyptic life (The Hunger Games) vampires and werewolves (Twilight), falling in love with one's guardian angel (Hush Hush), or trying to break every bone in one's body to deal with the pain of being a teenager (Break). When someone tells you they have written a YA novel, it doesn't mean it won't appeal to grown-ups. These are often referred to as "crossovers," i.e., young adults and adults enjoy the story, for better and for worse (look at Harry Potter--not just for youngsters!).

Urban fantasy = A sub-genre of fantasy. When thinking of fantasy, one might think of dragons and magicians and all those medieval elements. However, a true fantasy includes some element of magic and/or the supernatural in its setting, plot, and/or theme. As such, urban fantasy takes place in an urban environment, i.e., a city. The story can be set in any time in history, but the element of the city is an important one. FYI: Not all urban fantasy has vampires, werewolves, or dead people as part of the story. When my book began to take shape and I realized it would likely be labeled an urban fantasy secondary to the supernatural components of the story, I railed against it and tried to find a way to call it magical realism. Because that's what it feels like to me. It's set in modern times, in a fictional city in Washington State that could be Any Small Town, WA, and it lacks magic wands, shapeshifters, and vampires. Not that I have anything against all those marvelous things--but the market has been saturated with YA urban fantasy projects, and I, like so many other writers, wanted to find a way to stand out. Alas, it only has shades of magical realism but isn't quite smart enough to be definitively qualified as such. Bummer. I was feeling so sassy and intelligent there for a sec.

More on fantasy, pulled from the Fiction Database (

  • Epic Fantasy (EF) -- themes of grand struggle against supernatural, evil forces. Generally set in alternate worlds
  • Heroic Fantasy (HF) (Sword & Sorcery) -- swashbuckling heroes engaged in exciting and violent conflicts. Tends to be set in pseudo-medieval settings
  • Alternate history – Set on Earth with a different historical twist
  • Dark Fantasy– Horror novels with a supernatural element

Paranormal = Just like it sounds. Ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties (okay, maybe not the beasties part, but definitely otherworldly creatures, especially spirits, dead people who reanimate, and apparitions). Some of the definitions floating about online suggest that all paranormal stories are romantic at their core, otherwise known as paranormal romance. Twilight definitely fits this (I only use Twilight as an example because it's a widely consumed book). Bella the human + Edward the sparkly vampire = love and romance and hybrid vamp/human babies. HOWEVER, paranormal can be un-romantic. I don't know about you, but The Exorcist (a novel before it was a movie) didn't scream "love" to me. Unless you're kinky and into that sort of devil-love thing...

Cozy mysteries = I wanted to include this definition because until this weekend, I didn't know what the hell it meant. I'd heard it used, but I didn't know how to classify it or what books came from this sub-genre of mystery. Apparently, according to the Fiction Database, a cozy mystery is a whodunit in which there is "very little onstage violence, usually amateur sleuth." Oh, I feel so much better now. (No, I don't write cozy mysteries. Just for the record.)

Now that you've been bored to tears, if you want to read something funny (caveat: LOTS of swearing), check out Chuck Wendig's latest post about instilling sadness into the heart of your stories ( This guy is a comedy god. I bow, humbly, before his Terrible Mind.

Other than that...on the homefront: Middle Child is home sick with a headache and maybe the pukies (we're still waiting). Smallest Child and Only Daughter went to school (hurray!). Army Son is scheduled to deploy to Kandahar in/around two weeks from today. *Gulp* And I need a refill on my coffee. Congrats. You're now up to date on Shit You Didn't Really Care About.


Jovie is a cowgirl.

1 comment:

  1. That duck creeps me out. I think it's the way she's cocking her head and smiling at she's inviting me to go out riding or shooting cans with her...