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Urban Fantasy is a loosely defined term to describe fantasy novels that take place in modern, often urban settings rather than imaginary realms. Some of the more popular authors of this genre are Charles de Lint, Neil Gaiman and Emma Bull. It is, however, a quickly growing field, so there are many newer and lesser known books and authors out there.
In some ways, Urban Fantasy overlaps with horror and tales of the supernatural, which are also usually set in modern times. Fantasy, however, while it can be dark, usually focuses on creatures and circumstances that are very different from the everyday, but does not indulge in fright, gore or mayhem for its own sake.
Although, like many readers, I was introduced to the fantasy genre by books such as The Lord of the Rings, lately I have come to prefer urban to more traditional fantasies. I think this is because with this type of book, there is the interesting juxtaposition of the everyday with the fantastical. I see it as the literary equivalent of surrealism, where ordinary objects are placed in very unusual or bizarre positions.
I think the popularity of urban fantasy is related to television programs and movies like the Twilight Zone. In these shows, people start off in completely ordinary circumstances, but something very strange then occurs –creatures from other worlds appear; a person goes back or forward in time; objects take on a life of their own; they find themselves in a completely unknown environment (as in the movie, The Cube).
Imaginary worlds like Tolkien’s Middle Earth are certainly fascinating. However, with urban fantasy, the reader can immediately relate to the environment in which the characters reside. This also adds an additional challenge to the author, who has to find a way to transform the everyday and mundane into the unknown and exciting.
Faeries and other denizens of Otheworlds are popular characters in urban fantasy. This is probably because they represent the borderlands separating the known from the supernatural or fantastic. While creatures such as faeries and elves were traditionally found in nature, today we are beginning to imagine them existing in previously unthinkable places, such as shopping malls.
Urban Fantasy also has the appeal of helping us imagine a more interesting world just below the surface of our everyday one. It suggests that, in order to experience something very different, we don’t necessarily have to visit another planet or dimension. It may just be a matter of shifting our focus and seeing the world around us in a new way.
—Before You Start The Great Bestseller
Chaos and confusion come when established rules and procedures are not followed. Even mixing and matching systems to favor one’s own position can cause a great deal of consternation. In writing a book, the first rule is to know and understand why you want to write in the first place.
In other words, you need to develop a theme that will answer the question of why you want to write. I usually get a blank stare when I ask a budding author, “What is your book’s theme?” Eventually the answer I get may be the title of a manuscript.
When I explain that a title isn’t a theme, I then may hear, “It’s the story of my life.” That is unquestionably the number-one answer I get. There is a big difference between the title of your book and your theme.
While your title may be the sizzle, the theme is the flavor and is formally defined as a “recurring, unifying subject or idea.” This is the aim or the main message of your book. Generally speaking, in writing there are two themes: the author’s theme and the book’s theme.
The author’s theme is the usual subject matter the writer handles, or the one the writer is most comfortable with. For example, a writer may find his forte in the subject matter of healing or forgiveness. Another may write most of the time in the area of spirituality or motivation.
Don’t confuse the author’s theme with genre, which is the category of writing. In addition to establishing if you are writing fiction or non-fiction, there are several categories your book may fall into. Some of the most popular ones today are biography, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, thriller/espionage, horror, inspirational, historical, and courtroom drama.
Your book’s theme is what the reader should learn most after reading your story. There are two answers that you as a writer shouldn’t give when questioned about your theme: 1) This book is about me and the things that have happened to me; and 2) A rambling, almost incoherent dissertation that leaves one asking, “Huh?” Every author should ask and answer the following questions: “Why am I writing? What am I trying to articulate? What kind of outcome will the story have on the reader and what is the outcome I’m aiming for?”
In other words, what is the rationale behind your book? For example in his bestseller, The Purpose-Driven® Life(Zondervan), author Rick Warren, founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, takes readers on a “personal 40-day spiritual journey” to find the answer to the question, “What on earth am I here for?” To me, the most important element of your book is its theme.
Writing professors will probably disagree with me, and that is their right. In fact, some say the title is the most important. I understand, because all of this is subjective and mostly based upon personal preference. After all, there are many elements to creating a successful manuscript. But after years of trying to get would-be writers to complete their novels, short stories or even church talks, I’ve discovered that nothing has helped to move them “off the pot” quicker than having a well-developed theme.
How many times have you sat and stared at a blank page trying to think about something to write about and working in vain to come up with a new and exciting topic? While brainstorming can be a great method for overcoming this, it can still be difficult to get started with. Brainstorming after all, is exactly the same thing isn’t it? Brainstorming is nothing more than sitting there trying to make something out of nothing.
Rather than trying to think about something in particular, try sitting there thinking about nothing for a moment. Make sure your keyboard is handy or that you have a pen and paper because the results will surprise you. Take a sip of your coffee, bourbon, soda or other beverage of choice, put the cup down, pick up the pen, sit back and close your eyes.
Now, think about absolutely nothing. Nothing, by the very fact that it has a definition, is in and of itself an oxymoron of sorts. Still, most people find it very difficult, if not virtually impossible to actually think about nothing. It is much the same as if I tell you to sit there and not to think about Disney world. The overall effect is actually the same. By trying not to think about something, you will inevitably begin thinking about something.
For example, using a timely classic, you may try to picture an empty chalkboard. Okay, let’s say you do exactly that. What thoughts does it bring to your mind? Maybe it causes you to think about your days in school. What did you like about school? What did you hate about school? What fundamental changes happened while you were in school? What caused those changes to occur? What was the direct result of those changes? What were the indirect consequences of those changes? How did they affect the people around you?
Unless you are very focused and heavily involved in meditation, it will be almost impossible for you to actually concentrate on nothing. Even most of those people who are involved in meditation will focus on something while they are meditating. As you try to clear your mind, you may notice random thoughts flying past. Whether they seem to be aimed directly at you or avoiding you may depend on your personal circumstances but the thoughts will be there regardless.
What you do with those thoughts is going to be strictly up to you but try focusing on only one at first. If you think about it some, it should lead you to the next thought in line and so on until you have a complete list of thoughts in front of you. Look at the thoughts that you have considered important enough to write down. Look at them as a path to an end and see where each thought leads you.
Once you figure out where they go, you will see the destinations opening up before you. At this point, it will become possible to begin breaking them down even more and seeing which ones are relevant to your current subject matter. Pick the one that is a close match first and move on from there. Writer’s block may be an obstacle but it is not a barrier that cannot be overcome. Often times the best solution is not thinking about it at all.
Dinner party or just about anywhere, the conversation usually goes the same way.
“What do you do?” they say.
“I’m a writer,” I answer.
“I always wanted to do that,” they say.
I wonder if brain surgeons or rocket scientists get the same response.
After I’ve stifled the urge to scream, I ask why they’ve never done anything about writing.
“Oh, I’m too busy.”
And there’s the rub. Everybody is always too busy. It is purely a matter of whether you’ve got the will and the commitment to see your name in print.
So here is your mantra. Chant it at all times, and repeat it to boring types at dinner parties.
“Writers Write! Wannabe Writers Wanna Write!”
As with all good mantras, it bears closer study. What it says, in a nutshell, is that you’ll never be a writer if you don’t write. Obvious really, but most beginners ignore it. They procrastinate, they obfuscate, and they pretend to the world and his wife that they’re “Working on a piece right now.”
Don’t believe them. What they mean is that they’ve had an idea, but they don’t really want to do the work to put it in writing. The only way to do it is to sit down with your means of expression, be it pen, word processor, or big thick crayon, and write. Keep writing, and don’t stop until you’re happy with what you’ve produced.
Now. Repeat after me.
“Writers Write! Wannabe Writers Wanna Write!”
Now, if you want to call yourself a writer, go and do something about it.
It doesn’t matter what you write as long as you start. Your brain gets used to the idea, and soon writing becomes second nature. Remember the mantra, and it will serve you well.
“Writers Write! Wannabe Writers Wanna Write!”
Do you think that there is a big sign that reads, “Freelance Writing Jobs, Apply Within”? There just is not. In fact, you may have a hard time finding writing jobs of any type advertised in any employment magazine or newspaper either. So, how do you find freelance writing jobs? Let us talk about this for a moment and see if we can’t find an idea or two that will work for you.
- Begin at the beginning. Get the education you need to have. Learn what there is to know about the field in which you are looking for job vacancies. Having knowledge itself can open doors. This can help with step two as well.
- When you do have that knowledge, do not forget to look towards the teachers you got it from for help in finding a niche to work in. They may have more resources than you realize.
- Create a portfolio. Even if you never have any published work, you can still write, right? Write to fill your portfolio. Then, when a prospective employment opportunity arises, you’ll have something to provide in the way of samples.
- Look online. Vast amounts of freelance writing jobs are offered there. If the work can be submitted online, why not look worldwide? Try doing a websearch for “freelance writing jobs”.
- Keeping striving to meet the needs of your clients 100%. When you make them happy, they will come back with other jobs for you. And, they will provide you with testimonials and referrals as well.
All of these things can work for you when you allow them to. You need to provide yourself with all the tools you need. Most importantly, this is writing. You must be able to meet your client’s needs and therefore will need to present your talents in the right light each time. When you are looking for freelance writing jobs you’ll find them across the world when you look in the right places.