Tag Archives: genres

Let’s all be punks!

I've been toying with where to pigeonhole The Yak Guy Project when I finally finish it. It occurred to me there are a whole bunch of new categories that I might explore.

It all started with cyberpunk. It soon branched out into some of these other genres:

  • Steampunk
  • Dieselpunk
  • Biopunk
  • Clockpunk
  • Splatterpunk
  • Elfpunk
  • Magepunk
  • Wizardpunk
  • Atompunk

It seems to me the common denominator is punk. A big part of this is because everyone likes to make up new words. It's like a word for a celebrity couple, like Benifer or Kimye. In other words, it doesn't mean squat. Oh, and it also all seems to involve one of the speculative genres.

 

Let's pretend there is something to all this for a moment. These things involve alternate realities. Heck, I could get into that. I write stuff like that. They generally involve whatever fictional world being under complete control of the first half of the term. Steampunk = Steam, get it.

 

The punk part usually means that some fringe person or group doesn't agree with the status quo. They go on to face the villain using their mastery of the same technology everyone else has.

 

All in all it isn't a bad way of telling a story. I just don't love the terms. They tell me something about the era, and give me an idea of what to expect though. Dieselpunk means I expect a specific era in time, say from WWI to about the birth of the atomic age, after that it's atompunk.

 

Maybe my novel will spawn a whole new genre, yakpunk. In fact, I can see a whole bunch of new genres in my future, providing they don't already exist:

 

Monsterpunk – Frankenstein, darn.

Robotpunk – I Robot.

Apepunk…nope.

 

Alright, let me try again:

  • Flintpunk – a stone age political thriller involving tribes and species.
  • Bowpunk – angsty young archers storm the castle.
  • Rocketpunk – may already exist.
  • Bronzepunk – Are we not entertained?
  • Punkpunk – a late 20th century setting with lots of music.
  • Circuspunk – crazed clowns are overthrown by freaks riding circus elephants.
  • Crudepunk – the oil industry battles the EPA over leases and nature preserves.
  • Ritalinpunk – just, no.
  • NASCARpunk – self explanatory.
  • Junkpunk – everyone lives in a junkyard and government scavengers are taking all the best junk.
  • Spelunkpunk – everyone lives in caves, and access to daylight is denied. Thank god for some wild eyed youths.
  • Cowpunk – westerns with oppressive controls in place.
  • Romancepunk – despite an oppressive regime, love conquers all.
  • Heropunk – everyone is a hero. A group of outcast youths become villains to balance the scales.
  • 50shadespunk – everyone is a sex weirdo, but a group of friendship ring wearing virgins stand up for their rights.
Okay, enough. What do you think about genres? What about genres that are too specific? Do you think fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, and even horror are enough?

  • Authorpunk – in a world where everyone is an author (Somebody help me. Send beer.)
  • Artillerypunk – (I'm not kidding, send beer.)
  • Siliconebarbiepunk – (Maybe something stronger)

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Building author fences

This is going to be a bit of a free writing exercise. It occurs to me that when we write fiction, we are building fences for ourselves.

It occurs to me that with every word we write, we build a fence. To illustrate, let’s start with a title. I’ll pick on myself, and my book Will O’ the Wisp. Readers are going to expect that at some point in the story, it’s going to relate to a Will O’ the Wisp. Nothing is completely fenced in yet, and it could be a metaphorical thing someone is chasing. In my case it involved an actual Will O’ the Wisp.

On page one we will introduce a character. I introduced Patty Hall as a fifteen year old girl. I fenced myself into not making the story all about a man of any age. There can be male characters, and there were.

By the end of the first chapter, we knew Patty wore corrective leg braces, and the story was set in the 1970s.

This means a fence went up technologically. Patty couldn’t listen to an iPod, or use a cellular phone. She’s going to get grief over her leg braces. This can be real or imagined, but it needs to happen.

Every word we write helps fence in our story. We need to remember the fences we’ve already built as we get deeper into the story. If we establish a firm genre, like mystery, we probably can’t abandon that half way through and turn it into science fiction. There might be some ability to move from closely related genres, like mystery and suspense. The fence means it isn’t going to suddenly become a cute romance halfway through act 2.

In a similar fashion, if vampires burn up in the sunlight, they can’t suddenly start running around on a sunny beach.

There are some stories that cross genres, but that gets established early on. Star Wars is both fantasy and science fiction. There was a fence though, it didn’t suddenly become a comedy.

Readers expect certain things. We can surprise them, and hope we do. It still has to happen within the fences we built. This doesn’t prohibit the first zombie from showing up in Act 3. It means you have to build a fence that lets readers know there are zombies before they see one. This is foreshadowing.

I suppose if I want to keep pushing this idea, editing is moving the fences around to better enclose the parcel.

I really don’t know where I’m going with this, but I’ve always thought of writing like building fences. By the time I get to Act 3, I have my story almost completely fenced off. I’m just closing my parcel off in the denouement stage.

I warned you this was free writing. Does this make sense to anyone except me?

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Genres, and why isn’t there one called guy fiction?

S. K. Nichols blogged today about her desire to write a story outside her usual genre. I commented and support her doing it. You can, and should, check out her post here. I’ve had genres on my mind lately too.

I stay in the science fiction, fantasy, paranormal orbit with my writing. Many people who read one, will occasionally read the others. It isn’t quite as big a leap as getting from western to erotica.

Common advice is to pick a lane and drive in it. Maybe I just have a hard head, but I don’t exactly follow that advice. If others did every time, we never would have gotten Pillars of the Earth, and I loved that story.

What is a genre anyway? My story, Arson, is science fiction because it’s futuristic, has aliens, and involves technology that doesn’t exist. There is also a murder mystery and a bit of romance involved. I wouldn’t call it erotica by any stretch, but sex plays a role. What hole to you shove a pentagram shaped peg into?

I also wrote Will ‘O the Wisp. This is a paranormal story about a fifteen year old girl. It will be suitable for a younger crowd.

Maybe I’d be better off to focus my stories and only write towards one goal. I just can’t do that. People are more complicated than simply saving the princess. Life gets in the way and creates its own obstacles. Life happens to my characters.

I like to make comparisons to film. I’ve watched Arnold Schwarzenegger lop off Thulsa Doom’s head and pitch it down the stairs. I’ve also seen him scurrying about town trying to buy a special Christmas toy for his son. If actors can be versatile, I think authors can too. Arnie never took on a special stage name for different roles.

Think about Tom Hanks. I suffered in outer space with this guy. I also fell in love with Meg Ryan along with him. Guys can enjoy a broad spectrum of stories, and we can write them too. Panama is paranormal, but is also a buddy story like Hank’s Woody is to Buzz Lightyear.

I think the genres are there to help readers shop. They really aren’t there to pigeonhole authors. Right now I have two science fiction stories, and one paranormal story published. The next one on the backlist is going to be a fantasy. After that is another paranormal story, but suitable for kids. Is that one going to be paranormal or young adult?

I noticed there are several categories directed toward women readers. There is romance, chick lit, paranormal romance, erotica, and most urban fantasy. Why is there no guy fiction? Movies produced in that style always seem to sell well. The publishing world needs a “Yippie Ki Yay, Motherfucker” category. It would certainly help me shop at times.

Sometimes I want to read about not only defeating evil, but kicking it’s ever loving ass into next year and mopping the blood up later. What category is that one? For a while I was reading Warhammer books about Gotrex and Felix, because there wasn’t anything else that fit my needs. (They aren’t that good, but they filled the need.)

I decided long ago to write the stories I want to read. I’m versatile, so what? There’s a bit of ass kicking in some of my stories. There’s a strange romance in one. If I ever write about the couple in Africa it might require a consultation with Meg Ryan, or Drew Barrymore. I’m a guy, but I’m a complete guy. Sometimes I want blood on the streets, and sometimes I want to wake up on a boat with Kathleen Turner. If I feel like writing it, I’m going to write it.

I can’t rewrite the categories single handedly. I suppose I need to learn more about them and place my stories to their best advantage.

I will continue to write what I’d like to read (and I read broadly). I may never sell in the millions, but it’s who I am. You’re welcome to tag along.

What do you guys do? Do you stay with one category and master that one? Are you more like me, and change it up on occasion?

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