Genres, a brief distraction

While I type this, I can’t help but think that every word here is a word not being added to my nano novel that is several days behind.  Oh well.

When a bunch of us writers get together, and there’s some new blood in the mix, the one question that always gets passed around the table is “What do you write?” I hate that question.  I envy those that can answer with “Fantasy,” or “Young Adult” or “Post-Apocalyptic Disestablishmentarianism” or whatever.  For me, genre’s not important.  What’s important are the characters, what they do, and why they do it.  The “where” is less important to me.

If the novel I wrote last year ever hit the bookshelves, it would probably be filed under “Sci-Fi”.  There were aliens in it, giant bug things that swarmed the solar system, draining it of all its resources.  They weren’t the story though.  There are no bug-alien characters.  In fact, if I recall correctly, the protagonist only gets close to a live alien once.  The rest of the time he sees them at a distance, or as lights in the sky, or the devastation they leave behind them.  The aliens aren’t the story, the alien invasion is a catalyst that puts the story in motion, sending our main character on his Hero’s Journey, where he has to overcome many obstacles that have nothing to do with aliens or spaceships or anything else commonly found in Sci-Fi.  There’s no high-tech doodads, no sentient supercomputers, just a guy treking across the country on a bike during a disaster to find the woman he loves.  But aliens = science fiction, right?

This year, unconsciously, I decided I would show just how ridiculous genre can be.  My main character exists in our every-day world, a sort of stream of consciousnesses narrator going through his day to day life.  There are three other stories though.  There’s a Game of Thrones inspired medieval fantasy story, a science fiction space war set in the relatively near future, and a contemporary Fast and Furious inspired criminal story.  All three of the alternate protagonists are persona’s of the main character, showing off different traits he is unable to see in himself.  The plots follow the same basic structure of boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy loses girl.  Each story focuses on a different aspect of the way relationships work or don’t work, and when put together with a little bit of extrapolation, they show the history of the main character and why he is the way he is.

I’m learning a few things while writing this.  First, this is way to complicated to do without outlining.  I was a fool.  A fool I say!  Second, I am enjoying all the different stories I’m telling.  Even the main character, who annoyed me to no end at first, has become more tolerable as more of his backstory is being told through his alternate personas.

I’ve never felt the need to write a sci-fi story, or a fantasy story.  When I start out with a story idea and all I have is a genre, you can bet I’m going to be very bored with it very quickly.

And there are 550 words that could have been in my nano novel.  Meh.

In his pretend life, August Baker is a retail monkey who channels anger and loathing into something vaguely resembling literature. In his real life, he is a Space Pirate.


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