182. Genre Roulette

When I say that my mind rebels at stagnation, and that I cannot continue doing the same thing for long, it also applies to writing.

I won’t be able to write the same thing over extended periods of time. Projects lose their allure. Ideas become dull and uninteresting. Pretty soon, I’ll get distracted with a shiny new idea, and the old one is left alone.

(Johann’s Fantastic Adventures Through Time – 42,000 words – was written in 2 months. Impressive, if you think about it. Even more impressive is an older work titled Will + Meg – 51,000 words – written in 17 days, for NaNoWriMo, but it’s not anything I’d want anyone to have the misfortune of reading)

This goes all the way down, and even while writing stories, I can never keep writing in one style for long.

Earlier this month, Fixi Novo announced that their next anthology will be titled “Lost In Putrajaya”, and writers are welcome to interpret that however they wish, and write accordingly. Being me, I already knew that I wanted to write something that look the title literally and figuratively at the same time. When I started writing the story some 3 weeks ago, it started off with a marriage in trouble, with a bumbling protagonist trying to find his work/life balance. I wrote about 500 words of this, and left the idea alone for a little while.

(according to Mr. Hill, of “Locke and Key” fame, it’s important to allow your ideas to marinade and age in your mind, so that’s what I’m calling it from now on, instead of “procrastinating”)

Yesterday, after a long weekend of Planet Shakers conference and non-stop activities, I finally slowed down for the pace at work, and revisited the story. Then in one seating, I added a whooping 2,000 words to the story, and suddenly it was about the man getting lost, and getting plagued by irrational fears and projections of horror from his own mind as he spirals into panic, alone and lost in the dark.

Shortly after this, it became a cutesy boy-meets-girl scene as he is rescued by an attractive young lady, and within 300 words, it spiralled into full crime and drama as he… Well, tries to have the girl do something that she really doesn’t want to do. She fled into the hills, he followed, and there I stopped yesterday.

Today, upon completion of an editing task (which took much longer than it should have), I opened up the file, and the story was completed in another 1,000 words, after taking a nosedive into the fantasy genre and never resurfacing.

God, I love genre roulette.

I like to think of it as a thrill ride – you don’t know what’s coming next. People are too comfortable with genres and the tropes that are associated with them, and I’d like to shake that up a little bit. Family drama? Let’s have some fantasy elements and throw an ancient mythological god in there. Crime? Let’s put a supernatural spin on it, with outlandish characters who belong in a comedy. Children’s theatre? Oh, I have this great double entendre that we can put in!

(unfortunately, that last one was shot down by the director. Still, it was worth a shot)

Genre, of course, is a useful marketing tool. But for now, that’s someone else’s problem. As long as people let me get away with it, I’m going to tell stories like I don’t even know the meaning of “genre conventions”.

“Do people in your world always want only one story flavour at a time? Only one taste in their mouths?” The Gunslinger asks in Wolves of the Calla; and while I can’s speak for the rest of the world, I can certainly speak for myself:

No; no, I don’t.


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