In his classic tome, Making Shapely Fiction, author Jerome Stern describes one (of many) fiction archetypes called Blue Moon stories. Blue Moon stories, according to Stern, "appeal to our deepest selves. We enter the world of magic, myth, and dream...our sleeping world, our childhood tales, our religious beliefs are full of happenings whose reality is not of this earth." These types of stories can make great suspense, spooky, or fantasy novels.
These types of stories aren't just for grown-ups either. Classic blue moon stories from childhood often leave a lasting impression on our world view, inform our dreams, and inspire us in later life. While it's tempting to go crazy with your imagination in these types of stories, they can end up with cliché ideas that readers will reject, and it can be hard to be fresh and new.
If readers like the world you're creating, though, chances are the readers will follow you into it. Their 'willing suspension of disbelief" will get them through the door, but you have to keep them there. How? By having the storyteller go along for the ride with the reader and admit their limitations (I'm simply reporting what was told to me long ago by my grandfather, who heard it from his grandfather, and so on).
Building the odd or mysterious events into the narrative early and having the narrator also experience moments of disbelief about the strange happenings is an effective tool. It helps the reader relate to the narrator and they'll be more open to magical and spiritual concepts.
You can and should use magical and mystical elements in your story, but keep the rules consistent. If you are creating a galaxy where all beings are wisps of smoke, don't have them lounging in a chair. If you are working through time travel scenarios, make sure you lay out the rules early, and don't cheat the reader by breaking them at the last minute.
If you are mixing in normal people, places, or things into a story with magical elements, make sure the reality details add up. If your character that sees dead people has to pick up dry cleaning, follow the rules of our world and make sure they have their ticket. Be particular about plausibility. If magical or spiritual elements are going to resonate with readers, the world around them needs to be believable. You don't want your readers to get sidetracked figuring out why "that would never happen" when it's something simple and real and we all already know the rules.
Save the special unbelievable elements for the fantasy aspects of the story...the magic, the spirits, the inner voice that calls all of us to believe in blue moons.
Decades of research tells us that to become effective readers and writers, children need a boatload of opportunities to talk and listen to verbal language, to learn about print and books, to learn new words, and to build their knowledge of the world. The National Institute for Literacy’s brochure, A Child Becomes a Reader, offers proven ideas for mothers, fathers, grandparents, and caregivers to pave the road for their child to become a successful reader.
The single most important activity you can do for them? Reading aloud. Reading to your children with their active participation helps them learn more about the world, learn new words, improve fluency and develop comprehension.
This summer, keep reading on the to-do list! Check out these hot summer reads for kindergarten through fourth graders:
Pablo Prairie Dog and the WWCC Heroes will resonate with both sporty kids and brainiacs. With gorgeous colorful illustrations, the book features a cast of wild half-animal, half-human creatures that play a mix of chess and professional wresting. Through his adventures with WWCC All Star team, Pablo Prairie Dog discovers his own importance and learns that value is found in all of us, no matter our size or differences. Amazon; B&N; Books-A-Million
Curious Critters Marine features incredible photographs depicting 20 common and fascinating sea creatures. Fun and education narratives round out the visuals. Amazon; B&N; IndieBound
If You Love Honey will fascinate kids with an illustrated adventure through the natural world. It’s all about honey! Amazon; B&N; IndieBound
Bottle Cap Boys – Dancing on Royal Street will enthrall young readers with an upbeat rhyme and New Orleans traditions made for kids. Amazon; B&N; IndieBound
Selling Eggs – Trash to Treasure Series, Recycling Creatively with L.T. will inspire kids with cute chicks, pocket money, and creative recycling ideas. With lots to build on in the classroom, kids will learn about taking care of our environment in a fun and charming way. Amazon; B&N; IndieBound
Jerome Stern wrote in his time-honored tome on creative writing, Making Shapely Fiction, that, "a story that appears full-blown, finished, and completely realized in its first draft is rarer than the ninety-yard pass, the hole-in-one, or the sixty-foot basket....for writers the general rule is revision."
In today's world of flash fiction, six-second videos, and 140 character limitations, revisions can seem outdated. Got a cell phone? You're a writer. Have 100 followers reading about your love for corn-based foods? You're a blogger. It seems in today's world of quick hits, the lost art of editing can be, well, lost.
Revisions are the heart and soul of a story. Yes, the first blush of inspiration can be intoxicating. But even Mozart had lots of dark, inky blobs on his parchment. Because even geniuses don’t get it right on the first try. In fact, we believe that honing the manuscript, digging into the details, removing unneeded adverbs, and adding that essential detail to your character’s backstory… are what will make your writing fall into melodic perfection.
Mr. Stern goes on to encourage writers not to get hung up on first-draft ideas, but also not to mercilessly cut passages that may be their freshest just because they are weird. Revisions can take a story sideways, or up, down, or forward. You may end up with a completely different story than you started with. This can sometimes freak writers out, but we say revisions are the layers on your cake, the cherry on your sundae, and the gravy for your biscuits.
Allow revising your manuscript to be progressive, but know when to call it quits. Once you’ve taken the story as far as it can go at this moment in time – it could be one revision or six – it is time to let your creation live on its own. Pull the plug and let it sing. Like Mozart, you’ll eventually hit all the right notes.
The romance novel swept onto the publishing scene like a tornado back in the 1970's and early 1980's, capturing readers, mostly women, across the country in it's deluge. Back then, the romance novel contained mysterious handsome sheiks, hunky bad-boy pirates, and wealthy rogue noblemen, all of whom were the sum total of the reader's secret fantasies.
In the early days, romance readers feared exposure of their need to read these small paperbacks. They read alone at night or they purchased cloth book covers disguising the steamy images on the front cover. In short, they were embarrassed to be seen with a romance novel.
The nay-sayers in the industry cried, "Nothing but trash! Little worthless paperbacks full of smut and sex! Ignore them and they will go away!”
So these paperbacks were ignored by book critics, from newspapers to literary magazines. Readers across the globe went into hiding, devouring these love stories secretly. To admit to reading romance novels back then was akin to slipping down dark allies in search of opium dens! The romance genre soon earned the moniker, "Bodice-rippers." Romance novels became the joke of the literary world.
That was then. Romance novels endured the storm, and are now a multi-million dollar industry, comprising roughly 80% of book sales in today's market. Readers don't hide these paperbacks as much as they once did, but some remain cautious about owning their love for this genre.
The genre has grown from "bodice-rippers" to modern day takes on love and romance for all audiences, in a variety of settings, couplings, and levels of intimacy. Subgenres within romance include historical, erotic, inspirational, paranormal, and mystery/thriller, to name a few.
Love it, or not, romance novels are here to stay. Share the love and read one today!