Thursday, February 24, 2011

Genre: A Home for Your Story

Current Project: Blindsight
Status: 87% First Draft

I don’t believe in chasing trends. However, if a genre or subgenre seems to be on the rise and a story or character you’re developing fits like ice cream in a cone, there’s nothing wrong with tweaking the story to fit the genre, IMHO.

For example, a few months ago I was in the process of prewriting what started out to be a Contemporary YA with a strong mother/daughter conflict. I’d come up with plot twists and characters and my protagonist’s internal and external goals and conflicts. Included were a mad-scientist mother; a rebellious daughter; an accident with a time machine; zombies (of a sort); a missing father and brother; and a love interest who turns out to be half-alien (revealed at the end, which leads into the sequel).

But there were ways in which the story didn’t quite fit into the contemporary world. For instance, I couldn’t seem to come up with a believable way for two twelve-year-old boys to break into the mother’s lab. Nowadays, with the security available in top-secret government laboratories, nothing seemed to work. Then there were the ‘zombies’, who seemed to move the story into the paranormal realm. But the time machine and alien boyfriend gave the story a science fiction-ish feel.

Then I took an online class to learn more about an up-and-coming genre: Steampunk.

Although I’d taken the class out of simple curiosity (I roomed with a steampunk writer named Mae Pen at the Emerald City Writers’ Conference), by the end of the first week of class, I knew I’d found the right genre for my story.

Talk about excited; I was thrilled! Mad scientists and zombies are perfectly acceptable characters in steampunk tales. Home laboratories were the rule in the Victorian era, and steampunk stories most commonly have a Victorian setting. Girls rebelled against society’s restrictions – think Suffragettes. Wild scientific theories and inventions abounded. Everything clicked.

Descriptions, settings, dialogue, manners, perhaps even history will all change from my original vision. New elements will be added. My inspiration for the entire story, a title that popped into my head one day while I was feeding the dog, sadly has to go. ‘The Fixer-Upper Boyfriend’ no longer fits. *SIGH*

But I’m okay with that. Maybe ‘the fixer-upper boyfriend’ was never supposed to be a title; maybe the phrase was meant only to inspire one heck-of-a-good story!

What do you think? Am I chasing a trend?


Paty Jager said...

Sarah, it sounds like a fun story! And I think the class came at an advantageous time for you and helped you ground your book where it needed to be.

Genene Valleau said...

Hi, Sarah!

From the passion in your post, I'd say you are following your heart and happened to find a subgenre that described what you wanted to do in your story anyway. Pretty much the perfect fit you mentioned in your first paragraph.

Sounds like a fun story!

Sarah Raplee said...

Thanks for the comment, Paty! I think you're right. :-)

Sarah Raplee said...

Genene, you're so right! This is a very fun story to write, and steampunk is a perfect fit. :-)
Thanks for commenting!