Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

A Guest Blog from Jason Cordova — ‘How to Genre Hop Without Driving Yourself Completely Insane’

with 6 comments

Folks, I’m pleased to welcome fellow author Jason Cordova to my blog.  Jason and I have known each other for several years now, and have even attempted to collaborate on a novel together (maybe that’ll come to fruition one of these years, as the idea was really, really good).  Jason wrote a novel, CORRUPTOR, and has sold a number of short stories, with the most recent sale being to the anthology MENTAL WARD.  He’s currently working on a number of projects and is one of the busiest people I know, which is why I’m really pleased he stopped by.

Jason is also the owner-operator of Shiny Book Review, which means that technically, he’s my boss over at SBR.  Fortunately, he doesn’t seem to think in hierarchical terms very often, which is why he’s a very good boss.

So here he is . . . the one, the only, Jason Cordova!

*********** Guest Blog Starts Now ***********

  Barb mentioned a few weeks ago (or last week, maybe) that she was open to me doing a guest post on her blog. Since her blog has many more visitors than mine (primarily because she actually has interesting stuff going on), I figured, “Sure, sounds like fun!” Then she even gave me a subject matter to discuss, which made it, like, even easier. So take a seat, relax, and have a sip of Earl Grey. I’m about to bore you to tears.

How To Genre Hop

(without driving yourself insane)

            *cue dramatic music*

One of the hardest things for any writer to do is to write in a genre they are unfamiliar with. Most of the popular writers get labeled in one genre and stay there. This isn’t always a bad thing, no. I myself have found that when I’m searching in the horror section, I’m looking for Dean Koontz. In fantasy, usually the team of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman catch my eye first. Science fiction? David Weber.

We mentally lump our favorite writers into their genres and keep them there. And for the most part, the authors are content to stay there. But… did you know David Weber wrote a fantasy series? I didn’t, not until someone pointed it out to me (The War God’s Own, for those of you interested). Would you read a science fiction novel by Margaret Weis? Or a romance by Dean Koontz?

Barb asked me once how I genre-hopped. You see, I write in just about every genre, and though I still think of myself as a science fiction author, I’ve published fantasy, horror, thriller, YA and alternate history. Barb’s question made me think about the difficulties of writing in various settings. How do you genre hop without tripping up? How do you keep the settings straight in your head? I then had a revelation. Perhaps that’s the difficulty with genre hopping? Perhaps the problem is that writers are focusing too much on the setting and it’s being difficult?

One of the first things I worry about when writing a story is the main character. Who are they? What are they up to? Why are they doing whatever it is that makes them worth writing about? I want them to be, well, cool. I want them to do things that I can only dream about doing (which includes, but is not limited to, being a super secret ninja warrior assassin in the 1000 BC). I want them to be funny, smart, and interesting enough that when a reader picks up the book, it doesn’t matter to them what the setting is, because they like the main character that much.

(side note/disclaimer: if Jim Butcher stuck Harry Dresden in space, fighting an alien invasion and using ray guns, I would read the sh*t out of that book.)

You see, the setting really isn’t all that important, not at first. Who your main character is, now that is important. It’s easier to build the setting around a fantastic character than it is fitting a character into a setting. Generally speaking, that is. I can already hear the clamors of “Well, that’s not how I do it, and I can hop genres fine!” If that’s the case, awesome. I’d love to review your book sometime.

Ray Bradbury had a solid piece of advice: First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!

So you’ve got the character set? Not yet? Okay, well, when you do, what do you do them next? For example, when I was writing Nightwalker, I had the image of a really articulate, well-dressed doctor traversing the Wild West to kill evil. I didn’t know much about where he was, but I knew all about him. A former Civil War doctor who had been injured in battle, he was cursed/possessed by an ancient demon in exchange for him life. The demon, however, is bound by oath to destroy all evil. So an internal struggle for the soul of a man. But is it horror? Urban fantasy? Something else?

Who cares? He’s an interesting character. He’ll find a home somewhere.

I think (I may be wrong here) that a lot of problems stem from a fear of writing the wrong setting. But if your character is just that awesome, does it really matter?

I can already hear people shouting about A Song of Fire and Ice (aka Game of Thrones) and how George R. R. Martin focuses on the setting and it works for him. To which I reply “Really? So you’ve never come upon a certain character’s chapter and found yourself glazing over as you read, waiting for one of your favorites to pop up?” I know I do this when I read a Daenerys chapter (what? she’s gotten boring over the past three books!)**, and I’m fairly certain I’m not alone.

So try to remember that setting (by extension, genre) is secondary when it comes to your book and that your main character is what’s going to sell it. If you can make your character interesting (and cool; never forget the cool), then your book will be a little more memorable.

            For those of you searching for my titles, I have links on both my website (www.jasoncordova.com) as well as an Amazon author page (www.amazon.com/Jason-Cordova/e/B004CZHHPU/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0).

**********

Thank you, Jason, for that excellent guest blog,  Stop by anytime!

And for the rest of you, please do check out his new story in the anthology MENTAL WARD, which is available right now.

BTW, the ** is for my agreement with Jason over Daenerys’ character in the last three books in the Song of Ice and Fire series.  She’s a strong woman.  I know this, as I’ve reviewed all five of the books over at SBR (here’s a link to all of SBR’s reviews if you don’t believe me).  But these last three books, well . . . Daenerys seems sexually obsessed to the point of near-madness, and I don’t buy it that this is all because of her link with her three dragons.  And all of that makes her predictable at best, boring at worst — and makes those the chapters I’m the most likely to skip over and never read again if I can help it.

Jason is right.  He’s not the only one wondering what’s up with Daenerys, because I am, too.  And while I know that sex sells, especially on TV (it’s doing bang-up business for HBO, words chosen precisely), it can be really, really annoying to read the same sorts of scenes over and over and over again.

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Written by Barb Caffrey

October 2, 2013 at 4:48 pm

6 Responses

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  1. […] My guest blog over at Barb Caffrey’s site went live today. I had a lot of fun writing it, and espoused some hard-won wisdom (or blatherings… it’s all semantics to me). Have a look. […]

  2. Jason cheats. He is already insane so this is an easy thing for him.

    jpkalishek

    October 3, 2013 at 9:54 am

    • Well, that’s certainly one way to look at it.

      Barb Caffrey

      October 3, 2013 at 6:16 pm

      • Hey now. Quit spreading slanderous lies about me. The elephant on my desk says I’m quite sane, TYVM.

        warpcordova

        October 3, 2013 at 8:52 pm

      • I have it on high authority that the desk elephant is a fibber (its cousin tells me this often)

        jpkalishek

        October 4, 2013 at 1:11 am

      • LOL

        Barb Caffrey

        October 4, 2013 at 8:55 pm


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