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working writer wending her way through the labyrinth that is self-publishing

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Genre writing

I'm wondering about the process of writing genre fiction and I have several questions to pose, but before I do that I'm going to talk a bit about what I went through while working on my trilogy.

Being that Wolfmoon Trilogy is fantasy I decided to avoid Juliet Marillier, (a favorite of mine),  or other fantasy/sci-fi writers once I got into the narrative, for fear that  I might inadvertantly copy some aspects of their stories. I was bound and determined to write something fresh and different. (good luck, you say?) I wanted to create a world out of my imagination, as all writers do, concentrating on avoiding the usual suspects, such as elves, fairies, ogres, dwarves, dragons, wizards and witches. I researched Celtic myths for my gods and goddesses and found Gaelic names for the alien species that appeared in my imagination. As I write this I realize that I've forgotten how I came up with the name Crion, the people in my book who stand around four feet tall and are part of the 'keepers of the wisdom'. I'm sure there was something that brought that word to mind! The word Amuigh, another species in the story, a sort of cross between humans and apes, is Gaelic for 'outside', which I interpreted as outside the known. The Wildmen, a clan of humans that live in caves and have no laws, are also known as the duin fiain, Gaelic for wild or untamed.

In my first drafts I called the villains Fomorians, for a mythological race in Ireland, but later changed it to a Gaelic word, Oillteil, which means terrible or dreadful. Doing this allowed me to make up their description and not be hemmed in by myth or have them confused with comic book characters. Of course I've taken liberties with several myths that I hope will be forgiven in the over-all gist of the story. I also have to admit that there is a druid who is a wizard, although I don't call him that, as well as a 'seer' who is a witch.

So in conclusion I wonder how you genre writers approach your work. Do you avoid reading books in your genre or do you read them avidly? Do you worry that your characters might be too closely associated with characters in other books? How do you get around the 'usual suspects' issue?


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  2. Great questions. I did avoid certain books that I heard about while writing. I also saw some ideas that I'd read elsewhere, and loved, creeping into my book, but when I looked more closely I saw they just didn't really fit. I guess that's the best I can say, I looked very closely and asked myself if that was really right, and after a while I could tell if it was or not. Some plot elements I dumped, because they were standard ways of dealing with problems in movies and books, but when I thought about my characters as real people, I saw that nobody I actually know would do such a thing.

    1. thanks for commenting, Rachel...yes, I guess the best thing is to take care and look closely as we work!

  3. Interesting questions, Nikki. I think reading well-written books makes you a better writer. Yes, you might duplicate something, but I think your own style will bust through.

    Several good things can come from reading: you might end up saying, "I can write this well," or, "I can use this," or "that didn't work so well for her."

    Also, genre writing tends to be formulaic; similarity may well be a good result.


    1. I thought that maybe mine didn't fit because of that...but then what did it fit? I don't like similarity although I know that there are only, what? 9 stories? but you're probably right as people tend to look for certain things when buying books...
      thanks for the comment, Dane!

    2. one more thing--I'm not saying I didn't read while I was writing this--only that I tried to stay away from the same genre--I found myself very affected by the books I did read, and noticed that I was inspired by them...

  4. I don't think I have a set attitude to this. When I createc my pastiche character, Clay Cross, a composite of every pulp cliche from the noir genre aka Mickey Spillane, Hammet, and Richard S Prather, I read their books religiously until Clay finally began to speak for himself. Sometimes I will read one genre, If I think I can utilise it in an entirely different genre, and yes, there are writers I very much admire who are particularly good on setting and atmosphere that I consciously read with the hope that a little of it rubs on me. Having just read all this now, I guess I have no real hangups about the issue, ultimately it's your voice that will shine through - when it's ready.

  5. A thoughtful questlon, Nikki, and one that applies to many fiction forms including mine which lately has a lot to do with aging. As I write and read, I realize that a lot of others are dealing with this concept also and I agree with Mike it is the voice that shines through that differentiates. For instance, Julian Barnes novel The Sense of an Ending is told in an incredible voice of a sixty-something man who finds him memories may be unreliable. I wish I could do that with my old lady characters and after reading this novel, I'll keep trying.

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