Writing Tip — Genres of Science Fiction & Fantasy

fantasyw-2801105_1280Since I just returned from vacation, my post today is short. If reading about speculative fiction this month has inspired you to give it a try, I recommend reading this article on genres and sub-genres from Inspired Prompt via Science Fiction & Fantasy.

What I like about this post is that the author list novels written in each style. That is so helpful in understanding what readers expect in each sub-genre,

But even if you haven’t read much in the area you want to write about, get writing! You can always revise your work as you learn about the rules of your chose sub-genre.

Since the name “speculative fiction” is an umbrella for so many different kinds of storytelling, the author of the post couldn’t cover them all. I noticed “steampunk” is missing. For examples of this, try Michelle Levigne’s series Guardians of the Time Stream.

What other sub-genres are missing?

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, C.S. Wachter

IMG_1297 (1)My last guest blogger for the month on speculative fiction is C.S. Wachter. Her series is epic fantasy. And she also uses initials for her pen name! Welcome, C.S.!

Me: What comes first when developing a story—characters, setting, plot?

C.S.: The story seems to come to me as a vague notion to start. An impression. The Sorcerer’s Bane (my first book and book 1 of The Seven Words) started out one afternoon in August 2015. After coming home from meeting with a couple neighbors who encouraged me to write, I sat down at my laptop and typed a couple sentences: “Travis Illk was a seasoned world skipper. He had traveled the skipping lines—those mysterious wormholes between the seven planets of the Ochen system—into and out of all seven worlds for the better part of forty years.”  Those few words set my world framework (seven worlds, all distinct, joined by wormholes). They also set Travis up as the kidnapper who would work for the demon-possessed sorcerer, Sigmund. At that point, I wrote the prophecy that would set the tone for all four books in the series. I followed my nose. It was like the story already existed as a unified whole and I just needed to dig it out of my brain. As I moved forward through the story, more was revealed and at about the half-way point, the final pieces of the puzzle fell together in my mind. I know this is rather a disorganized way to go about writing, but it works for me.

The characters seemed to write themselves. At one point, a character I had envisioned as part of my protagonist’s support group turned out to be the exact opposite, a major part of the enemy’s team. I didn’t know it until I started typing. The first words out of his mouth were so negative. I just let him go in that direction.

Me: What are some unique challenges to writing speculative fiction?

C.S.: One challenge was placing the story in a world that is relatable while still creating a unique universe. I coined a couple words but kept that to a minimum to imply ‘different’, then used those terms in ways that would make them easily understood. 

Another unique challenge for me as a Christian was to remain faithful to the bible while presenting Christian truths without mentioning God, Jesus, or the Bible. My protagonist is a chosen Light Bringer. The One (God) speaks to him. It was important to me that I portray the One as a personal being who is not silent. That he speaks and acts within the worlds of Ochen, and that needed to flow out of the story itself, so it didn’t feel forced or phony.

Christian speculative fiction is a small niche market, but it’s growing. The challenge is to increase this market by helping others to understand that speculative fiction can be a viable way to weave Christian truths into an exciting story. People are touched by stories; they are reached on a visceral level non-fiction can’t reach. Non-fiction has a role, and it’s vital to the Christian life, but fantastical stories can create memories in ways non-fiction can’t.

Me: What do you do to renew your inspiration when it is running low?

C.S.: First, prayer. Every day. Writing is a gift from God and I thank him for that daily. I ask for guidance continually. When I’m going to sleep, especially if I’m uncertain what direction to move in my story, I pray for inspiration to come to me while I’m asleep.  

Take a break and go for a walk. It’s not unusual for words or images to come to me when I’m out walking my dog. I always have my phone handy and write in Notes often.

Reading books. I read a range of genres from non-fiction and philosophy to classics to speculative fiction. But I read most in Christian speculative fiction because it speaks to me and stimulates my imagination.

Me: What advice would you give to someone who wants to write speculative fiction?

C.S.: Read voraciously in your genre (especially authors who have a reputation for writing well). Speculative fiction has so many sub-genres it’s important to understand the differences between them. For example: Space Opera has a whole different feel and voice than dystopian. Fairy tale re-writes are very popular now, but you need to understand the genre and how to appropriately switch up the story to make it fly. Magical realism is a whole other field because it must be set in the world as we know it but with subtle changes that must be believable even if fantastical.

Join an online group like Realm Makers Consortium. Friend others who are writing speculative fiction. Go to conferences. Join a critique group. I’ve tried some of the larger groups online and if that works for you, use the experience. I know others who have found great support that way. For me personally, meeting regularly with just a few people is more productive.  

Let your imagination soar. Write fast and furious; allow your story time to take off and grow. When it’s written, then take the time to edit slowly and carefully. Trying to edit while writing can plunge you into a never-ending cycle of re-writing without moving forward.

And—last but certainly not least—have fun with it. Take joy in the process of creation.

Learn more about C.S. in her bio and links listed below.

C.S. Wachter lives in rural Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, with her husband Joe, one German Shepherd, and three cats. She and Joe have been married for more than forty years and have three sons, one grandson and one granddaughter.

Ms. Wachter earned her degree in Performing Arts and English Education from Rowan University in 1975. She compares developing a character’s perspective to preparing for an acting role. As a life-long lover of books, she has read and enjoyed a variety of genres. However, after reading J. R. R. Tolkien in middle school her favorite has been, and remains to this day, Fantasy with a Christian perspective.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cswachter/

Website: https://cswachter.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17719497.C_S_Wachter

Click below for Amazon links:

Amazon author page

The Sorcerer’s Bane

The Light Arises

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, T.E. Bradford

36878543_125578318354679_4835224291496689664_nMy guest blogger for today is T.E. Bradford. The first book in her YA fantasy trilogy will be released in September, and she has already published a book on her battle with cancer. Welcome, Tracy!

Me: Which comes first when developing a story – characters, setting, or plot?

T.E.: My stories are very character driven, but it’s hard to separate the plot from the characters in my head—they sort of come as a package deal. I see stories and scenes in my head like a movie is playing. The trick is to write them well enough so readers can see them too.

 Me: What are some unique challenges to writing speculative fiction?

T.E.: Writing speculative, the story is by nature a bit unbelievable. Making it believable, while keeping that element of the fantastic, can be a delicate line to walk. Sometimes a choice of one adjective over another can make a huge difference.

 Me: What do you do to renew your inspiration when it is running low?

T.E.: Write more! LOL

Yeah, I’m kind of a geek. I also read a LOT. Like 3-4 books a week. And I’m one of those people who has crazy vivid dreams. They can provide a lot of good inspiration.

 Me: What advice would you give to someone who wants to write speculative fiction?

T.E.: Dream with all your senses! I coined that line as my first “brand” headline for my website, and I still love it. I think it captures the idea that you are dreaming, yet still bringing in all of the sensory information to make it as real as possible. Also, don’t let anyone poo-poo your idea. It’s yours. This is speculative fiction we’re talking about, after all. So what if no one else has done it? In fact, that’d be awesome if you could find something no one has ever done. So just go for it.

The first book in my Divide Series – Child of Prophecy, is set to release this September with Elk Lake Publishing. It’s so exciting, and I would not be doing it if I hadn’t just jumped out in faith and let God take my writing where He wanted it to go.

Here’s a quick blurb for Child of Prophecy:

Being different is bad, until you find out it’s the one thing that might save you.

Fifteen-year-old Nova would give anything to fit in. But there’s a reason she feels so out of place in this world—she’s from another one. And prophecy says she’s destined to destroy them both.

 Check out T.E.’s bio and links below.


Tracy is a writer, singer-songwriter, cancer survivor and proud wife and mother. Born and raised in Central New York, she will tell you that her parents gave her the two best tools in her arsenal by reading to her and raising her in a Christian household. In spite of the long CNY winters she continues to live there with the husband that God created just for her, and the son who is her forever best story. In her heart, she feels that her gift of writing is a little piece of magic, and that it is both her privilege and grandest adventure to find new ways to stretch a hand out to touch the wonder of this vast universe God created.


Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TEBradford


Twitter: https://twitter.com/TE_Bradford

On Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/T.E.-Bradford/e/B01LYP25SS/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Website: http://www.tebradford.com




Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Jenelle Leanne Schmidt

Small Author PhotoThe world of speculative fiction covers so many subgeneres. Earlier, I had Jason C. Joyner talk about his superhero novel and today I have Jenelle Leanne Schmidt, who writes epic fantasy. Welcome, Jenelle!

Me: Which comes first when developing a story – characters, setting, or plot?

 Jenelle: With regards to what comes first, personally, I think anything goes. Some authors start with a character. Others start with a plot line. Still others begin with their world-building. Although my stories tend to be heavily character-driven, I’ve used all three of these as my starting points, and I can’t honestly say that I prefer one over the other. What works is going to vary from one author to the next, and even from one story to the next.

 Me: What are some unique challenges to writing speculative fiction?

 Jenelle: There are many challenges that are unique to writing speculative fiction. It deals with the imagination in ways very few other genres do, and begs the reader to suspend their disbelief a bit more than other genres.

One of the main challenges to writing speculative fiction is the setting. Most fantasy and sci-fi stories take place in different worlds. They may be connected to our world via a portal of some kind, but they are separate entities, and as such, they need to be defined and explained and described extremely well, as they are not places a reader can ever actually visit. If there is futuristic technology or magic or the characters have abilities that defy our laws of science, those things need a sensible explanation that the reader will accept as reasonable. This gets even more difficult if the story isset in our own world, because the author needs to come up with well thought-through explanations for the more fantastical elements of the story.

Another difficulty I’ve observed has been the overuse of tropes. Tropes can be a very good thing, but if they are consistently used in the same way, they become cliches.

 Me: What do you do to renew your inspiration when it is running low?

 Jenelle: When my inspiration runs low, it often means I need a break. Sometimes this means doing something else for a while and NOT thinking about my story, other times it simply means a break from staring at the screen – and talking through ideas I have or the problem spot I’m stuck on with someone else.

 Me: What advice would you give to someone who wants to write speculative fiction?

Jenelle: Be creative. Let your imagination loose. What tropic elements are in your story? Think about how you can turn them around and use them to surprise your reader. Make sure you think through the world-building aspect of the story and really make the setting come alive through your descriptions and explanations… and make sure that the setting is important to the story. If you could take your same story and not lose anything by setting it somewhere more mundane, then maybe think of ways to make the setting more important either through the obstacles it presents or the themes it can convey.

To learn more, visit Jenelle at the sites below.

Minstrels Call Cover

Jenelle Leanne Schmidt is a dreamer, compulsive opener-of-doors, and award-winning author of the new novel: Minstrel’s Call. She resides in Wisconsin with her husband and their four adorable children who are all named after characters in The Lord of the Rings.

Blog: http://jenelleschmidt.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JenelleLeanneSchmidt/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/JenelleLSchmidt/

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Jason C. Joyner

36978778_10157217267360730_8470087880406990848_nToday speculative fiction writer Jason C. Joyner is joining me. His first novel, for the YA Christian market about superheroes,  just came out on July 3. Welcome, Jason!

Me: Which comes first when developing a story – characters, setting, or plot?

Jason: I usually see characters in a specific setting. My first novel was a man floating face down in the water, dead. I had to find out why and who cared about him.

For my YA superhero novel I saw two kids dealing with weird fallout from their powers. A kid with super speed who kept wearing out shoes, and a depressed girl who tried to dye her hair black but her hair turned back blonde because she can manipulate light.

From those images (because they are quite stark in my head), I’ll ask questions about the circumstances. The plot comes next, and I’ll think of settings to go with everything.

 MeWhat are some unique challenges to writing speculative fiction?

Jason: Speculative fiction is fun to write, but you have to go beyond what you can research. In many other genres, you can research specifically the technology, weapons, vehicles, etc. that you need. I had to create routers that spread a mental suggestion across a campus. I used things like fiber optic cables as inspiration for another aspect of the story, but then I have to add the “speculative” factor.

 Me: What do you do to renew your inspiration when it is running low?

Jason: I have had plenty of rejections from agents, but I’m thankful that most have included comments like, “The talent is there, you just need to find the right project.” I’ll look at those or positive reviews of stories to remind me I can do this. I’ll look at Pinterest for images that inspire. I like to find soundtracks or epic instrumental music to get me in the mode of writing. Finally, I’ll set the timer on my cell phone. While the timer’s running I must write – no internet distractions, changing music, getting snacks. Hands on the keys then!

 Me: What advice would you give to someone who wants to write speculative fiction?

 Jason: Read widely. Write what you would enjoy reading, but be aware of the standard tropes if you’re writing epic fantasy vs. hard sci-fi vs. zombie apocalypse. Speculative is a broad term, and the fans of different sub-genres will expect certain things. It’s not that you can’t do new or different things, but be aware of what their expectations are.

To learn more about Jason and his new YA superhero novel Launch, check out the links below.

36969644_10157217267365730_1118897216069566464_nJason C. Joyner is a physician assistant, a writer, a Jesus-lover, and a Star Wars geek. He’s traveled from the jungles of Thailand to the cities of Australia and the Bavarian Alps of Germany. He lives in Idaho with his lovely wife, three boys, and daughter managing the chaos of sports and superheroes in his own home. Launch, a YA superhero story, is his first published novel.

Social media:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/jasoncjoyner– You can join my Facebook group, The Heroes’ Hangout at https://www.facebook.com/groups/229022587673013/
Twitter: www.twitter.com/jasoncjoyner
Instagram: www.instagram.com/jasoncjoyner
Launch Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/jasoncjoyner/launch/
Launch playlist on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/user/124166539/playlist/4sB5rCXHYQ0wxA43gB7Oyr

Purchase links:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Launch-Rise-Anointed-Jason-Joyner/dp/0998624381/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_img_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=83XMXW8YRKBH0DTKNW9V

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/launch-jason-c-joyner/1128415598?ean=9780998624389



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