Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A climax and thoughts on genre

Another day's writing is done. Today, taking a cue from yesterday's thoughts, I wrote out of order. I decided to write the climax of the story, when the narrator is confronted with the transformed protagonist. It came out more soft, less scary than I hoped. I'm wondering if maybe I'm writing a fantasy story rather than a horror story? I won't know until I write more of it. Even if it's purely fantasy, it will have some dark moments.

The question about whether this is a fantasy or horror story brings me to something I've been thinking about. In a podcast of The Agony Column's interview with The Rolling Darkness Review (Glen Hirshberg, Dennis Etchison and Peter Atkins), Etchison says that when he sits down to write, he never thinks "I'm going to write a horror story," he just thinks "I'm going to write a story." I've heard this from a lot of professional authors, and with some it shows. (Etchison is one. Many of his stories, always sold as horror, could be published in literary magazines with ease.)

But as a wannabe, new writer, I sit down and actively think "I'm going to write a horror story now, in fact it will be a ghost story and it will be about the transformation of a character." When I'm deciding on a story, that's the starting point. If it strays
off from that genre course, I let it. It doesn't have to end up a
horror story, that's just my initial idea.

John Gardner in his book "The Art of Fiction" tells young writers (I'm trying to remember this off the top of my head) that the easiest way to begin is to pick a genre -- a ghost story, a relationship story, a romance -- then combine it with another genre or an unusual technique.

So, I don't think I'm completely wrongheaded to start out thinking about what genre a story is. I just can't become caged to a genre.

Tomorrow, with some knowledge of what's going to happen, I'm going
to write other sections of the story, whichever parts interest me. I'm
thinking I'll write about the protagonist and his dreams. I'll also go
back and edit what I've written so far. I've been doing a little of
that every day. Maybe I can make better sense of the climax I wrote today.

Technorati Tags: ,


Prof. Hex said...

That's some good advice from John Gardner - I'd never heard that before - thanks. I used to have pinned up over my desk a quote from from Ray Bradbury that went something like "Find the best person to tell the story".

I'm reading a book on screenwriting, "Save the Cat", that mentions finding a protaganist who has the longest journey. That's not bad advice either.

Brian said...

The only book I've read on screenwriting was Syd Field's "Screenplay" which I recommend. It takes a very nuts and bolts approach to writing.

As for the Gardner advice, I should probably take the book off the shelf and find out exactly what he said, but it was something along those lines. But you can't go wrong with Gardner anyway.

Prof. Hex said...

I should read that Gardner book - I think I might have it buried in a box somewhere. I've read Field's "Screenplay" and enjoyed it but I found that "Save the Cat" addressed some of the specific problems that I have with plotting out a story once I have the original idea. I've already solved several problems I had with scripts I'm working on.