Posts Tagged ‘genre’

To each his own

Posted: March 7, 2013 by R. A. Gates in Ruth's Words
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There are as many reasons to write as there are writers. Some write to educate or enlighten. Others write to entertain. Story telling is a diverse art which has spawned all sorts of different genres from mysteries to urban fantasy, splatter punk to romance. And, thank goodness for writers, there is an audience for any kind of story the mind can conceive.

Is one genre better than another? Are thought provoking tales that relay a moral message above fun and campy stories? Is one writer better than another based on why they write? Does it matter that there are already thousands of similar books on the market? Is there no room for one more?

Recently, I was told that my story was “generic as hell” and felt like “a bad PG movie” because “faerys are lame main characters.” I felt like the worst hack alive because according to this person, I wasn’t unique enough and wasn’t taking my responsibility as a writer to educate the masses seriously. After a weekend of doubting myself, I got angry. Angry at myself for letting one person’s opinion have more weight than my own.

So what if there are already tons of books just like mine. Obviously, there is a large audience for such stories or there wouldn’t be so many—and a lot of money to be made. The great thing about being an author is that we can all share readers. I love reading the type of stories that I write, that’s why I write them. There are enough sales out there for everyone.

I will continue to write my story the way I want it, regardless if some think it is generic as hell. I know it is special and there are readers out there who will love it. Will I ask this person to read my writing again? Probably not. Some people just can’t separate their personal taste to offer subjective criticism. But thankfully, I have many wonderful writers around me who can be objective and helpful even if they don’t necessarily like my genre.

Whether you write in Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction, YA, Erotica, Literary Fiction, Horror, or in any other genre, your world shows us your reality.  Some stories require little world development, (as earth already exists).  However, others require a great deal of thought and imagination.  But whatever story you choose to write, make your world a character.

WorldCharacters.  This main element keeps me flipping the pages of any great novel.  I love experiencing life from inside characters’ minds.  It keeps me on my toes, allows me to feel what they feel, hurt when they hurt, love when they love, and hate when they hate.  Writing from a POV (Point of View) is an incredibly valuable tool to develop.  But what does this have to do with the setting – the world?

Well, how do we experience life but through our senses?  Sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.  And let’s not forget what emotions these senses evoke, the reactions they elicit.  Setting can create tension, complement the mood of the scene, add dangers and surprises to the story, and most of all – can interact with the characters.

Imagine a world without weather – a world neither cold nor hot.  A world without sunlight or darkness – without homes, jungles, mountains, beauty, or horrors.  A world we couldn’t interact with.  If we could imagine such an “environment,” it would be a pretty boring place to live.

The setting of a story allows us a unique opportunity to exaggerate real life, show emotion through a storm, torment our characters, and experience beauty of the impossible.  You might already have a great story with interesting character arcs, a tight 3 act structure, and an awesome beginning and end, but if you don’t have a developed setting, you are missing out on a wonderful opportunity for exploration and experience.

One question I ask myself after creating a new world from scratch is:  How much of this should I show in my story?  The answer?  If you’ve done your homework – created fascinating countries and cities with rich history, know the evolution of your plant life and beasts, generated interesting cultures, wars, literature, languages, games, not to mention weather, magic (if necessary), oceans, and naming conventions – do NOT include all of this in your story.  Show only about 1%.  It isn’t possible to include everything, and if you try, your story will turn out heavy and boring.  Fiction is neither the place nor time for telling.  Take a college class or read some non-fiction.

Instead, show.  Don’t tell.  Let us experience and interact with this fascinating world through the characters’ senses.  Don’t tell us of the history of an ancient palace.  Instead, let your character’s hands run over the rough cracks and ancient carvings.  Let us smell the dust in a cellar that hasn’t seen the light of day for a century.  Let us taste the sweet fruit that exists only in your imagination.  Let us fear as your unique beasts threaten us, as your storms thwart us, as your prisons break us.  Let us fall in love with the colors of your mountains, the smells of your food…  The point is, show us the story that exists in your world – don’t tell us of the world itself.

Once you have developed your world, your characters’ interactions will become richer, the plot more interesting, the arcs more tense.  And if your story doesn’t require world-building, still, let the characters interact with the environment.  If we’re in a cafe, I want to know what the coffee tastes like and if its raining outside.  Show me an argument on the streets, subtle looks of passersby, the discomfort of a three-legged chair, the annoyance of being seated beneath a fan on a cold day.  The richness of your setting allows you to show the personalities of your characters, allows them to interact more freely, and creates a more realistic impression on the reader.

So make that setting a character!  Experiment.  Let your surroundings inspire your imagination.  Both most of all, have fun doing it!  The more fun you have, the more you fall in love with your story, and the more involved you are with your characters, the better the reactions of your readers.  They will love you what you love, hate what you hate, smile when you smile, and cry when you cry.