Chinese Web Novel Genres


After posting a link to my recent post about  Chinese Xianxia webnovels, I became engaged in a discussion on the Wuxiaworld Forums about the different webnovel genres in China and their proper names. As a result, I discovered that technically I was wrong in referring to the genre I described previously as Xianxia Fiction- it should actually have been called Xuanhuan Fiction.

Xuanhuan (rhymes with Duan Juan) fiction could literally be translated as “Unreal Fiction”, and as you might guess, is an umbrella genre which includes subgenres like Xianxia (Immortal Fiction) within it. However, unlike Qihuan (“Magical Fiction”) which uses Western (Lord of the Rings, World of Warcraft, D&D) type magical settings, Xuanhuan stories take place in high magic versions of Chinese/Asian environments. What I did was roughly the equivalent of referring to “Science Fiction” as “Space Opera”, which is a subgenre of Science Fiction, but not all Sci-Fi is Space Opera.

Here are the actual categorizations from the massive Chinese webfiction site 17K, as translated by Epithetic:

Fantasy (玄幻奇幻 – Xuánhuàn Qíhuàn)

Eastern Fantasy (东方玄幻 – Dōngfāng Xuánhuàn): Fictional stories centered primarily on Oriental myths, legends and fairy tails or ones that use such elements as their basis.

Foreign Continent (异界大陆 – Yì Jiè Dàlù): Fictional stories set in a different world, in a different land, with clear supernatural elements.

Foreign World Power Struggle (异世争霸 – Yì Shì Zhēngbà): Fictional stories set in a different world, in a different land, with clear supernatural elements, and that are centered around a military power struggle.

Remarkable Power (异术超能 – Yì Shù Chāonéng): Fictional stories surrounding ordinary people where the protagonist has an extraordinary supernatural ability that is used to drive the plot.

Western Fantasy (西方奇幻 – Xīfāng Qíhuàn): Traditional Western fantasy stories.

Feudal Lord (领主贵族 – Lǐngzhǔ Guìzú): Fictional stories where the protagonist is a lord in a feudal society and the plot is centered around the development of power and influence.

Magic Campus (魔法校园 – Mófǎ Xiàoyuán): Fictional stories with a campus as the main backdrop.

Epic Hero (仙侠武侠 – Xiānxiá Wǔxiá)

Classic Immortal Hero (古典仙侠 – Gǔdiǎn Xiānxiá): Traditional stories about immortal heroes.

Modern-day Sage Cultivation (现代修真 – Xiàndài Xiūzhēn): Stories about immortal heroes set in a modern-day city.

Ancient Investiture of Gods (洪荒封神 – Hónghuāng Fēngshén): Stories about immortal heroes set in the early days of the universe where the storyline is based off of “Investiture of the Gods” or myths and fairy tales like it.

Fantasy Sage Cultivation (奇幻修真 – Qíhuàn Xiūzhēn): Stories regarding sage cultivation that involve somewhat combined eastern and western soul refinement methods.

Traditional Martial Hero (传统武侠 – Chuántǒng Wǔxiá): Stories containing traditional martial hero elements, the works by Liang-Jin-Gu (Liang Yusheng, Jin Yong and Gu Long) being representative of the genre.

Modern-day Remarkable Hero (现代异侠 – Xiàndài Yì Xiá): Fictional stories set in modern times where the main protagonist has the characteristics of a martial hero, replete with martial techniques and/or other, similar abilities.

Historical Martial Hero (历史武侠 – Lìshǐ Wǔxiá): Stories mainly about martial heroes that also incorporate history to a greater extent, or stories about history that are written straightforwardly in the martial hero style.

Chinese & Ancient Martial Arts (国术古武 – Guóshù Gǔwǔ): Stories set in a modern or future city where the world of martial practitioners is hidden within it and the refinement of martial artistry (Wushu, aka. Kungfu) has been developed into the common soul refinement methods known as “Chinese Martial Arts” (Guoshu) and “Ancient Martial Arts” (Guwu) respectively.

This is just a small part of the list of the different genres being written and read on 17K, and I’d highly recommend you go to Epithetic’s site and read the full list. The list itself is fascinating because it really gives a rare look into a whole other literary world and the stories they are telling each other. There are genres and subgenres there which don’t exist in English, and it shows how cultural values really shape what people consume in their entertainment.

I should note that I’m told most of what 17K is publishing is what we in English might refer to as Young Adult FictionLight Novels or Pulp Fiction. These are stories which are meant to be fun, light reads and which don’t focus so much on the details or intense character development that more literary fiction might. In a lot of ways, they seem to hold a position culturally similar to the old Pulp Fiction Magazines or Comic Books. (I would observe they seem to very much have the same place in China that Manga do in Japan, which isn’t surprising since China doesn’t have much of a comics market.)

An amusing note to finish on- according to this Reddit thread, the Chinese refer to this type of fiction as YY Fiction, with YY being the shorter form of the pinyin Yiyin. What does YiYin mean? It would literally translate to “Mental Masterbation”. :-)))

Perhaps that’s all you need to know.


Why Your First Draft Should Suck (and That’s a Good Thing!)


I’m a couple chapters in to my newest work-in-progress, and it kinda sucks.

But that’s okay, in fact, that’s great!

Let me explain.

Of the many pieces of advice often handed out to new writers, two are in my head at the moment. The first is “It’s okay to suck.”, and the second is “The first draft is the writer telling themselves the story”. These two combine nicely to explain my feelings about the story I’m working on, and how I feel differently about it than the first draft for any story I’ve written in the past.

Let’s break those two statements down, and then talk about how they work in harmony.

It’s okay to suck,” which I first heard said by Mur Lafferty, is advice to writers who find themselves paralyzed by the quality of their writing. Now, she doesn’t mean it’s okay to publish a work that sucks, that would be a huge mistake. No, what she means is that when you’re writing your first draft of your story, some parts of it might be really bad, but that’s okay. You shouldn’t let your desire to produce a perfect work of art keep you from writing, because rough drafts are exactly that- rough. They have parts that don’t work and will later be replaced and thrown out. So, if the part you’re working on now sucks, that’s okay, because that’s just a placeholder for something really cool you’ll come up with later on during editing and revisions.

This leads us to “The first draft is the writer telling themselves the story,” which I’ve heard credited to Terry Pratchett (and others). This piece of advice is a little trickier to understand, but in essence he’s saying that the first draft isn’t the story that the world will see, but a draft only for the writer themselves. It’s a version of the story that exists only for you to understand and explore your story and characters, and is not meant to entertain anyone but you.

So, what do we get if we combine these two?

We get freedom.

The first draft is a playground in which you can suck as hard and fast as you want to, and not be afraid because nobody else on Earth is going to see it. You can (and will) change anything and everything later, so who cares what parts are placeholders and what parts will get erased? This is you, the writer, mucking around and seeing what kind of story you can put together for your own fun and pleasure. Some bits will rock, other bits will be less-than-awesome, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s all for you, and you alone.

Stephen King, in On Writing, suggests that you never let anyone see your first draft of a story, no matter how tempting it might be. I think he’s right! Because if you at any moment feel that another person will see this draft, you will start to edit and censor yourself as you’re writing, which completely defeats the purpose of this rough first draft. Get it out onto the screen (or paper, Luddite!) and then worry about making it presentable to the world during revisions. Right now, it’s a mud castle like you made when you were a kid, and you get to play in it and shape it how you want- so don’t hold back.

If you do, you’ll find writers block and procrastination wait to tie you up and hold your creativity for ransom- don’t let them!

So, it’s okay that the stuff I’m working on now sucks.

It’s laying the groundwork for the writing that comes later.

And that, will be glorious!



Picture Credit: 

Middle Grade vs. Young Adult Fiction

On a recent Writing Excuses podcast, author EJ Patten discussed Middle Grade fiction writing, and put forth a fascinating comparison between Middle Grade (fiction for grade 4-6 students) and Young Adult (fiction for grades 7+ students).

He said that Middle Grade fiction is all about supporting or maintaining the establishment. The characters in these stories are trying to learn to become part of the world, both by learning its ways and finding a way to support the status quo in some way.

So, for example, in Harry Potter (the first book is Middle Grade, the rest quickly become YA), is about Harry learning his way around Hogwarts Magic School and the Wizarding World (learning the rules), and trying to find the Philosophers Stone to prevent Valdemort from returning and disrupting this world. (Maintaining the status quo.)

It makes sense when you think about it, young people that age are trying to figure out their place in society, so they respond to characters who are also trying to figure out their place in a society. Finding your place means becoming a part of that order, and taking a responsible role in maintaining that order.

Young Adult, fiction, on the other hands, EJ says is all about new beginnings. It’s about tearing apart the status quo and starting fresh in some way. The characters are trying to break out of their traditional world and start something new- disrupting or changing society in some way. (Pretty much the complete opposite of Middle Grade.)

So a YA novel like Hunger Games is about Katniss Everdeen living in her highly stratified and oppressive society and then tearing it apart. Even the Paranormal Romance novels that dominate YA are still about the young heroine breaking out of her traditional world (by hanging out with vampires/werewolves/etc) and starting something new (romance). In fact, one of the big differences between Middle Grade and YA is that Middle Grade has little to no Romance, while YA often has it as a major element of the story.

Of course, these are general patterns that these types of fiction tend to follow, and not the word of God on the subject, but they do make a lot of sense. I’d always wondered what the difference between the two was (beyond the age range) and this look into the psychology of writing them is fascinating.

Oh, one other thing the podcast (which I recommend giving a listen to) brought up was that for some reason around Grade Six, boys just stop reading Middle Grade/YA fiction and will tend to jump right to Adult (General Audience) works. They said this is why the YA market is mostly a girls market, because the boys literally aren’t interested in reading YA fiction for the most part.

This last point is something I would argue with a little bit. I would argue that the boys are indeed “reading” YA voraciously, but not in the form of prose. They’re consuming it in the form of comic books (mostly manga, these days) and anime, which still follow the patterns laid out above. You could even make a case that they’re also taking it in through video games, which tend to have the same stories of carving something new out of the world, but are more interactive.


KFAT Fiction Launched!

As will come as no surprise to anyone who was reading my posts yesterday, I’ve decided to take the plunge into writing serialized web fiction. At first I thought about writing Flash Fiction, and I may still try my hand at it, but for now I’m going to write serialized stories in a more normal mode. I find my productivity varies a lot recently, and I’m hoping that being forced to produce at least 1000 words a week of prose writing will help to generate some good writing habits once more!

So the plan is to put up a new part of the story of 700-1000 words in length each Monday morning on my new KFAT Fiction website- I plan to write a few shorter things first (20,000 words or so) and clear out a couple unfinished projects, and then move on to slightly bigger works. If I find myself getting too ahead on the writing side, I may start posting twice a week, but intially I’m just going to stick to once a week as I’m about to enter my most busy time of the year at work (Yay! September!) and don’t want to miss any postings unless I absolutely have to. (So the idea is to keep a couple episodes ahead at all times.)

For my first story, I chose to serialize The Inuyama Rebellion, which is an ongoing adventure story set in feudal Japan that I’ve half completed, and which I thought felt like a good fit for this kind of format. As it’s already partway done, I decided to put the first third of the story up on the site in handy bite-sized pieces to help give new readers a good taste of what to expect. These first eight pieces take us about halfway into the second “episode” of the version which has been heard on the KFATales audio fiction podcast, and I do eventually plan to finish the podcast version as well once the serialized version is done.