Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dissecting the Genre


I am not sure whether this is the best of times to be discussing this since I have major writing to do and probably should focus on the elements that make a story tick, but as my story goes near the core, where the themes and ideas begin to gyrate, I am at a loss for the genre tag I am to provide for this one.

Hitting the market’s bull’s eye is the most important marksman skill a writer has to develop. As trends come and go and the readers are distracted by the latest shiny a writer has to ride on top of the tidal wave and hope to submit the right story to the right agent at the right moment for the hottest genre. No problem. This is how business rolls and there are plenty of examples underlying the rule. ‘Twilight’ erupted on the scene and so many other teenager friendly love stories with monsters popped up that it felt like they’ve always been on the bookstore shelves.

But what happens, when the story you try to sell is a little harder to define? I’d very much like to see this one published, because I feel that after a several drafts it will both entertain and ask some uncomfortable questions. Yet, I can’t peg what genre it is or find a similar to my idea novel to have been published. There is a lot of time before I get to the pitching stage, but this is not giving me sleep, so I decided to trace my story’s potential heritage. For now this raises more questions than answers.

The two core elements in my world building are 1) a contemporary Europe and 2) a magical sub-society, hiding in plain sight and shaping the destiny of the world through the people they come in contact with. The easiest answer would be Urban Fantasy, right? I mean after all the story evolves in cities and has magic. That has to do it, right? Wrong. There is a formula to urban fantasy that is not equivalent to my story.

For starters there is no action, no force from outside or threat that demands ass kicking. It’s all manipulation and a rather cruel chess game. There is no detective main plot that needs solving and the gruesome bits are swapped with a bit of human drama and although the humor relies on sarcasm is scarce, dark, bitter and profane.

Then it can be contemporary fantasy, which is the parent of urban fantasy, since the overall definition includes the two core points that lie within my world building and setting. Now I bet that this did it, huh? Easy. It even fits the whole manipulation, back stabbing and murder threats that seem to resemble court intrigues and can be applied to contemporary fantasy as an element. But I am not satisfied.

What genre fits profanity, debauchery and erotica that is a bit more spiced up that is dancing on the line between tasteful and shocking pornography? From the paranormal romance works I have read I can safely say that it might in there, but although there is the happily-ever-after moment I am not inclined to believe that the relationship is the main plot line. The romance plot is a means to an end for the protagonist to accomplish his Machiavellian scheme and that is more or less the antagonistic approach that dark fantasy is accustomed to.

In the end I am yet again clueless… But the very least I know that my novel is not formulaic and can rest with that thought. If all else fails, I might twist and turn the genre definitions to my advantage and just ride with the tide. It’s not like the borders between each is set in stone.


T.D. Newton said...

It could be "historical fantasy" but only if you include actual events from history, and not just a "historical" setting.

Also, lookup the genre "the weird." Pretty sure that's just it's name, and it's kind of where things go when they don't fit elsewhere.

Harry Markov said...

Woah, I never knew that historical fantasy could have been done in modern times but with actual facts. I thought that it could have been a certain alternative history genre only, but this is interesting.

I know it, but I have a hard time pinpointing what exactly it is. I guess it is rather really weird. For now however I plan on making this as dark and loose as possible and see what rises at the end.