EXPLORING FICTION FORMS

EXPLORING WHEN, HOW AND WHY I USE CERTAIN FICTION FORMS     

Most people are familiar with the fiction forms of novels and short stories. However, there are three other forms which exist and are on the rise amongst many writers these days; the novella, the novelette and flash fiction.
While none of these three fiction forms are new, they are different from their more contemporary counterparts. In this blog post, I will distinguish those differences and explain why and when I choose to use them in my own writing.

***Please note***
The average word count for novels will vary based upon genre and who you ask. The word count which constitutes these other fiction forms will also vary, however there is a general range that’s accepted and I am illustrating the range which I use.

FICTION FORMS

  • Novels: Works of fiction which are 50K+ words in length.
  • Novellas: Works of fiction which fall between 20K and 50K words in length.
  • Novelettes: Works of fiction which fall between 7K and 20K words in length.
  • Short Stories: Works of fiction which fall between 1K and 7K words in length.
  • Flash Fiction: Works of fiction which are fewer than 1K words in length.

Why I Use Certain Fiction Forms

Let me first say that I encourage writers to explore ALL of the various forms of fiction at least once. DO NOT limit yourself based upon the preferences of another writer or their suggestions. That said, I mostly untilze the following fiction forms in my work: Novels, Novellas and Novelettes.
This is a personal preference, as I tend to do quite a bit of world building and write character driven content. These three forms are what work best for me and the stories I tell. Every writer is different, some use less number of forms and others use all five.
If you’re not familiar with my work, I write speculative fiction which covers a variety of genres and sub-genres. My work is also heavily influenced by comic books and action cinema. Because of this, one of my biggest influences on how I use these fiction forms is the comic book format and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in particular.

When I Choose to Use a Particular Fiction Form

Novels
I use novels for works which feature prominent characters within my literary universe, dubbed the Ivoryverse. These stories tend to have far reaching significance and consequences within my world and therefore I need more time to properly develop the characters involved.
The events depicted within my novels/novel series, resonate throughout the Ivoryverse and have an impact on every other character in every other work, at least in some significant manner. This is similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe catchphrase, “It’s all connected.”
For example, the Ivory Blaque novel series is the hub for my other works of fiction within the Ivoryverse, hence the name. As the first novel in the Ivory Blaque series, The God Killers, is a first glimpse into the Ivoryverse, all other stories which follow are in some way connected to the events which occur within that novel series. Although, it should be noted that the stories told in the novels are self contained and can be read individually and independent of other works. However, reading all of my works maximizes how in depth your understanding/following of the Ivoryverse will be.
Also, I DO NOT leave cliffhangers! I use what I term, “Epilogue Bridges.” What the Epilogue Bridges do is give the reader a glimpse into how the novel they’re reading is connected to the next novel in the series and/or other works such as novellas and novelettes. In this regard, the title character(s) have resolved (at least for the most part) the conflicts which they faced within the novel and there is a clear beginning, middle and end to the story. Epilogue Bridges are like the end credit scenes in a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie that sets up the anticipation for next film.

Novellas
As I write stories which delve deeper into the Ivoryverse, yet don’t feature the character Ivory Blaque and are centered around another important character, I choose to write those stories as novellas.
My novellas are almost like annual, digest sized, single issue comic books with self-contained stories about a specific character or group of characters. These works tend to focus on one character, three at most and they usually have one general setting. Now just as I lay down these general “loose” rules, I am just as apt to break them.
Depending upon whether I intend to publish the novellas as a “One & Done” work, which I don’t plan to visit again or expand upon in the future, I will generally follow the one character, one setting focus rule. I use this for stories which fill in gaps between novels or novellas with the maximum word count which serve as part of a series. An example would be where a minor character, or group of characters in a novel resonates with my readers and they inquire about the further exploits of this character(s). I use the novella form to further develop the character(s) and provide stories for my readers using characters who will not recieve their own full length novel series. As all of my stories/books are written by me and I DO NOT utilize ghost writers, I have to limit the characters who receive full length novel series and gauge reader response as the whether I explore a novella series for the characters who don’t quite make the cut.

Novelettes
The third fiction form which I use in my writing is the novelette. This form is like a monthly comic book or weekly TV show if you will. The stories are short glimpses into the lives of certain characters who may have appeared and/or been featured in a novel or novella. Noveletes serve as a vehicle to either fill in gaps between novels and/or novellas, but can also be used as serialized installments which will be collected into a larger body of work and marketed as a volume collection of inter-related stories. Think, seasons of a TV show or collected editions of single issue comics. While these stories may not be chock full of character development, they do offer the reader a visit with a character(s) they would otherwise have to wait a year or longer to get.

This year I plan to set some things into motion which will maximize my writing output, further flesh out my literary universe and exponentially increase my body of work. This not only allows for me to get more stories written and shared with my audience, but it also allows for me to position my properties for the possibility of being developed in other media forms into the future.

Copyright © 2015  John F. Allen. All rights reserved.

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John F. Allen will be featured author and panelist at Imaginarium Convention

Imaginarium Logo

This weekend is the first-ever Imaginarium Convention in Louisville, KY, a new type of creator/reader friendly convention, in which Seventh Star Press is front and center.

I’ll be in the Seventh Star Press section with my Indy author peeps R.J. Sullivan and Eric Garrison, selling The God Killers, my debut novel and Book I in a series and a NEW line of nail polish, brought to you by Akira Lacquer and inspired by characters from the novel. Most of the time you can find me in the Vendor’s Room and if not, I’ll be on a hand either moderating or sitting in on the following panels:

Friday 5:00 PM: The Big Reveal – Plot Twists are an important part of mystery writing. Ever wonder how to keep yours from sounding trite or goofy? Come talk to our experts about how they establish and reveal twists and turns in mystery settings without being corny. Moderator: Tony Acree Panelists: John F. Allen, Tommy Hancock, Christopher Kokoski.

Saturday 9:00 AM: The Evolution of Urban Fantasy – Panelists experienced in the growing Urban Fantasy genre talk about the evolution of the genre and how both their work and the work of their contemporaries fits into the grand scheme. Moderator: John F. Allen Panelists: Marcia Colette, Missa Dixon, Addie J. King.

Saturday 12:00 PM: Paranormal Romance vs. Urban Fantasy (M) – A common misconception among readers is that Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance are the same thing. While this can be true, there are very distinct differences between the two. Our authors discuss those similarities and differences to help you distinguish between them. Moderator: John F. Allen Panelists: Missa Dixon, Nicole Kurtz, Jettie Necole Angelia Sparrow, Pamela Turner.

Saturday 6:00 PM: Racial Lines in Romance (M) – Authors and editors discuss how to properly execute an interracial romance scene without being trite or offensive. Moderator: John F. Allen Panelists: Marcia Colette, Maddie James, Annie Jones, Nicole Kurtz, Kimberly Richardson.

Sunday 11:00 AM: Urban Fantasy: The Gateway Genre –  Let’s face it, Urban Fantasy is a huge trend and a growing portion of the Speculative Fiction realm. Our panelists discuss how the rise in Urban Fantasy has changed the sci-fi/fantasy landscape. Moderator: John F. Allen Panelists: Marcia Colette, Allan Gilbreath, Nicole Kurtz, Tim Waggoner.

Sunday 12:00 PM: Pulp Fiction 101 (M) – What is Pulp Fiction? This panel will cover the history of pulp writing and how today’s trends differ from the stories that started it. Moderator: John F. Allen Panelists: Earl Dean, Andrea Judy, Sean Taylor.

I expect this to be a GREAT weekend and I hope to see some of you there. REMEMBER TBIYTC!!!

INCONJUNCTION SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY CONVENTION 2014 IS THIS COMING WEEKEND!!!

Inconjunction Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention 2014 is being held on the east side of Indianapolis, this Fourth of July weekend! It’s an awesome local event celebrating all things within the speculative fiction realms. This year I’m attending as part of the Speculative Fiction Guild (SFG) and we’re hitting the con in a big way.

TGK OFFICIAL COVER ART

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ll have a vendor’s booth with all of our titles, where I’ll be selling and autographing copies of my debut novel,  The God Killers. Convention pricing is $15.

Also at the SFG booth: RJ SullivanMatthew Barron and Eric Garrison. Directly next to us is SFG member Crystal Leflar, who’s running her OWN vendor booth as event marketer for Nightscape Press, so check out their array of titles along with her own books.

The WONDERFUL folks who throw Inconjunction (the Circle of Janus) has the SFG hopping in panels this year and we’re glad for it!

This will be my second appearance at Inconjunction, first time with a novel to sell/promote and I’M VERY EXCITED to attend!

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Here’s my panel itinerary:

Friday, July 4th
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8 pm–Grand Ballroom 7 and 8: Analyzing the History of the Comic Book Movie with: RJ Sullivan and Mike Suess.
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Saturday, July 5
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11 am–Indianapolis Ballroom D: SFG Writer’s Workshop: Point of View: Why it’s Better to Have One with: the SFG: RJ, Eric, Matt, and Crystal, plus Rosemary Laurey

1 pm–Room name coming: Discussion on genre television, title forthcoming: with RJ Sullivan.

3 pm–Indianapolis Ballroom D: Modern Fairy Tales with Eric Garrison, Crystal Leflar and Rosemary Laurey.

4 pm-Grand Ballroom 7-8: Making the Jump to a Series with RJ Sullivan and Mike Shepherd.

5pm-Grand Ballroom 7-8: Comic Book Movies: Live Action and Animation with RJ Sullivan and Mike Suess.

7 pm–Harrison Room: SFG Writer’s Roundtable: Making the most of local settings in genre fiction with The SFG:  RJ, Eric, Matt, and Crystal.

10 pm–Grand Ballroom 7-8: Candlelight Horror Reading with RJ Sullivan, Crystal Leflar and Jeff Seymour.
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Sunday, July 6
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11 am-Indianapolis Ballroom B: This Year’s Comic Book Movies with Mike Suess.
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While you’re there, check out James Barnes of Loconeal Books, local filmmaker Kate Chaplin of Karmic Courage Productions, and check out the show by Five Year Mission.

I HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!!!

 

 

 

Come out to MAP Arts in the Park this Saturday and enter “The Spooky Author Book Bag Benefit Raffle!”

TGK SPOOKY BAGThis Saturday, October 12, 2013, the Mooresville Arts Partnership is re-launching Arts in the Park, an annual all day festival exhibiting and celebrating all aspects of art expression in the area. My good friend and fellow local author R.J. Sullivan  has ask for “a little help from his friends” and gotten it from, dark fiction authors me, Matthew BarronNicole Cushing,  and Crystal Leflar to instruct beginning-level writer’s workshops for all ages.

Read all the details and sign up for a workshop time here!

We’ll also hold an all-day raffle at our canopy for a “Spooky Book Bag” of our work–$1 per ticket gets  you one chance to win a set of books valued at over $60without signatures–and the authors will sign and personalize each book on request.

This way, you can personalize a book for every horror reader on your gift list–or have all the books signed to you and keep them–we won’t tell.

To enter, find the Horror Authors Canopy. Raffle tickets are $1 each. Enter as often as  you like. For each ticket you buy, we need your name and phone number (preferably a cell phone number you will be carrying with you at 5:30 that day, the time of the drawing) on the half  you leave in the raffle.

Some notes:

  • Everyone who participates in the writer workshops earns one free ticket for the raffle. Children must have the ticket filled out by a parent.
  • 100% of all proceeds go to MAP.
  • We’ll draw the winner following the 4 p.m. workshop, so some time after 5 p.m.
  • All tickets will be discarded responsibly. Tickets are to contact the winner. The rest will be destroyed.
  • Books will be “flat signed” unless the winner requests personalization. This will allow the authors to personalize books intended as gifts.
  • Parents take note: The books in the raffle and at the vendor tent contain adult content. We’ll do our best to sell responsibly, but we’re not going to card, nor will we judge what you let your kid read.

The Spooky Book Bag in detail. Links take  you to the Amazon page:

The God Killers by John F. Allen; Secular City Limits by Mattthew Barron; We Are Dust and Death to the Brothers Grimm, both with a story by Crystal Leflar; Haunting Obsessionby R.J. Sullivan–and maybe more! Plus bookmarks and other doodads.

These books and more can be purchased all day at the vendor tent! Authors will be around to sign all day.

PLEASE COME OUT THIS SATURDAY AND SUPPORT A GREAT EVENT WHILE HAVING FUN!!!

Indiana Horror Authors to offer workshops at Mooresville Arts in the Park Event

1017475_596956940325736_1669991594_nMooresville Arts in the Park
All Day Arts Festival Saturday, October 12!
Pioneer Park–Link to directions and park website
Flash fiction workshops and product tent!
Preregistration preferred, walk-ins welcome
Mooresville, IN
Website and Facebook

I’m very excited to announce an upcoming event taking place  during the Arts in the Park festival at Pioneer Park on Saturday, October 12, 2013. Members of the local writing community and I will serve as instructors during a series of FREE community workshops on crafting thrilling fiction. We will be in the company of dozens of community artists and performers who will sing, dance, and display their unique talents and creations during this all-day festival.

Again, this event is FREE and open to the public.

Three one-hour sessions have been planned and are aimed at, but not limited to, late elementary school through high school aged-writers as well as adults who have recently caught the writing bug, who are also welcome. If you are interested in getting feedback from a professional author at ABSOLUTELY NO COST TO YOU, then you need to definitely attend. The local writers will have an instructor available to advise any beginner with a passion for writing thrilling tales of any genre.

Here is a listing of other attending authors:

RJ Sullivan

Matthew Barron

Nicole Cushing

Roberta Hoffer

Crystal Leflar

The suggested format will be “flash fiction,” and the suggested theme will be “The Creature of Pioneer Park,” although writers are free to compose within their comfort zone. Writers can bring their own pens and paper or use the materials provided and/or they can bring their own laptops. Participants will spend the first half hour composing their work. During the last half hour, the authors will review the drafts and offer individualized instruction on how to best sharpen their writing skills. Writers may, alternatively, submit a pre-composed sample of their work for a critique (limit 1000 words).

Pre-registration is preferred, but walk-ins are welcome as long as we have the space.

Click this link to pre-register.

I look forward to seeing you there!

SO YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER?

FIVE THINGS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU BEGIN A CAREER AS A WRITER

typewriter_1_lgMany people who aren’t writers or who aspire to one day write the “NEXT BEST THING” have absolutely no idea what a writing life entails.  It is because of their skewed and/or misguided ideas on what being a writer is about that they often suffer from severe delusions of granduer. It is the intent of this particular post to dispell the erroneous notions many have about the writing life and what it means to be a writer.

I’ve had people actually ask me when I got my book deal, “So now that you’re published I suppose you’re going to quit your job and move to a big house in the hills?”

I was astonished at first…did they know something I didn’t? Don’t get me wrong, every writer wants to reap the rewards of their work, but extreme changes in lifestyle, affluence and riches are not in the cards for the vast majority of us. The fact is that only 1% or less of (fiction) writers are able to live off of the revenue generated from the sales of their writing endeavors. This is further compounded by the fact that an even smaller group of that meager 1% are well off, let alone wealthy.

Some folks think that all published writers own some measure of noteriety and I suppose that’s true to some extent. However, very rarely does it result in an easy, carefree lifestyle like the allusions created in the minds of those who don’t know any better. Even those wealthy writers like Stephen King, James Patterson, Danielle Steel or JK Rowling, didn’t get their rewards overnight. Sure, there are a miniscule number of virtually overnight success stories, but believe me when I say those are very far and few in between and it didn’t exactly happen overnight.

The following is a favorite quote of mine from best selling fantasy author RA Salvatore and it happens to be in my opinion the best advice for an aspiring writer to consider when contemplating a career as a writer.

There’s way too much pain in this business (writing) for anyone who doesn’t have to write. I always tell beginning writers, “If you can quit, then quit. If you can’t quit, you’re a writer.”

~ R.A. Salvatore

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Five questions to ask yourself before embarking on a career as a writer.

1) Do you like to write?

I know that this seems like a given, but surprisingly there are a number of people who don’t like to write and still aspire to do so. These folks may have an idea that they think is great (and it might just be), but have absolutely NO PASSION for the craft. While I’m not one to discourage anyone from their dreams and/or goals, I think that folks who answer no or even “not really” to this question, should think long and hard about perhaps finding something more fulfilling and rewarding to do with their lives.

2) Can you quit writing?

This question is very much tied to the Salvatore quote and is a very legitimate question to ask yourself before pursuing a writing career. If you can go days, weeks, months, years without writing or at least thinking about it, then perhaps you should find a more attention grabbing and fulfilling vocation. But if you can’t (and you answered yes to question #1), then by all means I encourage you to proceed.

3) Do you want to write because you want an easy, carefree lifestyle with wealth and adoration aplenty?

If you answer “yes” to this question, PLEASE don’t continue to pursue a career as a writer…YOU WILL BE VERY DISAPPOINTED! Again I will acknowledge those rare overnight success stories, but the odds of becoming one of those fortunate few are very slim to none. Even if that sort of success eventually finds you, that shouldn’t be what drives your writing. This is a prime example of those delusions of grandeur I mentioned earlier.

4) Are you a storyteller?

For a fiction writer, this is essential. If you aren’t a storyteller then regardless of what your answers to the above questions are, it is my opinon that you might want to find something else to do with your life. The very essence of fiction writing is to convey a story and if you don’t have stories to tell, then what’s the point? Many people enter into writing (or at least attempt to do so) and have not one story to tell. They’re under the impression that stringing a few sentences into paragraphs and putting together some dialogue constitutes a story. Well, the sobering truth is that it takes a lot more than that to make a story, let alone a good one. Stories generally start with an idea, but an idea alone does not a story make!

5) Can you write only when inspired or in the mood?

Some may argue that it’s still possible to be a writer who writes only when inspired to do so and I’d have to respectfully disagree. I can assure you that if I only wrote when inspired, I’d never finish a damned thing! Being a writer (especially a novelist) is about writing whether you’re inspired or in the mood, because deadlines are deadlines and the story WILL NOT write itself.  The following quote from successful, best selling author Neil Gaiman, I think says it all.

“If you only write when you’re inspired you may be a fairly decent poet, but you’ll never be a novelist because you’re going to have to make your word count today and those words aren’t going to wait for you whether you’re inspired or not.
You …have to write when you’re not inspired. And you have to write the scenes that don’t inspire you. And the weird thing is that six months later, a year later, you’ll look back at them and you can’t remember which scenes you wrote when you were inspired and which scenes you just wrote because they had to be written next.

The process of writing can be magical. Mostly it’s a process of putting one word after another.” ~ Neil Gaiman in conversation with Chris Hardwick. (via terribleminds)

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In closing, I want it to be clear that in writing this post I am not attempting to dash the dreams and goals of new and aspiring writers. My intent is to merely dispell the very problematic and misguided ideals that some pepole pursuing a career as a writer might have. I’m the first to be very encouraging to new and aspiring writers, but please consider the questions I’ve posed and answer them truthfully before you devote yourself to the writing life.

WRITE ON!

© 2013 John F. Allen

URBAN FANTASY HAS ROOTS

THE GOD KILLERS FACEBOOK COVER ARTWhile I’m not a big fan of romance novels, I don’t mind them nearly as much when the characters are gritty and preternatural creatures are involved, downplaying the sappiness associated with most novels where the word romance is used. Paranormal romance novels are the next big thing and filling the bookstore shelves in record numbers. Spurred on further by young adult novels such as Twilight, this newly developed niche genre has been spreading like wildfire.

When I first heard the term urban fantasy used to describe a sub-genre of fantasy, I wasn’t exactly sure what the term meant. Most times the word urban brings to mind things associated with black people. I know that the word actually means, ‘relating to or belonging to a city’ however, urban radio, urban news, urban plight, the urban center are merely PC ways of referring to things associated with blacks.

The first novel I read—remotely fitting into this genre—was Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton, featuring vampire hunter Anita Blake. The novel was originally billed as a horror/mystery novel, which is as accurate of a description as any. The novel contained all of the elements of a mystery and read like a Robert B. Parker mystery novel which is a BIG compliment coming from me. However, the paranormal elements were present as well. Vampires, werewolves and zombies, oh my!

Another urban fantasy author named Jim Butcher popped up with a novel titled Storm Front, which introduced us to Chicago wizard Harry Dresden. The most common links between Hamilton and Butcher’s novels was:

a) both were set in major US cities, and

b) they both featured paranormal creatures.

I would also like to bring to light another commonality of the two novels—which is true about most novels in the genre,—in that the main characters were white. I have no problem with either author having predominately white characters because the authors are white and you often write what you know. However, shortly after I discovered these authors, I was introduced to another author named L.A. Banks. I was pleasantly surprised that a black author was writing in this genre and the novel featured a black main character. I found other black authors in the genre, yet those I did find such as Seressia Glass and Maurice Broaddus—were far and few between.

Another problem for blacks writing in this genre is the whitewashing of their book covers. Far too often you see books with black protagonists who aren’t featured on the book covers. Why is this? It’s almost like in the sixties when blacks weren’t allowed to be on the covers of their albums because the white mainstream wouldn’t buy them. I’m happy to say that Banks, Broaddus and Glass feature their black characters prominently on the covers of their books, which is as it should be.

The sad truth is there just aren’t that many black authors writing in this genre. As a writer whose work fits within the urban fantasy genre, I intend to add my voice to the fold with my debut urban fantasy novel, The God Killers due out this summer and published by Seventh Star Press. Over the years, I’ve spoken to countless people who are hankering for more works from black authors. Which lead me to believe that we should be working towards bringing black urban fantasy writers to the forefront of people’s minds and the bookstore shelves. I know there’s a market for black urban fantasy novels and that urban fantasy has small black roots which we must nourish and help to grow.

© 2012 John F. Allen