Prep: Genres and Snippets

So today I’m going to talk genres, and the bit of my specific creative process that gives me things to hang my story on as I develop it. Specifically, I’m going to talk about why I rarely have much of an idea what genre, if any, I’m writing in.

Genre is one of those grand ailments of writing. Genre writers get seen as hacks, and literary writers get seen as pretentious snobs. Neither’s true, of course, and books tend to not fit very snugly into genre categories despite what the shelves at the book store try to tell you. Horror fiction tends to bleed into either fantasy (often urban) or sci-fi. Fantasy is a label so broad that science fiction gets lumped under it. Romance fiction – often dismissed as trash for no good reason – doubles as historical fiction in the hands of many decently skilled authors.

So at this point all I can really say is that Shadows of Agartha is very definitely a fantasy novel, which isn’t saying much other than that it isn’t literary fiction. It’s got elements of horror, with the origin of the world and the Broken Places; a sampling of mid- and high-fantasy with the magic system; and there are elements of pulp adventure in the planned opposition to the expedition. There’s also the thaumaturgical engineering, which some would cast as steampunk despite it not fitting the descriptions. It also hits the Weird Science end of things, given the buried relics of the World Before and the bizarre things thaumaturgy can do, as well as the bent laws of physics.

The upshot of all of this is that the first draft, and the editing passes and later drafts, will be very likely to crystallize the ‘genre’ of the story on top of all the transformations a rough draft experiences. What I get at the end may have nothing to do with the initial story and shape. The entire world may get reshaped if it turns out the concept isn’t working out the way I thought it would. And some of the snippets I have in my head now may well prove useless.

Which brings us to those snippets. Inevitably, when I start thinking about a story idea – be it for written fiction, tabletop plots, or even just the inevitable what-if musings that happen when you read and book or watch a movie that was fun enough to want to see more of – I have snippets of conversation and action that I really like. I don’t know the story before or after these points, but they’re scenes that I know could be pivotal plot moments, if I can write the story up to them. Often, I have to discard a good half of these snippets in the first writing – there’s no way to get to them with the story I’m writing. Many of the others will get excised later – as Chuck Wendig says, be prepared to kill your darlings. For me, these darlings are almost always these scene snippets.

Still, they serve an important purpose – these are the seeds the rest of the plot will crystallize around, like grains of dust settling into supercooled water to trigger the formation of ice. I presently only have a couple of them, which might be a sign that something about the story will have to change dramatically, or it might not. Only time will tell!

The main takeaway here is that this is part of my method of creativity, and it works for me. Yours may work completely differently from mine, and that’s perfectly fine. I know one person who doodles scenes before writing them out, to let them better visualize what’s going on as they write. It works for them, but it’d never pan out for me.

And that’s it for today!

Prep: Genres and Snippets

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