What to Read: Three Different Categories of Fiction

You have to know yourself as a reader. Which type of fiction do you lean toward? Knowing the different kinds of fiction can certainly help. I get totally into this—my Master’s thesis being on genre studies. But I’ll save wordy for a doctoral thesis and give you the reader’s perspective.

Realistic or Literary Fiction
These are the books that deal with real life. They’re usually called literary fiction in bookstores, but I also lump in realistic fiction, because that applies better to young adult books. Basically these books focus more on characters and their personal problems over plot. There is a line that divides literary form realistic. Literary can often be very self-absorbed and even be devoid of plot. Realistic fiction typically has some semblance of a problem and resolution.

Some good examples (pulled from my favs) are:

Genre
These books are defined by their plot structures. Characters can be secondary and will sometimes follow stereotypes. Readers return to these books because we know what to expect. Certain situations and settings reoccur over and over. There are many different types of genres, such as: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Thriller, Romance, and Mystery.

Some more favs:

Genre Pastiche
This is where things get interesting. Since the 1980s, films had run the gamut of genre and began mashing them up. Books are doing the same. One of the most popular pastiches is paranormal romance (horror and romance). This allows readers who love genre, to mix things up.

Final set of favs:

  • Horror + Realistic Fiction: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  • Science Fiction + Fantasy: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
  • Fantasy + Realistic Fiction: Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Next time you look for a good read, think about the type of read you are. Choose your book based on your tastes. If you have a writing bent, then check out how to write for each genre.

Tim Kane

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10 of the Worst Reality TV Concepts and Catchphrases

I watch a lot of reality TV. Not because I adore it. Mostly because I hardly watch TV at all these days and there’s little commitment with these shows. You can watch one or two episodes and see all you need. I was recently watching Craft Wars (with Tori Spelling) and caught the most ridiculous elimination catchphrase: “Pack up your glue gun. You’re done in this craft war.”

This got me thinking. There have been as many lousy reality TV concepts as there are bad elimination catch phrases. Here are few that, thankfully, no one has tried yet.

10 American’s Top Politician
Honestly, this is how we should do elections. More people would watch and probably vote. However, it would truly underscore the shallowness of our political system.

Elimination Catchphrase: The votes are in… Your campaign is over.

Will Ferrel and Zach Galifianaki compete for congress.

9 Barista Wars
I’m guessing baristas would battle over who could whip the best foam on a cappuccino or churn out the frostiest frappe.

Elimination Catchphrase: You’re frappe was forgettable.

8 Top Neighborhood Watch
Inspired by the movie, The Watch, perhaps warring neighborhood watches could compete over the best way to foil car thieves and burglars.

Elimination Catchphrase: Pack your flashlight and leave the neighborhood.

The Watch movie starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayoade.

7 Top Skating Pro
Yes, we have the X Games, but what about the drama behind the half-pipe? Here skaters would compete for the best moves and the most stellar personality.

Elimination Catchphrase: You’re ollie ollie outta here. (Ollie is the name of a basic movie in skateboarding.)

6 Project Gossip
Rumors always plague us wherever we go. Yet who can dish it out the best? Finally a Reality TV that has snarky back-biting during AND after each competition.

Elimination Catchphrase: The dirt you dished didn’t stick. Time to clean up you game.

5 Hacked
Gardeners compete each show to create the best landscape. There’s a special segment with a mystery shrub. Ooo, so exciting.

Elimination Catchphrase: Pack your shears and mow. (Can you hear the rim shot? I can.)

4 Garbage Wars
Dueling sanitation workers compete to collect unusual trash items in the shortest time. Imagine Fear Factor but as a job.

Elimination Catchphrase: You’ve been kicked to the curb.

3 America’s Next Top Teacher
As a teacher myself, it sometimes feels like this. Here we give a set of teachers the worst students, no supplies, and a cramped room to teach in. (Hey, it’s called reality, people.)

Elimination Catchphrase: You have a failing grade. You’ve flunked out of school.

2 Project Spreadsheet
Finally, a show that explores the devil may care life of accountants. Each episode sees which accountants can make it through various financial challenges and… (wait for it) come back in black.

Elimination Catchphrase: You’re bottom line didn’t hold up. You’re downsized.

Although Dwight Schrute isn’t an accountant, he certainly could do the job.

1 Top Surgeon
Life or death. Who wouldn’t watch? One slip of the scalpel and we lose the patient. At least they pay the patient volunteers well. Plus you get to be on TV.

Elimination Catchphrase: You didn’t make the cut. Pack your scalpel and exit the hospital.

Forever watching…

Tim Kane

Mine Your Inner Hurt

It doesn’t matter what sort of art you take up—writing, painting, music, cooking—you need to dig deep into whatever hurt you have. If not, then the art will be false and flimsy.

Salvador Dali pondering how to make himself insane in the office of Dr. Sigmund Freud from the film “The Death of Salvador Dali.”

I was watching the Next Food Network Star. On one episode, a contestant opened up about how he lived his childhood scavenging from garbage cans. This not only moved me, it showed how authentic he was. Another contestant would not open up. She obviously had some sort of hurt in the past. One that had shaped her way of thinking, yet she was afraid of going to that dark place. On that episode she was eliminated. Why? Because she didn’t connect with the viewers.

Be authentic with your art. If it doesn’t hurt, then you’re not doing it right. When you dig into your inner self, it’s like therapy. Only art comes out the other end. If you’re not willing to be brutally honest with yourself, then your work will feel false. It’s like the difference between a museum painting and a hotel painting. They both contain skill, but only one has passion.

Salvador Dali once toured a museum of paintings. After viewing them all, a reporter asked him which one he liked the most. Dali pointed at a door, freshly painted and still wet. He said there was more skill and passion in that door than any of the other paintings.

Tim Kane

Reading is a Visceral Experience

Memories constantly hijack my brain. It’s great except the timing. Like cooking, or driving, or even teaching. What’s interesting is that the memories that reappear are almost always from exciting times in my life (like vacation or pretty much all my teen years). The only other “memories” that make an appearance are those I get from reading.

Joel Robinson’s whimsical visual abstractions of the reading experience

Often, months or years later, I can recall the exact experience of reading a particular book. I know exactly where I was sitting (the bathroom floor) as I zoomed through the final pages of Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children. It’s visceral. I recall how my arm and shoulder ached from reading so long.

Is it that reading affects my imagination? Is that why? I know that the other memories (those from my real life) I recall so strongly because of the intense emotions involved. But reading? Are those same intense emotions triggered?

How about you? How many of you have had flashbacks to reading books? I just had another now. Reading the final Harry Potter book in the hallway outside my daughter’s room (this being when she was only an infant). I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

I wonder if this is a personal insanity or one that’s shared.

Tim Kane

Which Type of “Cool” Are You?

I was walking my dog in the park the other day and saw a couple walking by. The guy was doing everything he could to “look cool”. Then I thought, every guy tries to look cool, but each in different ways. What are the different styles of cool? Can you think of anyone you know who’d qualify?

Jock Cool
These are the kids who want nothing more than to wear a team jacket along with a championship ring. They define themselves by their sport and their workout routine. My mind blanked on modern examples, so I went old school on this one.

Emilio Estevez from Breakfast Club

Nerd Cool
These guys live for the A+ grade. They do all their homework, everyday. They even ask for extra credit to do over vacations. If they’re not solving a problem, then they’re not living. Their self-worth derives from their class rank.

Although Sheldon (from Big Bang Theory) also has geek cool, he mostly defines himself by his ability to outsmart others.

Geek Cool
How many action figures have you got? These guys strive to be big in the popular culture universe of video games, comic books, role playing games, you name it. In fact, these fellas are perfectly happy to invent an alternate universe to live in, so long as there are rolled tacos.

Simon Pegg from the movie Paul believes that aliens are among us.

Party Cool
You know this type. He attends every party (that is, if he isn’t throwing it himself). The more people in attendance, then the higher his social status (even if he hardly knows who they all are).

Robert Downey Jr from Iron Man II. When he’s not hanging out in giant doughnuts, he throws amazing parties.

Counterculture Cool
At best, these guys are original and imaginative. At worst, they simply assume the uniform of “the different”. Generally, if everyone else likes something, then this guy won’t.

Pretty much every movie Johnny Depp acts in defines itself by its desire for a different worldview. He embodies the best of the counterculture.

Skater Cool
This is a subset of counterculture cool. Saggy pants, board in hand, this guy likes nothing more than to ride. He defines himself by the tricks he can perform and his hair gel.

Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker in Amazing Spiderman. Loved how they started him off as a skater.

 

Smart-Ass Cool
This guy always has a joke or a comeback. He defines himself by how hard he can make you laugh. If you squirt milk out your nose, bonus.

Adam Sandberg comic stars opposite old school funny man Adam Sandler. He lives and breaths the funny.

Every style has its uniform and expectations. The goal, of course, is to step outside these molds and discover the real you. Then you have internal cool, like these guys.

The king of cool. From music to film, David Bowie oozes coolness.

It’s Frank Sinatra’s world. We just live in it. If you’ve never heard old blue eyes sing, then you haven’t lived.

Nuff Said.

Tim Kane

How Do You Find a Good Book to Read in the eBook Age?

Some folk lament the fact that physical bookstores, with their collections of paper and glue, are vanishing. Heck, my city has only one bookstore. I relate. I love wandering the aisles of the bookstores, just picking something up and giving it a page through. But I’ll tell you a secret. Often, the books I pick up and then buy from a bookstore are not the ones I really love. I’ve been disappointed more than once.

What I do relish in bookstores are the recommendations by the employees. These people have read and loved these books and want you to read them too. Ignore the tables with the covers all facing up. The book placement there is often paid for by the publisher.

Alfred Hitchcock enjoying Tom Prideaux’s Love or Nothing: The Life and Times of Ellen Terry.

You can get that same sort of recommendation in the digital age. Often, I look up a book I’ve already read and loved on Amazon. Then I see what else the site recommends. Or I ask my reading friends (on Facebook or Twitter). The best part, I can download a sample of the ebook and read enough to get hooked (or bored).

The final resource for book hunters is book blogs. Check out these three blogs to help find your next read.

SPA Middle School Blog: This site shows recommendations from actual seventh and eight graders. Awesome to know I have similar tastes.

Young Adult Books Central Blog: This place is massive. It reviews books as well as tracks reader reviews. You can sort books in many ways with plenty to choose from.

We Need Reads Blog: A great review blog by a pair of avid readers. Their review of Speak says it all.

Tim Kane

Staring at the Progress Bar

I used to make my living as a computer graphic designer. I was pretty good at it. I designed ads for Winston Tires (not around anymore) and designed the box for TurboTax (that’s still with us). What I hated about the process was the computer. Being totally reliant on technology to get the work done is frustrating. Mostly, it was the progress bar.

You know how it goes. Here’s the situation right now. I’ve decided to update and add a few videos to my iPad. So I hook everything up through iTunes and then the bane of my existence appears. The progress bar. It inches forward, sucking the life from me.

I should walk away, but I can’t. It’s hypnotic. I stare at it, watching the percentage creep forward. I can literally stand there for hours. It’s so pointless. Finally, head upstairs and take a shower because I needed to go out soon. That broke the trance. Once I was away from the progress bar, I could actually progress with my life.

Writing doesn’t have quite as much of that. First off, the file sizes are so small, there’s only a glimpse of a progress bar. Also, I can print out pages or switch to long hand and still be productive. Take that technology.

If you’re stuck with something that is technology dependent, I feel for you. No one likes the progress bar. The best advice I can give you is make sure your other outlets (creative or otherwise) don’t rely on batteries, updates, or Internet.

Tim Kane