Tag Archives: genre

Diversity

I like to think I have a wide variety of characters. I have military personnel, a woman who has a psychosis, a guarded air force pilot who’s strong willed and hard up front, a politician, a struggling artist, aliens who come from a different world into another to try and make their lives in a less hostile place, space faring dinosaurs that want nothing but to gnaw on all the mammals in the universe, though some of them are more peacekeepers than warlords.

Last year, I found out my dentist actually writes novels, and crazy, wild, awesome ones. Erotica, body farming, time travel. It was incredible to me to find this out, someone I’d been going to for years and I just found this out.

It made me stop to look back at myself, what I was doing, how I was doing it. It made me see the space opera I was writing and wonder how it compared, see how tame or crazy it was.

What I didn’t do was look at the dynamic, and look at the details and pieces that haven’t been done much or at all. The childless 42 year old female leader who wanted to forge ahead in her career first. The elderly couple who still enjoys having sex. The equality that is so marked in every chapter. The naval officer who is filled with a sense of dread every time he thinks of his child wanting to sign up for the military like he did. Things you just don’t hear about. Sex drives and fear in places where honor should be and courage in people you wouldn’t expect, and the hardened, all-or-nothing attitudes from women.

I’m not saying no one else has done it. I didn’t get the idea because of my own pure genius, but because I was affected by something similar.

But looking at that, I see that I have another list. People and topics and character dynamics and details to fit in that I haven’t done before. Transgender characters don’t come to me immediately for the same reason mothers and fathers don’t unless they’re for established characters. I’m not one. It’s not because I don’t like them, it’s just that it isn’t in my arsenal of what I know yet, but that’s easy to fix by at least making an effort to make one or several.

I still need to write a same-sex romance with men, I’ve done several with women. I need a transgender character, I need mothers, fathers, I need aunts and uncles and close knit, bigger families, I need aromantic people, I need genderless people, I need color and I need spice, I need more, to really push myself, to test my limits.

And looking at this post right now, it looks a lot like I’m saying, “I NEED to do all these things for equality in every way!” But the nature of the writer is to dig in deep on unknown territory and just go. If I don’t give myself that chance, I have an unexplored avenue that I might actually know how to do some justice, like the short story I wrote about a polyamorous triad starting a family. It had quirks and bits and pieces that made it more unique.

Tropes are tropes are tropes. They aren’t ever going to be something else, but ‘trope’ isn’t a bad word if you give it your own personal spin, if you know how to cover it in your own spice and put it out on your stage and tell it exactly what to do.

What really matters is letting yourself explore, because keeping yourself in a box isn’t challenging yourself, it’s not forcing you to think critically and research and reach out and wonder, and I think that’s what I love.

You will always have something, a character, a genre, a setting, that you’re strongest with, that is your best bet to do the best justice possible, but let yourself learn, too. Familiar is only so good to you for so long before it tends to get a little worn. When there’s a whole wide world of knowledge and creativity and color out there, choose not to stand in place.

The Novice Wordsmith

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Stubbornness vs. Rightness

In the past couple of months, I’ve been working a full time job at a very busy veterinary hospital. And when I say hospital, I mean it: it’s 24 hours, there’s urgent care staff on ’round the clock, they have an operating room, they book several surgeries a day ranging from simple (spay, neuter) to complex (mass removals, etc), and they have as many as 20 doctors employed.

It had been a job I wanted for years, literally. When I was unemployed, I applied twice, interviewed twice, and was rejected twice. I loved the idea of being up front and helping people, and being able to reach out and be part of the help they were seeking for their pet.

The problem was, despite the fact that they were so intensely, crushingly busy, and I never reacted well to that, I still took it up eagerly. It was a very quick process that left my head spinning, and my first day there was disastrous, but I was determined to stick with it. And so the second day was better, and the third, and I kept learning and getting better at what I was doing until I was turned loose as an independent part of the system.

And it got worse from there.

It is really hard for me to admit that I am absolutely bad at being under pressure in a constant cycle. I can do it when it happens every so often, I’ve found ways to handle it before, but when it springs up unexpectedly and often, it gets to me. It’s hard to handle, and I make more mistakes because I’m just trying to get through things.

I was not going to let that get in the way. I felt like it was just circumstance, and I’d get better. Even though I would come home, feeling the lack of communication with certain close friends and the huge cut in free time I had, considering moving on to a different job, I stuck it through.

Shit, I even pined for the old job I had some days, but I figured I would be fine. No big deal. It was just me having a bad day.

And then I lost the job.

On top of feeling depressed about the outcome, I felt relieved. I kept finding reasons to be okay with it. I mean, I was still flabbergasted at how out of the blue it was, the final day of my probationary period, and I was getting axed because they could do that still, but part of me was glad for it.

And it came to me yesterday, that the job really wasn’t for me. I came home from the interview (which was a simple observation for two hours) feeling the emotional drain and knowing it might be a bit much for me. The first day was nightmarish. I had been considering not saying yes to it in the beginning, but I went with it anyway because it was an opportunity, it was what I wanted.

But you have to realize that sometimes, what you think you want isn’t always going to be what fits you.

I wanted to write this to impart this wisdom on everyone, as it applies to writing and challenging yourself to genres you aren’t used to or characters you don’t do so well with, or really anything, whether it’s someone else’s suggestion for you and your wish to see it out, or your own thinking that you should be able to do something.

It is 100% okay to not be cut out for something, no matter what it is. 

Just that the hard part is convincing yourself of that, if you’re as stubborn as I am.

If something becomes too much, or it isn’t enough, or it’s just overwhelming, you reserve the right to tell it no and move on to something that feels better. Do not worry.

This pertains as much to NaNo as possible, too, considering you may be trying something new out. If it doesn’t work, find something else and jump on. Shift gears. Get comfy somehow else. You’re allowed to. It’s all part of the learning process, isn’t it?

-The Novice Wordsmith

Hopeless Romantic

I have been trying for months to write this post and do it justice. Romance as a genre and a subgenre have made a huge impact on my writing, as they’ve been a big part of it since the beginning. Action was always a close second, but romance had my attention from the get go and it never let go.

Romance, and any intimacy, really, is as personal as it gets, sometimes. When it comes to love, it’s an  emotion in control of you, it has you wanting to press up against someone, brush your lips across theirs, slide your hands up their sides, pull them in close, kiss them hard and hot and not come up for air until you have to. It’s intoxicating and exciting, with a strong draw and a very good chance to write itself.

Sex itself may not be the most personal. Anyone can do it, it can be a one-night stand and a bad experience, or it can be the most invigorating thing your character’s done, but still make them feel like they’re missing something.

The first step for romance is always chemistry. How does your couple get along at first? What draws them to each other, or are they butting heads from the beginning?  The cultivation of their chemistry, from weak to strong or strong to stronger, can be just as slow or quick as you like it, something that is sometimes dictated by the pace of the novel itself.

The second step is obviously to plot out the course of the relationship. It can range from rough and rocky with triangles galore, to mostly smooth sailing with bumps to overcome. What sort of problems do they have to overcome together or separately, publicly or privately? Is one of them heavily guarded or scatterbrained?

Step three is previous partners, which can have a wild impact on the way they treat the current one. The damage done, or not done, can set the pace for the next romance just as much as the chemistry can, and it can give you more or less to work with depending on what you decide. Old partners who hurt them, psychologically, emotionally, or physically, can contribute to intense scenes, unexpected reactions, and long, quiet nights curled up together, or apart.

These elements fill out what you need, but above all else, you’ll need passion, care, the intensity I mentioned, and a fire to blaze, however tall or short it reaches.

Love, in its own, is a strong, beautiful emotion that can turn ugly or be something so deeply cherished or longed for. It creates comfort and happiness, warmth, amusement. It is a turn on a ride that you never want to end, where being held by them can be either the most satisfying or excruciating thing to endure, depending on when it happens.

Some genres/sub genres may be just as easy for you as this is for me, how natural it is, how effortless it is to write out the way to people come together and chronicle their passion, however short-lived it is, or if it lasts the rest of their lives. Their intimacy and struggles in the midst of a large conflict, those sweet moments captured in the soft language and loving glances.

I figured I’d end this with one of my favorite quotes, which comes from a book I’ve never read: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. Gorgeous as it is evocative.

Happy loving~

-The Novice Wordsmith

Guest Post: You and Your Genre Shadow

As the Novice Wordsmith and I start gearing up for this year’s NaNoWriMo in November, I always start playing with genre ideas. And whenever someone asks what they should write about, I always answer with this:

“Well, what’s your genre?”

Without knowing the answer to that question, your novel is going to be an orphan plot idea and a character in search of a direction. You can have a great character concept, but without knowing what genre the story they star in falls into, you’re going to be going through the motions of living without much plot potential.

(Slice of Life is actually a genre type. It’s used for sitcoms most often.)

Some genres define the universe (Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Steampunk for example), and some define the type of plot (Mystery, Drama, Crime, Romance), and others classify the expectations of how the novel is written (Journal, Young Adult, Advice). It’s a box that when someone opens the cover, they know what kind of things lie inside the pages.

It’s easy to pick your favorite genre and write in it exclusively. Your writing voice is all about comfort, because if you aren’t comfortable with what you’re writing, you won’t want to write it, usually. But as Wordsmith alluded to in a previous post, you can push the envelope of your comfort zone. Why write what you usually write, especially when you’re just getting started? The first novel or story you write is to prove that you can finish what you start. But that doesn’t have to be your genre.

Some folks like writing along similar lines. They have a favorite genre that they live in, because their writing flows naturally to that place. They fall in love with their personally crafted universe and stay there. They become a genre author without even realizing it, because they think, ‘Oh, why stop at one novel, why not a trilogy, or a series?’

The best and worst thing to be is known as a specific genre author, because you wind up writing more and more of that genre. You wind up with fans of your work and they judge your new book in the same genre (if not the same universe) by the previous ones. If you write something new in a different genre, it will be compared to your other genre and you will be measured. “Eh, so and so writes better SF books than fantasy.” This is nothing wrong, necessarily, because sometimes _readers_ prefer one genre over others, and when you, ‘their’ author, write out of their genre, they’re going to be a harder sell.

My advice to you is to push yourself. Deliberately write in different genres just to see if other ones work for you. Don’t just write in the same space of your favorite authors – go to the library or bookstore and go to a different section. Pick out a book by an author that has a lot of titles on the shelf, and flip through a few pages. See if the style and feel is alien to you, or makes sense.

Then write in that genre the next time you put pen (electronic or otherwise) to paper (ditto). See what happens.

If you want to get fancy and go for even more challenging? Do a mashup of genres. Don’t just say, ‘I’m writing a horror novel.’ Try ‘steampunk/mystery’ or ‘horror/journal’, or go out on a limb and try ‘science-fiction/advice/journal’ — that last one, by the way, is how I would classify the Zombie Survival Guide.’

The point of getting out of ‘your’ genre is not just to push you to do something different, by the way – it’s a growth experiment. If you want to be a paid author, but the market that your genre fits into is saturated, you should be able to shift gears and write in spaces where the market needs stories.

Not only that? It avoids getting into novels that are superficially similar to each other; some series authors fall into that sort of trap. Expanding your repertoire of writable genres means that you can get away from ‘home’ and find an adventure waiting to happen by the side of the proverbial author’s road, no matter how alien it may seem at first.

When I participate in the NaNoWriMo, I look at what I did last year — genre first, and say, “I am not doing that genre this year.” It’s another way of writing without looking back.

Challenger

One of the things I look for most in finding something new to write, is to see what I have yet to do or get practice on. Do I need a villain, or a healer, or have I had someone who’s a certain kind of artist? What genres have I been writing in? What haven’t I written in?

Comfort zones are called that for a reason. You have your go-to characters, genres, style and etc that you default to, that you feel like you write best in. Such as with drawing; you can draw humans well, or women better than men, or animals better than anything. But reaching out helps not only round you out, but teaches you something, about the dynamic of what you’re working on, and things you may not have considered before.

As someone who writes romance well and has never had a hand at mystery before, it comes more easily for me to write in romantic interest between the main characters than it does to write out sneaky twists and hidden plot lines. The wickedness and greed of the wrong-doer does not come to me as naturally as the subtle, sweet grin of the main character to their current interest.

We find our niche, it is our kind of art, it’s what we see the most of in our head.

But when we venture out of our comfy nook, we find something else to play with. We find all new opportunities, and we can both weave them into our typical writing, and find new possibilities outside of it.

Find what you haven’t touched yet. What you’re not used to, and don’t be afraid to go for it. Think of it like sketching, practicing and finding your way through something new or mostly untouched. It may not be the easiest thing you’ll do, but imagine how it’ll help your skill:

  • Learn from suspense and thrill in action/adventure with scenes that can oftentimes end in explosions. It can help teach good buildup and plot hooks, and add some mystery to keep the reader guessing, and hooked on.
  • Explore the intimacy and personal dilemmas and psyche of characters with romance. It can put the story on a different personal level or show a side to a character that would have otherwise gone unseen, which can help with giving more dimension and dynamic.
  • The limit of the heart and mind can be found in horror, as well as physical limits. Though this is one genre I have not ventured in too terribly much, suspense on a much grander scale without giving too much away helps round out hooks and hints. While scaring the bejesus out of you and your readers.
  • Mystery, though I’m still learning on this one, builds suspense in a different way, and can lend a hand in how to keep your readers in the dark without giving away too much up front, no matter how excited you are about the developments you’ve come up with.

Four among many, with plenty of inter-mixing. That’s a post for another day: why stop at just one genre when you can have three to four?! Of course, you have to be careful, sometimes it can just turn into a mess.

Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself to something you haven’t been able to sink your teeth into before. Push yourself. Learn something new. Scrape your knees up a bit, get your hands dirty. You may find you don’t care for it, but that’s the joy of exploration, isn’t it?

-The Novice Wordsmith