Saturday, July 18, 2009

Multiple Personalities

Nothing too important is going on in my world these days. Mercedes sent me a note, in the comments of my last post, checking up on me. I was very touched that someone I had never officially met was waiting to "hear" from me.

What can I say? She's a doll.

Anyway, I've been adjusting to 10 hour days; trying to mow my grass before it reaches jungle proportions; disposing of the skunks (yes, that's plural) that my dogs have been warring with; chasing a toddler through mosquito infested jungle-grass; and like always, click-clacking away at the computer.

I finally finished my latest story. It took a long time, mostly due to life, but I kept at it and I'm happy with the finished result. It is titled MY PATIENT GRAVE and weighs in at about 8,700 words.

Jamie is particularly good at flash fiction, but I stink at it. I've done a few, but they're not that great. There is nothing wrong with longer works, it's just that I find them harder to place. Most paying markets now a days want something a bit more streamlined. Just my own observation there.

As I put the finishing touches on MY PATIENT GRAVE, I started having one of those identity crises I've been reading so much about.

What I mean is, I mostly consider myself a horror writer. I'm an affiliate member of the HWA. I don't really like the tag, but it seems a necessary evil. But MPG isn't really a horror story. It's dark. It's a little sad. It even has my trademark weirdness to it. But it's not horror. To be honest, I don't know what it is. Dark Fiction, I guess.

And now I'm rolling my next novel around. The characters, the setting, the skeleton of plot is all there. But what I can't decide is if this will be an adult novel or a young adult novel. Most of my work is dark, twisted and not for children -- which is kind of funny seeing as how I'm a Sunday school teacher (whoops, I let the cat out of the bag).

Here is how I see it. Stephen King is one of the greats. Even if you don't like his work, you have to at least give me that he was built to write. So, what raises him above other horror writers?

I think it's because he's not really a horror writer. I think he writes literary novels (whatever that means) that are infused with the fantastic. Every story of his that I've ever read were never about the "creature". It was about people living and breathing in strange times.

I'll give one example -- there are many to choose from.

Let's look at his novel CELL. When you break it down to its most basic, it's not about the strange signal coming through the cell phones. It's about a man trying to find and protect his son during a dangerous time. This is pretty much the theme of Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD. It just so happens that Stephen King's CELL is filled with crazy telekinetic zombies.

My point is that at the heart of King's stories it's more about people coping with tragedy than with the monsters.

This is just my opinion. I am far from a die-hard King fan and I don't claim to have read all of his work. This is just based on the things I HAVE read. I think the same could be said of all the great genre writers, though.

This is the type of story I want to write. If you strip away the horrific and fantastic, the magic and monsters, at the heart you still have a pretty good story.

This is what I'm hoping an agent then publisher then reader will find in my novel GUARDING THE HEALER. Sure it's full of angels and demons, killers and healers, but really, it's about a man trying to deal with a great tragedy, find his place in a world he doesn't understand, and help redeem a friend going down the wrong path.

Jamie touches on this same thought here. I swear I didn't read his post until after I'd written mine (I'm not above stealing topics, though). Great minds and all, but I think his is more coherent. He IS a college grad . . . not that I'm jealous or anything.


Jamie Eyberg said...

You are too kind. I am no smarter than any self educated man out there. I just have a piece of paper and a whole lotta loans to back it up. I can't agree with you more on what you have said. Great minds must think alike- must have been a telekinetic link somewhere.

Catherine J Gardner said...

Good to hear you're well and working hard. :D

Chris said...

I think the sort of emotional resonance you're talking about is what separates good writers from mediocre ones. Anybody can read enough of a genre to ape the style and hit the right beats; not everyone can get to the root of a story, and write a genre piece that's actually ABOUT something. So write what you're gonna write, and worry about labels later.

Anonymous said...

I was having a similar conversation last week! There is the stigma of horror, yet so many great, lauded stories have strong horror elements. There is such elitism in the literary world.

Ha, I'm a Sunday School teacher, too! Soon we'll take over the world.

Jarmara Falconer said...

I'm a dark writer too, but I see dark fantasy being just as great as any other style of writing as long as it is well written.

Good luck with all your projects