What are genres? Genres are conventions that manage reader expectations. Choosing the right genre for your story – before writing it – is a crucial decision. When you think of genre, think RIO – Reader Interest Optimization.
Genre expectations have grown over a long time, hundreds of years. Each genre has its unique conventions and obligatory scenes. An action story needs to have fights or it isn’t action. A love story needs to have a kiss and a love confession scene or it isn’t a love story. Stories need to comply to the conventions of its genre or it won’t work.
While common genres are already carved in stone, Visionary Fiction has remained somewhat fluid. The first thing that comes to mind is that Visionary Fiction has an additional storyline beside the A-story and B-story, the plot and character development. This is the spiritual storyline, the S-story. Though interwoven with the B-story, illustrated by the Hero’s Journey, the S-story can and should stand on its own. “But other stories have a morale too,” you may want to object. True, but one can sum up a common story’s morale in one sentence, while an S-story claims a major part of the work and contains a few visionary or spiritual morals.
Balancing the A, B, and S-storyline is exactly that – a balancing act. How much should an author assign to each? Paolo Coelho’s books seem to have a 80/20 ratio, 80% A and B-story, and 20% S-story. The book The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari is the opposite – 20/80, whereby the A- and B-story serve as catalysts for the … Continue reading →
Editor’s Note: Karen Rider’s insightful article was originally published in January, 2013 on our VFA blog site. We thought the discussion it catalyzed was worth having it reposted. We invite you to enjoy and comment!
Setting the Literary Stage for Visionary & Metaphysical Fiction
Rapid-fire change is ongoing in the publishing industry—and it’s not just in the way books are produced, marketed and distributed. Perhaps like no other period in literary history, writers are experimenting with voice, style and format. Such literary exploration arises from both a writer’s creative urge and in response to market trends. This has led to the emergence of new genres and a shift in the way books are marketed and categorized. On physical and digital bookstore shelves, we find books grouped as “alternate historical fiction”, “slipstream” and “paranormal romance.” These categories may arise from official sources (e.g., the Library of Congress), publishers and sometimes from authors and readers. Rarely is there agreement and many books can be placed in more than one category. For example, novelist Alice Hoffman’s book The Story Sisters has Library of Congress designations as Fiction/Psychological fiction/Loss/Mothers & Daughters. The same book has been described as a literary magical realism (for which Hoffman is most widely known) and mystical fiction. (It even popped up under fantasy on my Goodreads profile—and this book is definitely not Fantasy.) M.J. Rose’s series of novels dealing with the quest for tools that can reveal past life memories (The Reincarnationist, The Book of Lost Fragrances) are categorized as suspense right on the cover. On Amazon, these books were once listed under both suspense and … Continue reading →
In Part I, we began exploring the turning of the Wheel of Fortune. We moved past the idea of chaos, chance, and fate and introduced the idea of perfection. The Wheel of Fortune and the World imply continuous turning: the unending flow of time. A journey does not solely cover distance, but also time.
Consider, for a moment, the notion that both time and space are illusions. In this view, we live in a virtual reality akin to The Matrix. If we don’t ever go anywhere, why take the journey at all?
The Wheel of Fortune is not typically depicted as an actual wheel. It spins in place. In this next interpretation, we compare it to another device, which turns without going anywhere. As a movie reel rolls, its film unravels.
In Scribe to the Pantheon of Rome, my protagonist learns that the purpose of life is to create and the purpose of life is to experience. We live in a shared fabrication called reality. It is made up. We not only experience our own creations, but also those that came before us. In other words, our ancestors rolled up film, which we now experience. Part of our purpose is to unravel the pieces that no longer serve us while simultaneously rolling up new versions that please us. As with a reel-to-reel projector, one reel of film unravels, feeds through the projector (our experience of now), and then a second reel rolls film up, which is our newest … Continue reading →
Visionary Fiction writers take us on a Hero’s Journey. Not only are the heroes and journeys archetypal, but so are the many characters and situations encountered along the way.
Another version of the Hero’s Journey is the Fool’s Journey, which specifically refers to the Major Arcana of the Tarot, but also the variations as I see it: the signs and houses in Astrology, basic Numerology, and the full Tarot comprising all five suits. I explore the Fool’s Journey in my work: my blog writing, my book writing, and within my classes and intuitive readings. As I like to say, “The Journey of the Fool is always from where you are to where you want to be.” The Fool is not afool, but rather an astute teacher by example. This archetype is dear to my heart and is why I named my business A Fool’s Inclination.
In writing my first novel, Journey to the Temple of Ra, I embarked the Fool’s Journey literally and literarily. In fact, an earlier version was entitled A Fool’s Journey. I wrote the tale as 78 mini-chapters named after the 78 cards in the Tarot. Each mini-chapter depicts a character or situation, which matches one or more interpretations of the corresponding card. Through this endeavor, my protagonist unveiled his life purpose…and I learned each card intimately.
I first started watching Once Upon a Time with my daughters this year. The visionary fantasy story was created for television by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. It focuses on a young boy, Henry, who believes that his book of fairytales is based on real-life events. The setting is Storybrooke, Maine where Henry’s foster mother, Regina, is the town’s mayor. In actuality, she is the Evil Queen. She spends most of her time plotting revenge against Snow White, who inadvertently blurted out a secret that led to her lover’s death. Unable to kill Snow White, Regina casts a spell that transports all the fairytale characters from the Enchanted Forest to Storybrooke, each without memories of their previous lives. The story takes off when Henry’s birth mother, Emma, arrives in Storybrooke. Henry reveals to Emma that she is the long awaited Savior who must help the residents remember who they are and liberate them from Regina’s control. He also discloses that Snow White and Prince Charming are her parents.
Villains and Heroes
What makes OUAT stand out as visionary fiction is the character arcs. As there are many characters in this story, the focus of this article will be on the three leads that personify the symbolic archetypes of darkness and light. The two main villains, Rumpelstiltskin and Regina are three-dimensional, which helps make them sympathetic to the viewer. Through their backstories, we are shown that evil isn’t born but rather created out of circumstances along with the choices that stem from those circumstances. Regina turns to the dark side after the murder of her lover. Rumpelstiltskin’s weakness and inability to care for his son leads him to enter the world … Continue reading →
Visionary Fiction gives us a stairway upon which we can climb and express what we know deep within. When we look at great works of art, it is as if they are reflections of higher worlds, higher dimensions. Artists paint upon a canvas, writers write upon a page, but at the top of the stairway we paint in Light upon the universe and we write in words of Light upon the universe. As we look up we see the vision, we reach into our souls and we can connect to that place, that reality.
Francis Bacon (22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626), an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, author and concealed poet, said, “All rising to great place is by a winding stair.” Today we say, “What was that guy talkin’ about?” But Francis was a very great visionary, and he understood how we evolve.
We can think of good vs. evil in terms of an upward spiral or a downward spiral, a good choice or a bad choice, the truth or a deception. There is only one power source in the universe and it allows downward spirals and wrong choices because it honors free will in the hopes that we will learn to always fight to spiral up and propel the Light and defend the Light and love the Light. Energy returns to its source and its source is perfection, and we have to reach up to return to our source and come home.
But why fight to spiral up? Is it worth it? What will we find at the top of that stairway? Will we get to … Continue reading →
It’s a long way from Pennsylvania to Mount Everest. I’m still on the road (a bit closer – now living in New Zealand) but don’t know if I’ll ever get there. It’s not unlike the journey from being born to understanding, or at least making peace with, the meaning of life.
I’m an American man married to a Kiwi woman, retired from Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA) in 2013. My first novel was published a few months ago. It’s called Everest Rising, and the plot is relatively straightforward – the Earth is pregnant.
The idea came from a few different places. I am always searching for the new storyline– a tale that hasn’t been told and an engaging core around which to build a compelling narrative. I want my characters to grapple with both the commonness of existence and the wonder sneaking in around the edges. This wonder serves as a catalyst for transforming the human experience; a transformation revealed through the senses, understood by the mind, and confirmed by the heart.
The ‘pregnant Earth’ construct allowed space for various themes to intermingle and for passionate conflicts to play out. There’s conflict concerning the Earth: a living, possibly sentient entity about to safeguard its existence against humankind’s wayward stewardship. There’s conflict among the characters, many of them scientists who must decide how to deal with an unprecedented, physics-defying chain of events. At its center, the story is about acceptance. Accepting how little we know, and in that unknowing choosing how to use our energies and where to direct our focus. Where can one find answers – or some version of a contented frame … Continue reading →
I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that those of us writing Visionary Fiction have had some sort of vision, be it a lucid dream, an unexpectedly successful meditation, a trip brought on by a substance outside the normal diet, or even a near-death experience. It may have lasted several hours, possibly a day or two, but more likely it was only a few minutes. Nevertheless, a mere glimpse beyond the veil is all that’s required to alter one’s consciousness. We are suddenly aware that we are more than; more than we had been taught, more than we believed, more than we could have imagined. We are aware that things are not as they seem, and perhaps more importantly (as a motivating factor), we are aware that things need not remain as they are, that if only more people were clued in to the true nature of reality, the manifested mundane world could be modified in ways that would benefit all beings. So we are driven to spend endless hours of our short time here on earth piling up words, in hopes that our work will open the minds of our readers.
I’ll go out on another limb and presume that as writers of fiction we have all learned the maxim: show, don’t tell. Yet how do we show the qualities we have come to know in that eternal moment snatched from the other side—timelessness, infinity, unity—given that our only tool, language, is linear, finite, and distinctive by nature? How do we convey a globe to Flatlanders at all, let alone without technical ‘tell-y’ … Continue reading →