Sunday, July 11, 2010

To Fantasize or Not To Fantasize

I like to mix genres. As a matter of fact, I will go so far as to say that I can't NOT mix genres. Most of the time it's not really that much of a problem. Mysteries and Westerns go together, really - both came from similar prototypes a hundred years ago. And mixing sub-genres is not a problem - a cozy can often do with a little hard-boiled sensibility, and what's suspense without a little romance?

The thing I like to do that totally screws me up, though, is that I like to make up places which do not exist... and which also have no magic or science fiction elements to them. I don't really want to write science fiction or fantasy, I just want this alternate setting. I've been known to have conversations with myself that go something like this:

Creative Me: It's a heist story that's set in a place that's something like Texas only it's in the the middle of Europe.

Sensible Me: Why not just have it set in Texas?

Creative Me: Then where would the yodeling bi-athletes in lederhosen come from?

Sensible Me: Well, then why not place it in Europe?

Creative Me: Then where would the cowboys come from?

Sensible Me: They have cows in Switzerland.

Creative Me: Do they wear chaps? Do they have cattle drives from Zurich to Geneva? Do they have shootouts at high noon with six-guns?

Sensible Me: Um, not as far as I know. Look why not make it an urban fantasy? Have a dragon drive from Zurich to Geneva?

Creative Me: That would be ridiculous.

Sensible Me: And the yodeling bi-athletes are...?

Creative Me: ...subject the laws of physics. This is a heist story! Dragons and spaceships would have unfair powers that would change the balance of how everything works. I don't want to change the world, I just want to rearrange it!

And eventually Texerland goes on the shelf to be used for spare parts. A bit of it may show up in a fantasy here, or a character may reach full blown status and show up in a crime story over there. Sometimes the world will keep developing there on the shelf and providing more spare parts for newer stories too.

But some of those worlds are really ripe for writing - I just have to find the right story. Something where the concept and the world work together well enough that people don't get too confused about what the heck it is.

I thought I had that story for Awarshawa - which is a place that feels an awful lot like exotic parts of Eastern Europe as depicted in fiction from a century ago. The story that I'm calling "The Serial" at the moment is perfect for that world. Except....

Half the characters in that story come from a place like England. And while the Awarshi parts of the story take place in a world that cannot exist in the real historical time line, the "English" parts are showing a real affinity for reality. I could take that part and develop it into something more commercial. And parts of that story kinda want to go that way.

I'm at the point right now where I wonder if I should abandon Awarshawa to the shelf once again. I don't have to make up my mind for a long time, because I've got too many other things to write in the meantime. Heck, I could probably do both, eventually.

But it is a conundrum, because when it comes down to it, if the world is a lot like this world, I don't want to have to reinvent any more wheels than I have to. The story might be served by being a plain historical. And I don't want to cut out the mainstream mystery audience which I feel would like the stories and characters.

The question comes back to, who is the audience for this? I suppose Nora Roberts threw this question away when she wrote her "In Death" series as J.D. Robb. She built her own expectations.

So I continue to think and think....


stu said...

It almost makes me glad that I'm doing comedy. At least with that, ramming random elements together is taken as evidence of your genius, rather than of an inability to read the scales of maps properly.

The Daring Novelist said...

Yes, that is one option. Even if you don't go for high comedy, you can go for the "Princess Bride" option and make it something of a tall tale.

The Daring Novelist said...

And before someone else says it, I realize I have to say this myself:

The quote from above:
SM: Why not just set it in Texas?
CM: Then where would the yodeling bi-atheletes in leiderhosen come from?

The punchline:
Austin, of course!

(rim shot)

Thank you, I'll be here all week...