(updated 5/1/21 to include CDC archive information)
They got me. There I was, wicked and subversive, maliciously spewing false information across Facebook, the Spectrum Of Truth And Goodness. So they mercifully covered that horrifying meme I shared with a sign to let people know it was False Information, warning them away from that mind-warping evil.
Except they were wrong.
I chased that rabbit down that hole. Couldn’t help myself…the OCD monster must be fed. But I wanted to take a close look at how their fact-check process worked, and validate it for myself. So I’m a psycho masochist…I can live with that.
But I do have a problem with a system that brands a positivity-boosting meme as false information with rationale that is, itself, riddled with falsehoods and blatantly agenda-driven. So I’ll post the link to the PolitiFact analysis they used so you can go down that same rabbit hole if you really want to, or you can take this at face value, or just ignore this foolish sputtering of a nutcase, as you wish. But Facebook is using this process as a way to shape thought and push agendas, and people need to understand that.
Maybe this is all a bit nitnoid and petty, but gee, Mom, they started it! Maybe it’s a good idea for somebody to get up on their hind legs and tilt at the windmill now and then, to fuss a little at the rich and powerful rulers of our destiny, just to remind them that we’re not happy with what they’re doing. Maybe if a few thousand do it, they’ll think about the errors of their ways, and if it’s just me, the black helicopters and assassin squads should be here any minute to tell me to hush. Tell my story to the world, my friends.
The part of my post they had a problem with was, “We have a virus…but 99% of those who contract it will survive.” The warning they pasted over it indicates the same information was fact-checked in another post and found to be false, so this one must be false. The link they offer as evidence goes to an analysis of a tweet that listed very specific Covid survival rates and said those figures come from the CDC.
PolitiFact says they checked with the CDC and were told they don’t have that data. They don’t collect it, they don’t publish it, they have no idea where social media users are getting this information, and it’s way too complicated a thing to actually know about until maybe five years later. And then PolitiFact posts a link to the CDC site that shows they DO collect that data and they DO publish it. “Publish” may not be the precise word for what they do, but it does exist and it’s right there on the CDC website, and accessible to the public, and that says “published” to me. So I’ll include that link as well and you can double-check all you’d like. But they don’t call their data “survival rates.” They call it the “current best estimate” of “infection fatality rates,” which is an inverse and easily converted with basic math. And PolitiFact admits that those numbers correspond to the data given out in that tweet. The CDC explains that these figures are “only for planning purposes,” but, well, data is data, isn’t it? And they do explain that their information is “the best estimate, based on the latest surveillance data and scientific knowledge.”
I checked the current CDC link, and it’s not a perfect match to the tweet, but the CDC data is constantly updated, just like that web page says it is, so of course they wouldn’t always be precisely the same. But wait…at the bottom of the CDC page, there are three PDF archive files. The one dated September 10, 2020 is the one that would have been current when the tweet was tweeted and when the facts were checked. And THAT one is an absolutely perfect match to the information in the tweet. And PolitiFact saw that data because they referenced it. And the CDC people who run that page had to have known it was there, so why did they say they didn’t have that information and had no idea where people on social media got it from? And why does PolitiFact say it’s false information and the statistics are made up?
Their justification starts by saying the tweet was posted “to downplay the severity of the virus and the need for vaccinations,” which is a conclusion on their part because they don’t know for sure that it wasn’t just to create a dialog and get some good rationale from the CDC…they aren’t inside the poster’s head. They’re using an assumption, not fact. But that has nothing to do with whether the tweet is false or not. It does, however, show that PolitiFact has a problem with someone calling into question the need for such a big push on vaccinations.
Another part of their rationale was that another post used the same data to say the CDC thought the corona virus was less severe than the flu, and that post was debunked. Okay, but that doesn’t mean the data itself was debunked, so it really has no bearing on this case.
And then they said that the tweet ignored the fact that even if the death toll was only 1.8%, if everyone in the whole country was infected (which seems unlikely) it would still mean 6 million people would die. And, well, gee…that would be awful. They’re right, it would. But that doesn’t have anything to do with whether the data was false or not, now does it?
Their final rationale was “A widespread vaccination effort would prevent more deaths, protect people from severe illness, slow the spread and put the U.S. on a path back to normal.” This ties in with the accusation that the tweet was posted to downplay the severity of the virus. So it sure looks like the overall objective of this fact-check is to totally discredit the data, though it’s exactly the same as the actual CDC estimates, and convince people that the vaccinations are a good thing. That doesn’t really sound like fact-checking, does it? It sounds a little…or a lot…like an effort to convince people to think in a particular way.
I’m not against vaccinations at all. I’d have been quite satisfied if the original tweet’s question to the CDC about why they’re pushing the vaccinations had been answered by the CDC explaining why they’re pushing the vaccinations. But for Facebook and PolitiFact to slap the tweeter down and call her a liar? Seems pretty harsh, agenda-driven, virtue-signaling, and power-hungry to me. And done with their own lies, to boot.
And then they went and smacked down my post because it was similar. I didn’t even write it, though I wish I had because it felt good and said good things. It was a think-positive post and didn’t even mention the CDC, but it did say that 99% of the people who contract the virus will recover. That’s a ballpark estimate I agreed with from most of the anecdotal evidence I’ve heard, plus the fact that the CDC’s actual figure is an extremely-close 98.2%, based on confirmed cases reported to the CDC and confirmed deaths reported to the CDC, plus a widespread and probably accurate belief that a whole lot of people contracted the virus but stayed home, and self-quarantined, and got better without going to see a doctor. And besides, the meme I posted said “will recover,” so it also takes into account that more people are getting vaccinated and healthcare approaches are getting better and that means more and more people are likely to recover as time goes on. Doesn’t that make sense? And it’s a prediction. Politifact can’t possibly know if it’s true or false before it happens…just that they disagree.
And gee whiz…it was a post to point out to people that there’s too much negativity in the news and on Facebook and in our lives, and maybe it would be a good thing for us to focus on the fact that even though there’s a small percentage of bad out there, there’s a huge percentage of good. That seems like a reasonable thing to focus on.
So the point is that Facebook and the other social media giants are squashing the free and open exchange of ideas that they say they cherish so much, as it suits them. They think they know best about what information we should be allowed to see, to guide our thoughts in the right direction. For our own good, naturally. And it’s not just me, of course. They’ve been doing this a LOT. They even block legitimate news articles from reputable media sources when it suits them. So what if they decide they should block somebody’s post that says “God loves you” if it doesn’t provide measurable, statistically verifiable evidence that God actually exists and that He does actually love you? Will they smack down the Weather Channel’s forecast for this weekend because it might keep people from going out to get vaccinated if it’s going to be stormy? And why didn’t they fact-check the meme I posted a few days ago that says the dark matter that holds the universe together has finally been identified as coffee? That’s actually not true, by the way, at least according to the latest published information from the CDC. But it was funny. I’m not sure funny is going to be allowed for much longer.
Does this dissertation actually make a difference in the big scheme of things? Doubtful. But if enough people show their displeasure at being controlled by the Facebook Thought Police, maybe they’ll mellow out a little and perhaps allow people to make up their own minds about what they’re seeing. It could happen. Think positive.
If you’ve stuck with me this far, I salute your strength of character and/or masochism. Thanks for listening. Spread this as far as you’d like or ignore it and shake your head at the lengths some people will go to when they’re flailing ineffectively against the overreach of the high and mighty. At least I got it off my chest.
Yes, I’m much better now. Thank you.
Okay, okay, three posts in a row about genres and maybe now I can lighten up about it a little. In my defense, at least they’ve had different perspectives! And it’s cool learning things and expanding your horizons, so there’s that.
But on top of all that, it’s good to be able to home in on just the right description of what you write, or at least what you want to write, for those of us who are a little too hesitant or slow or procrastinating…or whatever adjective makes you feel better about not writing enough. Homing in on that description can help you focus your intent enough to get you going, or it can help you explain your project to that agent/editor/publisher you’re about to talk into a great publishing arrangement.
So here’s an article by Michael J. Vaughn, who is a novelist, poet, painter, drummer, and many things…so many things he needs two different author pages on Facebook to handle them all. He’s also a contributor to Writer’s Digest, where I found this, and where I end up finding a lot of good stuff. So it would be a great idea to subscribe to their newsletter if you don’t already, and you can find even more good stuff. This particular good stuff is a very, very thorough explanation of a whole slew of genres and sub-genres, and it can at least be an interesting analysis of the business even if you are already firmly convinced of your particular position in the literary firmament. And some decent food for thought if you wobble a little about it. Or a lot.
114 Fiction Sub-Genre Descriptions for Writers
Here’s a breakdown of some of your favorite fiction genres, including romance, horror, thriller/suspense, science fiction/fantasy, and mystery/crime. Find more than 100 fiction sub-genre descriptions for writers.
Michael J. Vaughn
Updated:Mar 16, 2021 – Original:Mar 19, 2008
Editor’s Note: One of the most important things a writer can do when trying to pitch their novel is to identify the correct genre for their book. Knowing the correct sub-genre only improves a writer’s chances, because it shows an understanding of the market that not every writer has.
As such, enjoy this listing of sub-genre descriptions for several popular fiction genres, including romance, horror, thriller/suspense, science fiction/fantasy, and mystery/crime.
- “A story that, at its core, is about a couple coming together to form a family unit.”
—Steven Axelrod, agent
- “If you can take the love interest out and it’s still a story, it’s not a romance.”
—Jayne Ann Krentz, author
Chick-Lit: often humorous romantic adventures geared toward single working women in their twenties and thirties.
Christian: romances in which both hero and heroine are devout Christians, typically focused on a chaste courtship, and mentioning sex only after marriage.
Contemporary: a romance using modern characters and true-to-life settings.
Erotica: also called “romantica,” a romance in which the bedroom doors have been flung open and sexual scenes are described in candid language.
Glitz/Glamor: focused on the jet-set elite and celebrity-like characters.
Historical: a romance taking place in a recognizable historical period.
Multicultural: a romance centered on non-Caucasian characters, largely African-American or Hispanic.
Paranormal: involving some sort of supernatural element, ranging widely to include science fiction/fantasy aspects such as time travel, monsters or psychic abilities.
Romantic Comedy: a romance focused on humor, ranging from screwball antics to witty interplay.
Romantic Suspense: a novel in which an admirable heroine is pitted against some evil force (but in which the romantic aspect still maintains priority).
Sensual: based on the sensual tension between hero and heroine, including sizzling sex scenes.
Spicy: a romance in which married characters work to resolve their problems.
Sweet: a romance centered on a virgin heroine, with a storyline containing little or no sex.
Young Adult: written with the teenage audience in mind, with a suitably lower level of sexual content.
Last week I posted a discussion about classifying your writing into the right genre in order to target the crafting of your manuscript, the agents you query, and the market you focus on. Here’s a little follow-up on that with a blog post by very-wise-literary-agent Jessica Faust of BookEnds Literary.
A very important point to remember in all similar discussions is that the information is there to enlighten you and help you form your own thoughts about the subject. Not every piece of advice is right for everybody. Not every writing rule is set in stone. Not every work of art, including that masterpiece you just might be working on right now, fits neatly into a genre compartment. But all the advice and rules have been wrung out and verified as helpful by the blood, sweat, and tears of thousands of writers and agents and editors before you, so it’s wise to go ahead and listen, ponder, and evaluate what it all means to your own career and potential masterpieces.
Kurt Vonnegut said, “Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.” Considering his fame and success, it’s probably a good idea to listen just a little harder.
I’m not exactly sure what I think about such a tight focus on your audience. I’m hard-headed, I know. I have a huge urge to try to appeal to as wide a fan base as possible. But there’s a balance somewhere between reaching a wide audience shallowly and reaching a narrow audience deeply, and I’m not sure where that balance is. I’d love to hear more thoughts on that, so please let me know what you think.
And it would do you good to wander around Ms. Faust’s blog and website a little and see what other good nuggets she has to offer.
Stop Writing for Everyone
Agent Jessica Faust
Apr 1, 2021
I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and neither are you and neither is your book. So stop trying to write for all readers.
Write Your Genre
I think one of the biggest mistakes authors make, especially early on, is worrying too much about what will make their book appealing to everyone. You won’t. You can’t. Even today’s biggest selling books have their detractors. Heck, they have haters as much as they have lovers.
Your book is YA or it’s adult. It’s not both. If you’re super lucky you’ll have some crazy breakout book that will sell to all audiences, but when writing and querying the book you are appealing only to one. Harry Potter was not written for adults, neither was Twilight or Hunger Games. They were read by adults, but the authors never wrote them trying to make them appeal to everyone. They just did.
Your book can’t be a romance and a mystery and SFF and a memoir. It is one of those things. It might absolutely have elements of the others, but at the end of the day you’re writing a book with an eye toward one of the audiences above.
Writing Your Book
The same holds true of writing the book itself. Too often I see writers confined by the so-called rules (often passed along in writing groups) that keep them from really just writing a great book.
Even when choosing a genre, you will still not appeal to every reader within the genre. Not every romance reader likes romantic comedy, or bad boy heroes, or historical. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write them, that just means your book won’t be every romance reader’s cup of tea.
Choose Your Agent
The same holds true when choosing agents. I am not the agent for every writer. I don’t represent SFF or middle grade and I wouldn’t know where to start, I’m not great at hand-holding, and, whether you want it or not, you’re going to get (potentially) tough editorial feedback from me. Some of you might think all of those things are great. Others would rather find someone else. Either choice is great and perfect.
When searching for an agent I can’t stress enough how important it is to find the right fit for you. That’s not necessarily your best friend’s agent, your sister’s agent, or your professor’s agent. It’s your agent. Your business partner.
I would give the same advice to any reader choosing the only book they get to take along on a deserted island. Find the book that’s right for you. It’s not your friend’s, your mom’s, or your sister’s. Its the one you can happily read many times and love.
Honestly, I long ago embraced that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. I long ago embraced the idea that not everyone likes me. I’m good with that. I can’t please everyone and if I did, I think I’d be doing it wrong.
Just the thought of classifying your beloved novel into a specific genre can throw your brain into a psychic maelstrom. I tripped all over myself trying to classify my first novel, and ended up sending queries to a few agents with it tagged as an action-adventure-mystery-suspense-thriller. Even that didn’t seem to excite them, but it did seem to cover most of the bases. I probably should have prefaced it with “cozy.”
It turns out that most agents and publishers…and, strangely enough, your readers…want to know pretty much what it is you’re peddling to them. Not everything fits into neat little boxes, and that’s as it should be. However, knowing what niche you’re shooting for and where your end result might best be marketed can give you a lot of help in the best way to craft the nuances of your tale.
So here’s a helpful article by former-private-investigator-turned-award-winning-novelist, writing guru, and contributing editor for Writer’s Digest (from which I snagged this post), David Corbett. It’s a little guide on wending your way through the labyrinth and coming out with a clear idea of how to construct and properly market your novel. A little perspective from someone who’s been there and was quite successful at it. Worth a look!
The Differences Between a Crime, Mystery, and Thriller Novel
To pitch the right agents, you first need to know exactly what it is you’re pitching. Learn the subtle differences among the many subgenres of suspense—and how to meet and exceed expectations in every one.
MAR 13, 2019
One of the first things to consider when setting out, therefore, is what kinds of expectations your story creates, so you can go about gratifying readers in surprising ways.
This is particularly true of writing in a genre, where conventions can seem ironclad—or all too often degrade into formula. And formula, by definition, surprises no one.
The suspense genres in particular have a number of seemingly hard and fast rules that a writer defies at his peril. And yet the most satisfying mysteries, thrillers, and crime stories find a way to create a new take on those rules to fashion something fresh, interesting, original. In other words, while you don’t want to mistakenly pitch your cozy mystery to an agent who wants only high-octane thrillers, you also want to make sure that when you connect with that cozy-loving agent, she’ll be jumping to sign you because your cozy stands out from the rest.
Here’s a map to help you navigate subgenre subtleties.
A crime is committed—almost always a murder—and the action of the story is the solution of that crime: determining who did it and why, and obtaining some form of justice. The best mystery stories often explore man’s unique capacity for deceit—especially self-deceit—and demonstrate a humble respect for the limits of human understanding. This is usually considered the most cerebral (and least violent) of the suspense genres.
Thematic emphasis: How can we come to know the truth? (By definition, a mystery is simply something that defies our usual understanding of the world.)
Structural distinctions: The basic plot elements of the mystery form are:
- The baffling crime
- The singularly motivated investigator
- The hidden killer
- The cover-up (often more important than the crime itself, as the cover-up is what conceals the killer)
- Discovery and elimination of suspects (in which creating false suspects is often part of the killer’s plan)
- Evaluation of clues (sifting the true from the untrue)
- Identification and apprehension of the killer.
Additional Reader Expectations:
The Hero: Whether a cop, a private eye, a reporter, or an amateur sleuth, the hero must possess a strong will to see justice served, often embodied in a code (for example, Harry Bosch’s “Everyone matters or no one matters” in the popular Michael Connelly series). He also often possesses not just a great mind but great empathy—a fascination not with crime, per se, but with human nature.
The Villain: The crime may be a hapless accident or an elaborately staged ritual; it’s the cover-up that unifies all villains in the act of deceit. The attempt to escape justice, therefore, often best personifies the killer’s malevolence. The mystery villain is often a great deceiver, or trickster, and succeeds because she knows how to get others to believe that what’s false is true.
Setting: Although mysteries can take place anywhere, they often thematically work well in tranquil settings—with the crime peeling back the mask of civility to reveal the more troubling reality beneath the surface.
Reveals: Given its emphasis on determining the true from the untrue, the mystery genre has more reveals than any other—the more shocking and unexpected, the better.
➤ Cozy: One of the ironic strengths of this subgenre is the fact that, by creating a world in which violence is rare, a bloody act resonates far more viscerally than it would in a more urban or disordered setting. Reader Expectations: A unique and engaging protagonist: Father Brown, Miss Marple, Kinsey Millhone. The crime should be clever, requiring ingenuity or even brilliance on the hero’s part to solve. Secondary characters can be coarse, but never the hero—or the author. Justice triumphs in the end, and the world returns to its original tranquility.
➤ Hard-boiled: The hero is a cop or PI, tough and capable. The moral view is often that of hard-won experience in the service of innocence or decency. The hero tends to be more world-weary than bitter—but that ice can get slippery. Reader Expectations: A strong hero who can “walk the mean streets but who is not himself mean,” as Raymond Chandler once put it. A realistic portrayal of crime and its milieu, with detailed knowledge of criminal methods and investigative techniques. The style is often brisk and simple, reflecting the unpretentious nature of the hero, who is intelligent but not necessarily learned. Although the hero almost always sees that justice prevails, there is usually a bittersweet resolution. The streets remain mean; such is the human condition.
➤ Police Procedural: A cousin to the hard-boiled subgenre, with the unit or precinct taking over for the lone cop. Reader Expectations: Much like the hard-boiled detective story, but with a larger cast and special focus on police tactics, squad-room psychology, station-house politics, and the tensions between the police and politicians, the media, and the citizenry.
➤ Medical, Scientific, or Forensic Mystery: A refinement of the police procedural in which the protagonists—doctors, medical examiners, forensic pathologists, or other technical experts—use intelligence and expertise, not guns, as their weapons. Reader Expectations: Similar to the police procedural, with extra emphasis on the physical details of analyzing unusual evidence.
➤ Legal or Courtroom Drama: The crime is seen through the eyes of the lawyers prosecuting or defending the case. Reader Expectations: A meticulous rendering of criminal court procedure and politics, along with how police and prosecutors work together (or don’t).