Monday, September 6, 2010

What Do You Love About Your Genre?

I came across a writing exercise today, suggested by David Farland. He said we should write down five things that we like best about the genre we write in, then write down five things that might hinder us from achieving those in our work. Then share our list with our writing buddies.

I started with Science Fiction. Here's my five things:

1. Asking the question "what if?" and exploring the effect on society and individual daily lives when something about the world changes.
2. Good solid science.
3. Prophecy--seeing what the world might look like in the future.
4. Realism.
5. Exploring deep questions of human identity. What are we? What should we be? What can we be?

And here's what could stop me:

1. Not thinking things through enough to get to the surprising details, not knowing enough about the world to arrive at a solid answer to the question, "what if?"
2. Not doing the math, not doing the research, assuming I know.
3. Not inventing unexpected things. Extrapolating rather than coming up with something no one else has ever envisioned.
4. Cheating for the sake of plot.
5. Shying away from the deep questions, staying on the surface because it is easier.

I took this list to my husband. He said it was good, but my five reasons that I love science fiction were not the reasons he loved science fiction AS A BOY. So I asked him for his childhood list of things he loved best in science fiction. Here it is:

1. Real science.
2. What if?
3. Strange new things
4. Characters to identify with (kids who were smart and curious).
5. Exploration and adventure.

So if I want to appeal to librarians (and literary agents and editors), I should delve deeper into questions about human identity in my manuscript. But if I want the kids to like it, I should add more strange new things, do more exploring, crank up the adventure.

After we were done talking about science fiction, I thought I'd come up with a list of what I liked about fantasy when I was a kid. I know what I like about fantasy now. I like epic storytelling, deep moral questions, high adventure, fascinating systems of magic, and freedom from the ordinary rules of reality. But it was different when I was a kid. I had to rewind several decades in my mind... 
"Oh, I remember! Here's what I liked about fantasy when I was a kid!
1. Dragons
2. Swords
3. Horses
4. Castles
5. Magic."

My husband laughed.
"What are you laughing about?"
"That's just what I didn't like about fantasy when I was a kid."
Oh well.


  1. LOL! Yer hubby cracks me up.

    I love your lists! Very similar to mine, and my boys are similar to your husbands. They keep asking when I'm going to blow things up and have more adventure. Sigh.

  2. Great post! It's a great idea to make lists of things that attract us to our genres. For me, I take a much simpler route. I write for much younger readers, but I am working on a chapter book also. I don't try to delve too deep into all the endless philosophical avenues (and they are endless). It gives me a headache. So, I think about the things I liked reading about as a child, and the things I like reading now (not much of a change!) and try to paint a picture for my readers that will take them to a wonderful, safe, fantasy filled wonderland where anything and everything is possible. I can't write about the everyday norm. If a story doesn't have magical creatures, unknown lands or reality defying happenings, it bores me tremendously. That's how I gauge my writing.

  3. Love the lists. Let's see, what did I like about fantasy when I was a kid. Dragons, magic, more dragons and magic, and adventure.

    What do I like about it now. Dragons, magic, adventure, and beautiful writing. I guess I've grown up some. Not much, but some.

    Love the post. :)

  4. Love it, Leisha! My favorite Brandon Sanderson quote: "In fantasy you can do anything that can be done in any other genre, only you get to do it with dragons."


What be on yer mind?