It occurs to me that I use some terms on my blog with which others might not be familiar, and while I’ve made some effort to define them within the context of my reviews, it would probably be helpful to everyone to have a cheat sheet, so to speak. So, here are some terms with which you might or might not be familiar.
The definitions are my own so they reflect my own understanding of the terms and how I’m using them on this blog.
Bargain book: A bargain book for the purposes of this blog is any book sold in the bargain sections of Barnes & Noble. It is no statement about the book’s quality.
Bildungsroman: This is a fancy name for a coming-of-age story, a story about the education of a character and her transition towards adulthood.
Book series: These are books (two or more) using the same set of characters between which the characters and plot do not progress or grow. Examples include Jeanne Betancourt’s Pony Pal books, Gertrude Chandler Warner’s Boxcar Children series, and most television series: Phineas and Ferb, Spongebob Squareparents, Dora the Explorer….
Books in a series: These are books using the same set of characters between which the characters and plot are advanced or grow. Examples include J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, Rick Riordan’s series, J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, also Avatar the Last Airbender. Colloquially, these are also book series, and I will probably call them book series as well unless trying to make the distinction.
Children’s literature: I’m using this term broadly to encompass anything not written for an adult audience, anything from primers written for babies to racy romances written for teens. Almost everything labeled here as children’s literature will have a subgenre that labels its intended audience, such as toddler, middle-grade, or teen.
Epistolary: This is a book written in the form of letters, journal, or diary entries.
Fantasy subgenres: This is hardly an extensive list, but here are a few of the less common terms that I will use. Defining genres and subgenres will always be a challenge, partially because of how few stories fit only into one genre or subgenre.
Epic: It would probably be fair to call an epic “great deeds fiction.” It narrates the the deeds or adventures of heroic or legendary characters in the history of a nation or world or culture. I’m paraphrasing here from the New Oxford American Dictionary. The stakes are more universal than personal. The Lord of the Rings is the obvious example, but so long as a character’s actions effect the whole of a culture then its an epic, so Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, How To Train Your Dragon…. Something, again, like the Pony Pals or the Boxcar Children would not be epic. Nor would Pride and Prejudice or Evelina.
Low fantasy: These fantasy books take place in our own world. Between this and portal fantasy in particular there is a lot of bleeding. Most low fantasy books have some element of portal fantasy, a place that can only be accessed by certain individuals. Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series is primarily low fantasy, although only Shadowhunters, Downworlders, and demons are able to access Alicante. Rick Riordan’s series are likewise mostly low fantasy but mortals can reach neither Camp Half-Blood or Olympus. Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising Sequence is perhaps a true low fantasy as is Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series (though the latter of which also doubles as a science-fiction).
Portal fantasy: These are fantasy books where characters transition between our world and another world. Between this and low fantasy particularly there is a lot of bleeding. The strongest example is C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, where each world has its own geography, history, theology, etc. Harry Potter could fall into this category too (non-wizards cannot access Diagon Alley or platform 9 3/4) as could Rick Riordan’s stories. I use this term less frequently than the other two as it is less frequently used by others.
Sword and sorcery: This is a type of fantasy in which both weapons are present, sometimes used in tandem, sometimes pitted against one another, usually used in some conflict, and the technology is at its earlier stages, making the sword among the more powerful weapons. A series in which guns, for example, are an option for any character I would hesitate to qualify as sword and sorcery. Sword and sorcery is characterized by fast-paced action and personal stakes rather than quests to better the world. By that definition, then, a great deal of series I have not labeled as sword and sorcery could be classified as such. Some strong examples though include Sharon Shinn‘s The Twelve Houses series and George R. R. Martin‘s A Song of Ice and Fire, if one considers it a story about character rather than world. Conan the Barbarian is the prototypical example.
Urban fantasy: This is a fantasy that takes place in a city, any city in any world. Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series is primarily urban fantasy, taking place in mostly in New York and sometimes Alicante.
OTP: Shorthand for “one true pair.” A fandom phrase meaning the romantic pairing that the fan believes most firmly should be together.
BroTP: A variant off OTP, where the “one true pair” are friends instead of being romantically involved.
Picture book: This is a book where the text and illustrations work in tandem to tell the story. Mo Willems’ books would be picture books.
Picture storybook: This is a book with illustrations, the illustrations not being vital to the story. Again, this is a distinction that I rarely make on this blog, a picture book colloquially meaning either, but the distinction is there. Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit would be a picture storybook as would Cressida Cowell’s How To Train Your Dragon series (though no middle-grade reader would want me to call it such, so I generally do not).
POC: I’m using this as a shorthand for “people of color”–any race other than white, whether that’s African American, Latino, Asian, Native American, etc. I’m not entirely comfortable with this grouping of many races under one category, and if anyone has a better term, I’d love to hear it please.
Primer: A primer is a book whose primary function is to teach a child to read. Most primers are written for toddlers. Usually these are themed: There are counting books, books that teach the colors, books that are all about animals or animal noises…. Sometimes these themes are combined as with Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, which teaches colors and animals. Lately, companies like BabyLit and Les Petits Fairytales have been trying to use the primer format of a word per page to tell stories. Primers are almost always board books.
Ship (v): Another fandom phrase, closely related to OTP and BroTP. To “ship” two characters is to desire to see those two paired. That pair is called also called a “ship.” This ship (n) can be an OTP or BroTP, but the term can be used for pairings in which the shipper is less emotionally invested as well. Frequently ships will have names (as all proper ships should do). Often these names derive from the pushing together of two characters names, i.e. Perceabeth, being a combination of Percy and Annabeth.
WIP: This is shorthand for work-in-progress. The only example of note to this blog is my own WIP, the novel that I hope one day to finish and publish.
Another word puzzling you? Leave me a comment. I’d love to know what ought to be added to the glossary.