triangulating the text

So a while ago I started posting chapters of a novel online before I panicked and took them down after realizing that they (a) weren’t at the calibre I could achieve, and (b) were not going to be produced as expediently as I hoped.

I’ve since been working on it again.

The pitch for In What World is thus:

Willa and Liz are Brokers: thieves and smugglers for hire who hop realms, solving mysteries and having adventures along the way. Each realm is a genre – Urban Fantasy, Space Opera, Dystopia – and each realm has Rules. It’s time to see if those Rules can be broken.

I decided to shift the tone of book (first in a series maybe?) when I stepped back and started examining what sort of genre satires and parodies I enjoyed myself. And I realized that I preferred riffs on genre that don’t make fun of the genre in as much as they exemplify it.

Think The Naked Gun versus Hot Fuzz. I mean, we all love Leslie Neilsen, but Hot Fuzz is a masterpiece. And you don’t have to get all the jokes in order to enjoy it. You can take it as an action film. You can take it as a satire. Because of this intersection, you can take is as a deeper meditation on genre and storytelling.

I’m at the point where, to get to the heart of each genre/realm, I’ve had to establish a reference point. A generic (literally generic) fog in my head was just not cutting it anymore.

IMG_2193So what I ended up doing was trying to figure out three texts for each realm/genre as I want to showcase it that I would use as three points of a triangle of the genre, with the intersection between then being what I was aiming for.

I’m not necessarily going for the most perfect representation of the genre, but rather what elements I want to pull from it. For instance, my three texts for a pirate realm are Treasure Island, On Stranger Tides and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.

Treasure Island skews classic ur-text; On Stranger Tides brings in the possible supernatural/myth-involved portion (it was the base text for the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie); and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle pulls towards a female protagonist, an outsider to this world, as well as wider historical context.

Is this a ridiculously formal and quantitative way to approach something as subjective as art? Oh hells yes. But, it really helped me find my focus so I could do more than just spout genre references, like, say, National Lampoon.

And I don’t want readers to have to have read Le Morte D’ArthurGrimm’s Fairy Tales, and The Lais of Marie de France into order to “get” the non-specific fantasy realm I’ve dropped my characters in. Rather, these texts contains the elements that have seeped into our implicit and subconscious understanding of this genre.

Anyway, all these texts (expect for the ones I’m still hunting bookstores for) are on my desk for easy reference. It’s a glorious thing.

 

chiselling away at genre expectations

steelchisellogoOver at The Steel Chisel, you can find a short story of mine, “Scenes from a Road Movie.” This is a piece I’d been sculpting away at for a while, so it seems only appropriate that it be published somewhere with “chisel” in the name.

The Road Movie is one of my favourite film genres. I wrote a paper on the Canadian Road Movie in university and the first “novel” (I use the word novel here so loosely it doesn’t even have grasp on itself) I wrote – when I was twelve – was called Road Trip. I’ve always found something fascinating about a journey rendered literal. Perhaps this comes from a similar well as my love of travel.

“Scenes from a Road Movie” began like any other work: with noble ambitions and scattered fragments. I wanted to show a relationship between a man and a woman that had no romantic endgame, yet didn’t just seem like a buddy comedy where half the “he’s” were changed to “she’s” after the fact.

As those scattered fragments gathered, I really discovered who Jenna and Adam were. How they each viewed their relationship to the other proved equally important. They saw a dichotomy: male/female; Canadian/American; weak/strong. But their perceptions of each other were so rooted in the people they used to be, that, like any good road movie, their journeys into their own little hearts of darkness involved rediscovering each other.

I had a plan with this. It was going to somehow be a screenplay or a novel; either way, it would have a full-length arc. When I picked it up again after a long hiatus, I read over the scattered fragments and discovered that I had the essence of the journey right there. I already had the major character beats documented: their origins, their turning points, their revelations, and the aftermath.

I realized the beauty of genre. It’s a Road Movie, of course. Everyone knows the structure of a Road Movie. There seemed no point to connecting the dots with hilarious incidents and/or tragic turns of events. The reader knows how this goes. And so there you have it: a Road Movie, or “Scenes” therefrom.

Maybe I was just lazy.