Wednesday, January 26, 2011

WHY GENRE-WRITING IS LIKE A LITTER BOX...

...AND OTHER HORRIBLE ANALOGIES

I thought my kid had a pretty good grasp of the concept of the litter box. No, not because I make him use one. Don't be disgusting. Because he's seen me clean it about twenty times, and each time I have explained in great detail the purpose of said box.

So tonight, I hear him screaming at the cat, absolutely livid. I sprint from my office and down the hall (This is about three feet. It's a small house.), and find him pointing at the poor cat as she goes about her business in the box.

"Sweet child o mine," I say. "What's the ruckus?"

"Yonder cat, she is pooping in ye olde litter box," he bemoans.

"But, dearheart, that's the point of a litter box, as I have previously explained and you have previously attested to comprehending." I hold up a signed, dated and notarized affidavit.

"But, mom...she's pooping in the litter box."

I just stare at him, and experience the same feeling I sometimes have when I talk to civilians about my writing.

"What do you write?" they ask, all pale and googly-eyed. (No, I'm not sure why they get physically altered in this segment.)

"Urban fantasy," says I.

"Ah." A beat. "What's that?"

I explain. They nod, ask a few nebulous questions (usually involving what I've published and how much *cough* money *cough* I've made), mention how if they had time they'd write a book, and then wander off.

And, at some point in the future, they stumble upon my writing. It's usually a mild snippet or flash piece on my blog or a notebook left open in my car or home. And they stare at me and say "But, mom...she's pooping in the litter box." Or something like that.

I don't know where the prejudice against Fantasy and Sci Fi (and Horror and Romance for that matter) comes from. I've had my heart broken, been scared to palpitations of the aforementioned heart, and fallen deep inside hundreds of other worlds in these genres.

I've got characters in my head who won't come out until my brain ceases to function, clever/humorous/sexy/scary phrases that make me smile in deep sleep, and such strong cravings for certain authors that I stay up until midnight on their release days to download their newest book onto my e-reader. And sometimes the vendors don't make it available until two a.m. and I have to wait. And I do!

My kid is two and a half, so he's kind of got an excuse for not understanding simple things. Lit fic snobs are generally a good bit older. So I encourage them, in the spirit of peeps everywhere coming together, to give the genres a try. Scrape around in them. You just might find that you like them.

14 comments:

  1. Hahahaha I loved the analogy.

    I think that this is really true. People are so quick to judge what you write. But unless they have actually tried to finish a rough draft, I doubt they actually have the right to say anything at all.

    Unless, of course, it's to say: "How wonderful! Can't wait to read it." Or something like that.

    :-)

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  2. I agree with Misha here: people are quick to judge. Sometimes when I tell others I write fantasy, I get that "Oh, just fantasy." look, as though it's not worth the time. As though a novel on suicide or any other big issue would necessarily be worth more.

    I'm not saying they're not, but fantasy is what I know and love, and if you look into it, you'll realise it does a lot more than relate big magic adventures.

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  3. I think there's a common misperception that altering the world or time, or focusing on romance or suspense somehow causes a story to hurdle important issues or prevents authors from using clever or original turns of phrase.

    I think my favorite dismissal came last year when someone said "I don't really read _that_ kind of book. I like REAL literature, like The Time Travelers Wife." Which is, I believe, both fantasy AND romance.

    I actually don't care what people read so long as they ARE reading.

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  4. Back at uni (that's college for you American types), in a course on the art of writing, I criticised the work of an allegedly successful local fantasy writer. I was told by my lecturer that genre writing can't be held to the same standards of quality as literary fiction.
    Interestingly, even though he clearly thought her chosen style of writing was sub-par, he still fawned all over her when she came in to guest lecture as she was a published writer!!!

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  5. Great post! People do the same thing when I talk about reading YA/children's books ("I thought you were smarter than that" is my favorite so far). Come on, people! Who cares what others read or write and long as they are READING and WRITING?

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  6. "Oh, Matt, what kind of book are you writing?"
    "Urban Fantasy."
    "So...kinda like Twilight?"

    I started reaching for the forty cal that I kept tucked in the back of my pants. Luckily, I was blessed with two hands and the other stopped the first.
    "No," said the second hand silently to the first. "Not right now. Wait...wait for the full moon, and then vengeance will be our's."

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  7. Amanda, such a fascinating little insight into one of the symptoms of this issue.

    Carrie, what I find so interesting about this is that, when I ask people what their favorite/most read books are, they are often YA books. The books they read during their formative years, that they continue to re-read as adults. And yet, that disconnect between YA and "quality" or "intelligence" continues to abound.

    Unruley, what would happen if you had _three_ hands? I know, though. I often hear the Twilight comparison, too. I tend to just respond that my writing is slightly more economical than Ms. Meyer's.

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  8. Oh, I've heard the Twilight comparison and I'm not even doing *urban* fantasy. It's great when you want to test out anger management techniques. ;)

    More seriously, though, I still get fired up when people put fantasy and other genre fiction down. I think I would've punched someone saying my genre wasn't "REAL fiction", Hillary. Well, except my boyfriend's father on our first meeting. I held back then. XD

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  9. Real fiction. This made me do my japanese school girl laugh.

    Wow, I watch too much anime.

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  10. Yeah, Claudie, best not to punch someone the first time you meet them. Unless you're in prison, where I believe it's required.

    Titter away, Unruley. :)

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  11. I just tell people I'm working on a manual for beekeeping. So much easier to explain to non-UF readers at parties.

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  12. Ah, quasi-honest deflection. Another fine technique, Cobra. When tired, or when I don't want to talk about myself, I just say I've been writing murder-mysteries.

    Beekeeping is more interesting, but _I_ can't claim that.

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  13. Nowadays, I tell people I write "sci-fi fantasy action adventure." Most of them perk up and ask for more info. Then I'll say "I'm writing one that's XENA meets BLADE RUNNER." And they'll say "Sweet! That sounds cool!"

    Sometimes, I'll add something about chicks with guns, car chases, gun fights, and things blowing up.

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  14. Speaking of which, Ace, isn't the next Kat and Mouse (pssst....see writer links on the right) coming out on Monday? I needs my K&M fix. :D

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