Monday, February 23, 2009

Ignoring Common Genre Themes (Is It Shooting Yourself in the Foot?)

I decided to be adventurous and buy a book of short stories by prominent YA contemporary spec fic authors. The stories were all about love, and I read it in the two weeks leading up to Valentine's Day. I noticed that all of the stories except one, while very different, had one common theme. Human main character (all girls, in this case) gets romantically involved with a non-human character. Then I look at the last two YA contemp fantasy novels I read. One was Twilight (I'm sure I don't have to explain). The other, Wicked Lovely, which was slightly different in that there were more than one POV, some human, some not (although the MC was still a human girl, at least at first), and the romance played out differently.

Looking at my own novels, I see a huge reversal. Non-human MC (usually a girl) falls in love with a human love interest (or someone who thinks they're human and has been living as a human ;-) ). Now with the other scenario, you have the option of the classic human-character-discovers-magical-world, which is nice for the author because they get to introduce the reader to the fantasy world without an infodump. The reader discovers it with the MC. But is there anything wrong with taking the POV of the "other"?

Of course, this brings me to two huge concerns. One, that maybe readers do have a problem connecting to the "other." Most of my non-human MCs have been very human-like, and I've never had a complaint about them (or the one who I thought would be hardest to connect to). But maybe it is a problem.

More importantly to the post is this. Is the reason that the novels and stories I'm seeing are like this because that's what the market is expecting now? In the wake of Twilight, is it expected that a paranormal romance or a fantasy with romantic elements has a human MC with a supernatural love interest? And does that mean it's harder to get anything else published?

I sure hope not.

Don't get me wrong, my enjoyment of each of those stories wasn't ruined by the fact that they had this common element, but wouldn't it be boring if every genre or subgenre was required to have the same basic set up?

And it's easy to say, "No, you want to be unique. It will get the agent's and editor's attention!" But when you see four stories in a book of five with that same thread, it makes you stop and wonder.

Anyway, within your own preferred genres (reading and writing), what elements do you see commonly, that maybe you've conformed to or perhaps completely ignored?

6 comments:

hannah said...

In contemporary YA, there is *so much* angsty loner stuff. Angsty loner with no friends. Angsty loner who is angsty because she called the cops on a party (yep, I went there). Angsty loner who falls in love with the girl who should not want him because not only is she popular but she is ohmygod so much less whiny (only to realize that she is actually an angsty loner at heart, too.)

My MCs have friends. Even if they're not at the top of the social ladder, they have their niches. They have people like them.

I have one ms with an angsty loner, and he is mocked constantly. And he's a million times more stuck-up than the popular kids.

Hayden Thorne said...

In mainstream publishing, what's tried and true tends to be the bigger motivator for the big presses. If Meyer's series sells millions, they're more likely to gamble on vampire romances from unknown writers. Unfortunately that system leads to the market being flooded with more of the same, and readers have to dig deeper or go to smaller presses for books that don't follow trends. It can be a very intimidating and disheartening experience for those of us who are just starting out.

The good thing is that agents are very adamant that you don't follow market trends and to keep writing your brand of stories. It's up to them to convince publishers that your book will be a good investment despite its unique vision (or possibly because of its unique vision).

kristin-briana said...

I love seeing a book written from the POV of the "other", personally. I didn't care for Twilight very much, but I really liked the chapters Stephenie Meyer wrote from Edward's perspective. Those made me sit up and take notice. :)

Just my two cents.

But I agree with Hayden that you should write what you need to write, rather than looking at "trends." The funny thing about trends - they change. Really fast. :P

Martha Flynn said...

I'm with Kristin-Briana re: Twilight. That book totally sucked me in, but I actually enjoyed Midnight Sun from Edward's POV ten times more. (Yes, yes I read the legally offered illegal download - don't judge me!)

Even though MC's go through an interesting character journey, the added bonus of an "other" character's world and journey from their perspective is really interesting.

Donna said...

I want to say it's just the trend. I know which book you're talking about having read and it's actually on my TBR list. What has to be remembered is that what we're seeing on the shelves is a year to two years behind the current market. Reading agent blogs and reading about what editors want, now they don't want this kind of paranormal romance of human girl falls for inhuman guy. It's getting old. Fast.

I write YA fantasy so if it's not insane world building and high fantasy that can put you to sleep (or at least me), it's the drama of love triangles or gossip. Get me away. If I wrote for a trend, the work would suck so I just write the story I want to tell and hope for the best!

packey said...

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