I have an in person critiquing group that I get out to when I can, and there’s one member I’ve often got together with for coffee or drinks after the meeting. We chat about the craft because the other members of the group tend focus on word choice and phrasing and not to be interested in delving into the more structural aspects of writing.
He has often asked me, in as polite a way as he can, but it’s still pretty obvious that he looks down his nose at genre fiction, if I’ve considered writing mainstream fiction, set in the real world.
I have, it just doesn’t hold my interest. I tried to explain that I don’t go to sit down and write something – the story comes to me, and I write the story that comes.
But I’ve thought about that, and that’s not a complete explanation, because I’ve often had plots come, but not come with settings. I could slap any setting on that plot and run with it.
Only I couldn’t. There is a definite certain type of story that comes to me, and the stories that come to me are big stories. I mean, stories where the characters are influencing the outcomes of wars, revolutions, etc. Things that are big enough that I can’t just set it in the real world because it’s too big to fit. There was never a revolution that went down the way it did in The Eyelet Dove, and the characters are not the little people you can hide in a big event. The plot requires them to be major players, and in history, no such characters and situations existed, and they’re too big to force in without the audience saying, hey, there was never such a character in such and such a time, that could never happen.
There’s just no way to take such plots and tell the story without changing something major in the setting. Which brings you into the realm of alternate universe, futuristic settings, and my personal favourite, secondary world settings. Which is necessarily, the realms of science fiction and fantasy.
I think that may be part of the appeal of science fiction and fantasy to many readers, especially the many lovers of epic fantasy. Perhaps the people who read sci-fi and fantasy just think bigger than people who enjoy mainstream fiction, and want to read about people who make real change in the world. In times where free agency dwindles and people have less and less control over their own fates and ability to make a living, and a sense of free agency is a major psychological factor in satisfaction with one’s life, they want to read about characters who take on huge challenges and save their world. People who have the power do something.
Not all Science Fiction and Fantasy is like that, but the stuff I like most is.
I like that reason.
🙂 I always hear it said that there should be a reason for everything that goes into the story, but sometimes the reason is just that it would be pointless work to try and fit it into a more familiar setting.
I always feel like you should never have to explain why you’re writing something. What you like is intangible. There’s not a lot of greater joys in life to me than making a good Steven Seagal joke, but if you were to ask me why, I couldn’t answer.
To an extent that’s true, and there are many many people out there who write just for themselves, and never have to worry about appealing to an audience, but sometimes I wonder if that attitude might be part of where the snowflake mentality started.
Honestly, if I read the blog of an author and they stated that they felt they should never have to explain why they wrote something, that would turn me off of their books, because it would make me think that they might be careless.
Now, on the other hand, if they were to say that sometimes there’s things in your writing that just don’t have a good reason, other that it’s frelling *awesome* – that author, I would buy their books. But the difference is the mentality of “I don’t have to explain anything” which always reads to me as “I should be appreciated for the precious unique snowflake that I am, and never have to justify myself to anyone” versus, “Sometimes you just gotta build the giant tesla coil to blow up the hydrogen filled zeppelin because that would be so cool.” The first one, you pat them on the head and tell them they’re wonderful, the second has real potential.
When Mom introduced me to science fiction back in the day, she started me reading the adult, cold war stuff. It was so scary, but it hooked me the way it hooked her. The writing was sublime (in some cases), the worlds were fascinating, and the escape from our lives in the still segregated south was complete — as long as we were reading. Even though a lot of the books we read were DARK, the author always expressed a hope the world could be better, someday — maybe.
I write science fiction because it is a perfect genre in which to express human desires for justice, for equality, and for grand adventure in cosmic locations.
And, when I can, I add humor or at least irony. Why bother to save the universe if you can’t have a good laugh between fire fights?
Totally agree on the humour 🙂 I like my sarcastic banter between characters – better than the argument scenes, even. The argument conflict always feels like fake tension, but banter can be slipped in all over the place for flavour, or anecdotes for backstory. I often write down clever comebacks and events that occur among my friends so that I can adapt them into a story somewhere where it will fit.