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Now Write! Exercise Two – Genre Breakdown

  • Posted on June 16, 2016 at 4:03 pm

In Jule Selbo’s article “Choosing your Speculative Genre”, We learn how to pick apart and use genre and subgenre in order to build up and expand our plot-points and characters. She gives a few examples of how an overarching genre is good to have as a standing foundation, but that keeping in mind subgenres as well is  important for the overall structure of the story and the narratives contained within. One such example that she gives is Pixar’s Toy Story.

TOY STORY lives in a fantastical world where toys have full lives outside of humans’ interaction with them as objects of play. TOY STORY employs:

  • comedy (based in incongruity);
  • buddy (the ar of Woody and Buzz Lightyear as they go from adversaries to friends);
  • adventure (Woody’s goal of geting Buzz back into the fold before moving day is over); and
  • action.

Jule Selbo, “Choosing Your Speculative Genre”, Now Write

Her chosen exercise, after that, has four parts.

1)Decide your overarching narrative genre. Is it based in science or solely the author’s imagination? Is there a truly EVIL component to it, or is it a “scary” story that builds anxiety? These questions will help decide your main genre.

2) Construct a scene or situation set in the overarching genre so that the audience realizes they’re ‘getting what they paid for’. At the same time, weave in one or two of the main characters. People like to get to know characters.

3) List possible supporting genres. Consider how each genre would affect the story and characters. Which ones would ramp the plot up and which would make it fall flat on it’s face?

4)Frame the story in the overarchng genre. Build that scene at the beginning, and then Book End  it with a scene at the end, closing out that overarching theme. Do the same for each scene in the story. Make sure the audience feels connected with the genre they chose to experience.

For example, the build of my first novel, A Knight of Kuryle would go something like this:

  • Overarching genre: Fantasy (Magic is possible, creatures exist that don’t in our world, and the Moon God grants all wishes his followers pray for.)
  • Side Genres:
    • Coming of Age (Dirk’s journey from farmer’s son/child of immigrants to respected knight)
    • Adventure (Dirk has to find the murderer who burnt his village, and avenge the people of his village)
    • Buddy (Dirk has to win the trust of Jorgan, an orphan from his village, while the boy works through the emotions the destruction caused.)
    • Action (Dirk must confront and fight the enemy when they come for his new home as well.)

The first chapter of the novel introduces magic in an evil sorcerer who slays all the adults of his village, and then burns the village to the ground. Likewise, it is bookended by that sorcerer attacking Dirk’s new home, the capital of his country, and Dirk’s desperate fight against the powerful magic this sorcerer wields. Fantasy is woven throughout the rest of the story as well. From the always-prosperous city of Theon’s “Starlight Road”, to the matriarchal royalty of Kuryle’s religion-saturated nobility, fantasy lays in every part of the novel, and it’s subsequent sequels.

It’s easily applied to stories as-yet unwritten, too. My most recent labor of love, which has been tentatively named A Deeper Love, is a historical era regency  novel that I’m basing (loosely) after my own life. If I were to break it down, it would go like this:

  • Overarching Genre: Historical Fantasy (Regency Era specifically)
  • Side Genres:
    • Coming of Age (The main character, Dinah, leaves her small family, and the influence of her off-putting mother, for the bustling high life of london, and in so-doing, learns more about herself, and settles into a woman.)
    • Romance (I haven’t quite figured this particular subplot out, but it’s important, as I want to write the first asexual regency romance novel)
    • Slice of Life (Showing the lifestyles in Regency London)

Sadly, there aren’t many more genres in there. I might add in a comedy subgenre, but I’m not sure how yet. So there’s that. However, playing with the subgenres definitely helps define how the story is meant to go, and with what sort of inclination. I really do enjoy this particular assignment, so it’s definitely something I’m going to be doing more and more often.

Genre Shift – IWSG 06/01/16

  • Posted on June 1, 2016 at 4:51 pm

We're here for you. It’s that time again, the time when we put ourselves out there, all our worries, fears and anxieties so that others may comfort us, and we, in turn, can comfort them. Theres nothing wrong with seeking comfort. In fact, it can be exceedingly useful, especially when one needs it.

In this case, however, the cause of my anxieties and fears come from within my own mind, and as my therapist continues to tell me, what FEELS true, often isn’t. Speaking words outloud, or in this case typing them down, often helps to change that mental and emotional lock.

So here goes.

I’m going to change genres. That’s it. That’s the source of my issue. You see, there’s quite a bit built up behind it, but that decision alone is what is causing a lot of my anxieties as a writer right now. It, of course, comes with a lot of caveats and changes and reprisals on all thoughts and functions of my mind, but in the most basic of senses, that’s it.

I’ll attempt to break it down for you, and for myself, so that I can work through the various issues I’m having. You see, I’ve always been a fantasy writer. My best works have always been fantasy. I’ve tried my hand at writing short horror stories, and found myself wanting. I’ve tried my hand at writing teen fiction, which kind of fell flat. The only thing other than straight, epic fantasy that I’ve written is fanfiction. And even that, well… Let’s just put it this way, I’m never going to give those accounts up. Over my dead body!

So when I say that I want to break out into Regency Era romance of the Asexual variety… Well, it’s a bit like saying, “Oh, I’m a fish and now I want to fly.” Technically it can be done. However, can it be done well?

Lookit this little guy. He tries so hard…

First of all, there’s the issue of the fact that I’m leaving a huge project, my nearly finished Kurylian Knight novel in the lurch by devoting time and energy to this other work instead. Then, on top of that, there’s the energy that will be taken away from managing this blog as well, and making sure it’s up and running. With my recent bouts of anxiety and depression, I’ve been having trouble with getting the basic energy just to apply to cleaning the house and caring for the children in my care. How am I ever supposed to split my energy even further to give this idea the time and care it needs to flourish?

Secondly, all of MY romances have fallen flat on their face and died, usually due to a disconnect over sex. So what am I supposed to do when writing it? What kind of romance author has literally NO successful relationships? Surely there’s someone more qualified out there to write these stories, right? But then again, this particular project has a tinge to it that’s entirely self serving that I can’t just leave to someone else. I plan on basing the first one off of myself, specifically, my life story. I can hear you now, “Really? You’re going to write self-insert fiction? Ugh. Those are the worst.” Yeah, I know. But… honestly, there’s just something about the idea that makes me want to do it. That and I watched Vanity Fair one too many times.

My third issue stems from the research required in order to try and even come close to tackling this particular genre with any sort of class or joy. Recently, it has come to my attention that I might have undiagnosed Adult ADHD. I came to this conclusion due to a sudden, and quite annoying, inability to focus on a book long enough to actually READ it. It’s part of why I’ve been having so much trouble in the first place. But the only way I’ve found to actually be able to WRITE a genre, is to READ said genre. It’s painful, but necessary. Which means reading a lot of really torrid romance novels for me. Again, where am I supposed to get the energy and time to devote to this?

The fourth problem stems from my inability to find a narrative link throughout this new project. All I really want to do is tell my biography, except set in the 1800s england that stood out so much when I watched Vanity Fair and Downton Abbey. Is that so much to ask? To set my ill-fated story in somewhere beautiful and tawdry? Possibly. But worse still, how do I break down 27 years of experiences into a novel, and have a point to it, a conclusion, when there ISN’T a conclusion to my life yet? There isn’t a narrative focus in my life, really, except perhaps finding balance where there is none, but even that’s speculation brought on by fortune telling. I could risk taking it aside, and just using bits and peices of my personal story, and not having it based entirely in my life, but then, I feel, it would lose it’s meaning to me. However, I fear that if I don’t, it won’t hold any meaning to anyone else, either. What to do, what to do…?

As you can see, genre switches, and starting new projects in general, are not fun, nor do they come lightly. It’s something I still have to muddle over and make a decision on. It’s something that will probably haunt me for the entirety of the time I write the book. I know that worries like this still plague me for my kurylian saga too. But what are we supposed to do with these worries?

Write through them. Push them to the side and tell the story that needs telling. Of course, that’s easier said than done, most often. Some writers I know have six or seven projects all open at once, and I find that if I so much as consider it, I become paralyzed with indecision. Which should I work on, which should I wait on, what should I be doing? But at the same time, the ideas come like a waterfall, no matter what. My therapist says that often times, what we can handle is more than we think it is, and then, even a little more than that. He’s encouraging me to take on more, emotionally and mentally, so that maybe, just maybe, I can grow stronger under the weight. So I think that’s what I’ll do here as well.

After all, if I don’t write the asexual regency era romance novel, who will?

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