Friday, January 28, 2011
Fictional Friday -- Are There Different Rules For Different Genres?
Wow -- another Friday here at the Dandridge Estate! I keep saying that I'm going to start introducing characters to the Dandridge household -- I think I'll do that next Wednesday, on Writer's Wednesday ;-)
So, my dear friend and fellow author Suzanne Johnson gave me a startling revelation earlier this week -- you're not supposed to put backstory in a novel.
This had me pondering the whole "writing rules" thing. Is it different for each genre? Because the murder mysteries I grew up on (and still read -- Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Laura Joh Rowland, Anne Perry, Martha Grimes, Ruth Rendell, P.D. James), well -- the backstory is the motivation for murder. I've also seen in in the works of Wilkie Collins, Anne Rice (The Witching Hour has chapters dedicated to the history of the Mayfair Witches), and even Bram Stoker.
When I wrote Release, I was inspired to write a story I wanted to read. This was in part after I'd read Tasha Alexander's tale of how she penned And Only To Deceive. She wrote her Victorian tale of romance and suspense based on the same principle -- writing a book she'd like to read herself. And of course, we're all familiar with Stephenie Meyer's tale of how she wrote Twilight after she dreamed it.
Neither of these authors really talked about the rules of writing, show don't tell, backstory, alpha males etc. They just saw the story in their heads and wrote it. So, what about the rules?
Suzanne had a GREAT posting yesterday with her literary agent, Marlene Stringer. Ms. Stringer said something to the effect of: those who like to write, can write whatever they want, but those who want to write for a living need to focus on markets.
True, so true. Of course, the big breakouts can happen -- you can write the book you want, and maybe, just maybe, someone big will read it and you'll be rich and famous and on the cover of Vogue (yeah -- can you tell this is my dream? ;-)
Or you can analyze the markets and adapt your writing to them. This sounds easy but can actually be very hard, especially if you don't read alot in the genres that sell.
So what's a writer to do? The answer to this one, is the favorite answer of law school professors.
It depends. ;-)
James's latest novel, The Private Patient, delves into backstory in detail in the first few chapters. It's the reason why a patient is having surgery -- which ends up killing her. It reveals something about her -- what motivates her as a character, to do something that someone would want to kill her.
But for action-packed novels like Urban Fantasy and Romance, the rules are very different. I hate to admit that I'm not exactly sure what the rules are, because I really don't read in those genres. BUT, I can tell you that writing for those genres is equally as challenging as writing fiendish mystery plots or tales of suspense.
So in the end, it's whatever floats your boat. After all, we read because we want to, so we should write for the same reason, non? ;-)