Showing posts with label Genre. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Genre. Show all posts

Monday, May 17, 2010

Inside a Criminal's Mind

I consider myself a character-driven writer because I enjoy exploring the human condition in my fiction.  It's no surprise, then, that I chose to focus on crime in my first manuscript.  More specifically, I'm following a man's journey in a downward spiral from depressed but functioning member of society, to criminal.  The buildup of resentment towards an unfair society leads to the inevitable breaking point.  In that moment of blinding frustration and anger, the shift occurs and an outlaw is born.

Crime and literature have a rich history together.  Daniel J. Kornstein says, "Literature and crime live in happy symbiosis.  Literature often depends on crime for a good story, and that story often in turn yields important insights about crime." (Source)  Regardless of the magnitude of the crime, whether it involves breaking a taboo or outright murder, the perpetrator arrives at a moment of decision and chooses to commit it.  Not everyone turns to crime when the opportunity arises.  Getting inside the mind that does provides fascinating fodder for fiction.

A wonderful selection of articles on the topic of crime in literature can be found HERE.

I picked up a copy of Devil Bones by Kathy Reichs yesterday.
She is one of my favorite crime fiction authors.
Who's yours?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Steampunk Dreams

I'm all for stretching my style and stepping outside my writer's comfort zone, but there's one genre I've never attempted (and want to): Steampunk.

Steampunk, for those unfamiliar with the category, is a sub-genre of science fiction and speculative fiction, and is characterized by elements of fantasy. The style gained popularity in the 1980s, when sci fi writers played the 'What-if' game with these types of questions: What if we'd figured out how to explore space one hundred years earlier than we did, when steam power was prominent? What would Victorian Age spaceships look like? How would giant leaps in technology, if they occurred in the 19th century, have changed history?

The imagination needed to write successful Steampunk blows my mind.

My son enjoyed Larklight, by Philip Reeve so much that I told him I'd read it when he was finished, so we could discuss it 'book club-style.' At the time, I'd never heard of Steampunk. I was immediately captivated by the seemingly regular characters in such an unusual setting. It's about an English brother and sister duo, who live in a Victorian house that's actually a spaceship orbiting far beyond the moon. The story opens when a gentleman arrives for a visit, sparking a terrifying yet marvelous adventure that includes space pirates, giant spiders and a universe in peril. My son and I highly recommend it!

One of these days, I'm going to try writing a Steampunk tale. It'll take some mind expanding I'm not sure I'm capable of, but who knows? Maybe the right inspiration will set off a muse-rattling explosion in my head.

In the meantime, I'll enjoy the imaginations of others already brave enough to imagine a Steampunk'd world (and maybe feel inspired!):

Artist Bob Fett has done some amazing series of Steampunk images. His historical artwork is equally impressive. For some Steampunk/Cyberpunk/Historical Fiction inspiration, view more of his work HERE.

And, maybe images like these (these are not the work of Fett, btw) will spark my imagination:

How about you? Have you tried Steampunk? Is there a genre way outside your comfort zone you'd like to attempt?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Genre Headache

As I work through the first draft of my WiP, I realize identifying a genre to describe my work will be an ongoing process. My style tends toward literary fiction, in that I explore the human condition through character-driven storytelling. I'm a fan of lush descriptions, a poetic voice. On the other hand, the plot I've devised is riddled with suspense. The stakes are high, life-threatening. Each character is plagued with conflict borne from psychological tensions. Oh yes, and there's romance in there too. Is there a blanket genre that covers all those characteristics?

Perhaps there is. Perhaps, I'm writing a work of commercial fiction. says, "Commercial fiction uses high-concept hooks and compelling plots to give it a wide, mainstream appeal...Like literary fiction, the writing style in commercial fiction is elevated beyond generic mainstream fiction. But unlike literary fiction, commercial fiction maintains a strong narrative storyline as its central goal, rather than the development of enviable prose or internal character conflicts." (Read all their genre definitions HERE.)

The verdict's still out. Hopefully, my beta readers (*waves to DL!*) will help me categorize my work before researching agents. And that, my dear friends, is still in the (near?) future.

Does your WiP fall gracefully under one genre heading? Have you found an umbrella genre that pretty much covers your work's characteristics? Do you wish there was a genre called "Other?"

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Alternate Version Blogfest Entry

I'm going to share my blogfest entry in a minute, but first I want to explain this photo. As usual, I was up and at my computer around 5:45 this morning. My daughter woke early, even though it's Spring Break, but I didn't realize she was up. When I came down from my office for a bathroom break, this is what I found. Sidney had transformed the hall bathroom into a crime scene. It's the first, I'm sure, of many April Fool's gags to come today.

Actually, this pic is a perfect illustration for today's post, since a crime has definitely been committed in this blog entry. The following exercise was prepared for Livia Blackburne's Alternate Version Blogfest. We were challenged to take a scene from our story and re-write it in another style.

Writing in other genres, or different styles, is hard for me! The grooves in my author's fingerprints run deep. But, in the spirit of trying something new and stretching the old writing muscles, here it goes.

This excerpt is taken from a short story called When Opposites Attract. I was already way outside my comfort zone when I wrote the story, which was penned for a contest that only accepted Speculative Fiction. Below is the original snippet, and then a new version written with the flare of drama/chick lit romance. (Although, even I don't think: (A)That's actually a real genre; and (B)that I hit my mark. :P)

Original Version

Marla caught up to him and matched his long stride. “No shit, Robb. But that’s not the point. The Federation did take over and you no longer have clearance to be here. Disobeying the Federation is an act of treason. If you’re caught…”

He spun on her, grabbing her arm in a vice-like grip. “Now why would I get caught?”

His tone was dangerous, threatening. How far before a stretched rubber band breaks? He’d already come close to the edge of reason with Marla recently, when he’d walked in on her and Steve. That day, he’d understood how people can snap, grab a weapon and take out a few well-deserving people. In the dark days that'd followed, he’d fantasized about tying Marla up, torturing her until she hurt as much as he did. He’d been pathetic, twisted by tormented emotions, but he’d gotten a grip on himself. He'd resolved to be content on hurting her in small ways every chance he got, with spiteful words and defamatory rumors, little pressure valve acts to release his emotional tension and avoid a massive explosion. But the pain was still fresh. God help her if she pushed him now.

Marla was the one to break his gaze. She looked away, hugging her files to her chest. He turned and marched on, though he was aware of her soft footfalls behind him.

Alternate Version

Marla caught up to him, the rapid-fire clacks of her stilettos echoing down the corridor. “Please, Robb! That’s not the point. You can’t be caught here; it’s too dangerous. You just can’t!”

He stopped and turned, his right eyebrow raised. “Now, why would I get caught, sweetheart?”

His voice oozed sarcasm. What did this pretty little thing know about Federation business? Not to say she wasn’t a bright woman, she was employed here, wasn’t she? His eyes drifted down from her face, settling on the rise of suntanned flesh peeking out of her low-cut blouse. Robb released a loud sigh, meeting Marla’s eyes again.

“I appreciate your concern, really I do. Hey, I have an idea,” he added brightly. “Why don’t I give you the keys to my Porche. You go on down and wait for me there, and when I’m finished here, I’ll buy you that drink we keep talking about.”

He noticed she didn’t blink her ice blue eyes. She’d turned down his advances twice already, but when you’re dealing with a goddess like Marla, it was worth another shot. His smile waned to a smirk in the vacuum of her silence. Time was wasting, but he gave her another ten seconds to decide.

Marla was the one to break his gaze. She looked away, hugging her files to her chest. He turned and marched on, though he was aware of the clickity-clack of her shoes behind him.


If you're interested in reading someone's entry who did a fantastic job with this challenge, visit Jen Brubacher @ Scribo Ergo Sum I loved reading her snippets and thought she really captured each different genre's style (she did three!)

And I hope you check out the other participants' blogs today. Find the Mr. Linky list by clicking HERE.

Have a fab day!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spotlight on Literary Fiction

Literary Fiction is often thought of as a catch-all genre for writing that doesn’t fit comfortably into easily designated genres like chic lit, mystery, science fiction, political drama, speculative fiction, etc. Most people’s definitions for works of Literary Fiction include phrases like: “provocative writing with heavier language and lush descriptions”; “complex character-driven plots”; “leaves a deep, powerful impression on the reader”; and “multilayered novels that wrestle with universal dilemmas.”

I consider myself a Literary Fiction writer because of the characteristics that naturally arise in my work. I’m drawn to the complexities of a character’s personality, and my focus is foremost on the inner conflicts pulling the person in opposing directions. My writing style tends to include desciptive language that shows more than tells, and I like to indulge in literary devices. Also, I want my work to say something. Usually, I don’t start a story with a character or plot idea. Instead, a theme forms in my mind and the story becomes a vehicle to deliver that theme.

My greatest challenges within the genre are coming up with interesting plots to support my characters’ journey of self-discovery, and finessing my writing so the tone and language aren’t pretentious or convoluted. Many of my rewrites concentrate on voice and making the writing sound poetic and beautiful instead of grandiose and ostentatious. defines literary fiction as: "serious fiction with claims to literary merit, and focuses more on style, psychological depth, and character. (As opposed to genre or popular fiction)." Here are the top ten Literary Fiction novels, as determined by site member votes. Are any of your favorites here?

To Kill a Mockingbird -- Harper Lee
The Catcher in the Rye -- J.D. Salinger
The Power of Persuasion -- Shelagh Watkins
Crime and Punishment -- Fyodor Dostoevsky
Jane Eyre -- Charlotte Brontë
Lord of the Flies -- William Golding
Gone With the Wind -- Margaret Mitchell
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe -- C.S. Lewis
Memoirs of a Geisha -- Arthur Golden
One Hundred Years of Solitude -- Gabriel García Márquez

To read the entire list of the top 100 member picks, click HERE.

I enjoy experimenting outside the genre of Literary Fiction, and have written short stories that include Horror, Speculative Fiction, Erotica, Action/Adventure, and Comedy. Even then, I noticed an aura of Literary Fiction aglow in each story. It's definitely true that an author's voice is as unique as her fingerprint, and its evidence can be found on everything she touches.

Do you experiment outside your genre? Can you still hear your author's voice loud and clear?