A to Z Day 25: Yarn

I can’t do any better for a definition of Yarn than Dr. L. Kip Wheeler of Carson-Newman University:

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YARN (Old English gearn): An informal name for a long, rambling story–especially one dealing with adventure or tall-tales. The genre typically involves a strong narrative presence and colloquial or idiomatic English. The tone is realistic, but the content is typically fantastic or hyperbolic. Cf. the Chinese p’ing hua and the Russian skaz.

When I think of yarns, I think of Mark Twain stories, Davy Crockett, and Paul Bunyan. I loved a good yarn as a child — that’s probably one of the sources of my love of stories and storytelling. Here’s what makes a good yarn. It’s a story you tell in conversational language, and you tell it as though it’s true. But at the same time, the actual events you’re narrating are so fantastical that no one could possibly believe them. The effect is usually humor.

Some people limit yarns to campfire stories and shaggy dog stories. Include folk tales in them, so long as they’re long-winded, exaggerated, and use colloquial language. In other words, I don’t think a story necessarily has to be pointless or anti-climactic to qualify as a yarn.

Feel free to drop the titles or links to your favorite yarns, or yarns you’ve written, in the comments in this next-to-last day of the A to Z Challenge.

A to Z badge by Jeremy of Being Retro.

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A to Z Day 24: Xanaduism

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This was the most difficult day to come up with a topic for, because there just aren’t that many writing terms that begin with X. I went with Xanaduism because the name is derived from a poem I enjoy. Here’s a definition provided by Dr. L. Kip Wheeler of Carson-Newman University.

Academic research that focuses on the sources behind imaginative works of literature and fantasy. John Livingstone Lowes, in his publication The Road to Xanadu (1927), inspired the name, which in turn goes back to Coleridge’s visionary poem “Kubla Khan” (i.e., “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree . . .”). More recently, the term has been used in a pejorative sense to describe scholarship involving dubious scrutiny of amorphous, difficult-to-prove sources, especially simplistic studies lacking any redeeming theoretical perspectives

So, if you write an essay about the orgin of a piece of literature and someone says you’re engaging in Xanaduism, they’re probably not complimenting you on your scholarship. I’ve never actually heard this term used in conversation, and don’t have anything else to say about it.

Since Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” is in the public domain, I’ve included it below for your enjoyment, with another thought or two afterwards. Librivox has several audio recordings of this poem.

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A to Z Day 23: Worldbuilding

W

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Since I shared my fantasy project on day six, I thought it might be good to talk about worldbuilding from a practical point-of-view today. To some extent, all fiction writers are worldbuilders. But I am using the term to mean the creation of worlds that are so different from the world we actually live in as to feel alien or exotic. I am thinking about these sorts of worlds:

  • Other planets, or worlds that don’t follow the laws of natural physics at all (like other planes of existence or dimensions).
  • Settings that are so far distant in time they’re fantastical – civilization circa 8,000 C.E., say; or advanced civilizations that existed before recorded history.
  • Using historical divergence to create an alternate modern setting. (For example, what would the world look like in 2050 if the Soviet Union had never collapsed?)

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