Conversing with Story: Cloaking Uncertainty with Genre

Me: I want to write a historical science fiction horror story today.

Story: How nice for you.

Me: I haven’t written one in a long time. Come to think of it I’ve never written that blend of genre. Plus, they’re really hot right now.

Story: That’s true. They are selling like hotcakes.

Me: So I thought I would write one today. I think I’ll write a story about an alien robot stranded in Whitechapel who accidentally comes across Jack the Ripper. I don’t have the ending entirely worked out, but there will probably be a vampire comet about to hit the earth in there somewhere. I like comets, and vampire comets are really hot right now.

Story: Oh, joy. So let me get this straight. You thought you would sit down and bang out a science fiction horror story today. Is that right?

Me: Pretty much. Yeah. What’s wrong?

Story: Do you purposefully make this hard for me?

Me: What are you on about now? It’s always something with you.

Story: Listen, Einstein, you don’t just pick a genre, or several genres, and start slamming characters and events into it to see what happens. This isn’t Dark Age alchemy. You have to have some method, some process to follow. You know what this tells me? It tells me you have no firm vision as to what you want the story to be about. You are cloaking your uncertainty with genres. Want to write blended genres? Fine, do that. But don’t sling genres around like hash and hope they turn into something palatable for the reader. That is never going to work. Furthermore, while I”m berating you, what in the name of ink and typography are you doing writing for a market in the first place?

Me: Science fiction horror stories about vampire comets are hot right now. They’re selling like–

Story: Like hotcakes, yeah, I know. Okay, I’m going to make this real easy for you and I want you to listen because it’s very important. Never write for the market. You know why? Because you’re not writing to truth when you do that. Okay, if, for some ungodly and unfathomable reason, you are a writer whose one specialty is science fiction horror with vampire comets, then by all means go ahead. But whatever you do don’t jump on cultural bandwagons. Or at the very least, think twice before you do that. Do you realize what the lead in time is between writing a story, getting it right, submitting it, going through the editorial process, the art direction, the whole nine yards, until your story sees print? By the time that happens this whole vampire comet craze will be over and everyone will be on to something else. There you are left behind and covered in comet dust.

Me: But they’re hot right now. Vampire comets.

Story: Is that really what you want to do? Write what everyone else is writing? I mean, I have nothing personally against vampire comets, if that is your goal. Go ahead, write it! But do you want to do that…or do you want to work in your own world, with your own characters, and develop your own ideas with unlimited freedom?

Me: I guess I’d rather work in my own world. Okay, I think I understand what you are getting at. Rather than work off an idea someone else had, it would be better to use that as inspiration and develop my own ideas and my own stories.

Story: Now you’re getting it.

Me: Can I still have a comet in the story?

Story: I don’t see why not. It would make a good metaphor for the last days of the robot as he tries to catch Jack the Ripper while his internal power runs down. Something like that.

Me: You’re so helpful.

Story: That’s why I’m here. To keep you out of trouble.

Me: Full time job.

Story: You don’t know the half of it. Now quit gabbing, start writing.

Don't write for the market. Write from your heart. You'll be happier, and probably better off.




2 Replies to “Conversing with Story: Cloaking Uncertainty with Genre”

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