Thank you to everyone who has joined in this month’s conversation on genre. We have indeed covered all aspects of genre from writing it to marketing it.
Today’s question is: How much of your ‘personality should you put into your narrative? In other words do you, or should you, utilize family memories, personal history or ‘local’ knowledge to create a realistic tale?
Some genres may not readily seem to avail themselves to personal input but even sci-fi or fantasy has interactions where you need to think what reaction a character would have in that situation.
I am excited to read your thoughts on this question. Please click on the post headings & then scroll to the comment section.
Last week’s responses:
biancarowena As a ‘pantser’ I tent to write whatever I feel and see in my mind’s eye, then edit later. This makes for a lot of editing, as compared to planners. I know how time consuming reconstructing a story can be. So I’d personally recommend knowing your genre before writing the story, and sticking to it. Publishers what to know how to categorize your story. It’s not to limit you but to help them know who your target audience is. They know which genre is in demand and are looking for specific things. If your genre is too vague or you don’t stick to one then your book is less marketable, in a publisher’s view. I think for the sake of not having to rewrite your entire story (if your genre is not clear or shifts), it’s best to know your genre before delving in, and sticking to it.
When I was writing my book I was calling it historical fiction as it was based on a true story but with some fictionalizing. When it was accepted for publication, my publisher changed it to non-fiction, based on a true story. What happens with that in bookstores (not the independents), is that the book is shelved with research, resource, history and since my name begins with W it is on the bottom shelf near the floor and is crowded out by the other larger resource books. Browsers never see it, and anyone looking for it has a difficult time finding it. The next time I write a book I am using my maiden name that begins with M.
I tend to follow formula and am happy doing so. However, if well written, the unexpected can work well. But if not handled with care, can be a book you want to toss into a wall.
Alice breathed in the fresh spring air and looked upward through the tree branches where the sun glistened and danced through the leaves. The lane to her Aunt and Uncle’s home was narrow and not suitable for vehicles. She wondered how her Aunt and Uncle managed to shop but maybe there was some sort of short cut she was unaware of; after all, she had only been with them for three days. The pain hit her in the chest unexpectedly and completely. Her legs gave way and she landed heavily on her knees on the gravel. Tears flowed and her sobbing filled the air startling several chattering birds into silence.
They’re gone…forever. Aunt and Uncle are so kind but I miss my parents so much. A rabbit hopped across the lane in front of Alice. She looked at its white tail bobbing up and down. Wiping her nose and wet cheeks with her sleeve, Alice stood up and brushed the debris from her knees. There were small pits in the flesh where small stones had pressed into her skin. I have to be brave, that’s what Uncle says. Wiping away a stray tear, Alice breathed in deeply and began walking toward the lane’s end again. Dwelling on it will stop you healing, Alice. Remember the good times with them, my dear. Her aunt wisdom echoed in her mind. She understood nothing would change the fact her parents were dead but it still hurt and the previous year with no-one to comfort her had taken its toll. When her Aunt and Uncle appeared at the care home, Alice felt saved.
A car’s horn sounding brought her out of her thoughts. She looked up to see Bernadette waving at her from the vehicle’s rear window.
“Hurry up, Alice. I want to get to the fair.”
Alice ran toward her friend, her only friend so far in this small town in the middle of a forested valley.
An hour later, Gregor joined Cattrine, complaining the pen’s inhabitants were too noisy and his ears hurt.
“Will you stop your complaining? They won’t be noisy for much longer, Gregor. Come and help me form the sausages.”
Given a much nicer task, Gregor cheered up and pushed the mince into the sausage machine, as Cattrine guided the sausage skin ensuring the meat encased evenly. She expertly twisted the skin without hindering the flow to form perfect sausages. When the machine was empty of meat, Cattrine laid the long string of sausages out along the counter.
“I suppose there’s no way we could have a couple now, is there, dear?”
Cattrine turned to Gregor with a smile.
“Well, maybe a couple each. We have worked hard after all.”
She gave Gregor a large rectangular pan and he began laying the sausage tube in lines back and forth. Cattrine cut four sausages off one end and took a frying pan from the shelf. While they sizzled in the pan, Gregor filled the tray and then put it into a large freezer hidden at the back of the pantry. After consuming the delicious morsels, they both licked their lips and giggled. Free meat was more delicious than bought meat.
I began a ‘short’ story for children but somehow it is getting longer and longer. So I will post excerpts of it for your enjoyment and that of your children!
Clickety Click Part 1
It’s eyes widened as it grew closer and closer to her face. Alice was paralyzed with fear, clutching her bedcovers with white knuckled fingers. The creature’s mauve skin glistened with slime and drops fell onto its spindly pointed claws. Alice opened and closed her mouth willing her voice to sound in the dark bedroom. The claws clicked together as the monster’s jaw opened. Click, click, clickety, click.
Alice’s scream woke her. She was drenched in sweat; her heart beating so fast it hurt her chest. She had no idea how long she screamed but her throat was sore. Shortly after waking, she heard her uncle’s thundering footsteps coming up the stairs. The noise drowned out her aunt’s voice full of concern and Alice’s fear induced tears.
The bedroom door flew open and Alice’s uncle stood in the doorway, looking around the room before rushing to the bed and embracing Alice.
“There, there girl, what was it? A nightmare?”
Alice tried to stop her crying in an effort to answer him as her voice croaked and her body shuddered.
“It was a monster, a huge mauve monster with sharp claws and dripping slime. Uncle Gregor, I was so frightened.”
“What a horrid dream, my girl. You are perfectly safe now.”
Alice’s Aunt walked into the room slightly out of breath with a panicked look on her face.
“Oh my, you poor dear. Just look at you. I think it would be best if you had a nice glass of milk and left the bedside light on.”
“Thank you, Aunt Cattrine. I’m feeling better now you are both here but a nice glass of milk does sound good. I can come down to get it.”
“Not at all, let Uncle stay with you, it won’t take me long.”
Her aunt stroked Alice’s hair before exiting the room giving her husband a quick wink as she left. With her uncle’s strong arms around her, Alice felt safe and calmed down as her heartbeat resumed a normal beat.
Once she finished her milk, her aunt and uncle left her to sleep the rest of the night with the small lamp lit. They told her to call them if she had another bad dream. Alice drew her bedclothes up as far as she could and curled up into a ball. She watched shadow branches on the wall closest to the door for some time before her eyelids grew heavy and sleep claimed her.
Click, click, clickety, click. His claws tapped together as he sat in the corner watching her. He delighted in the way she moved as she spun the threads back and forth. The aroma of boiling meat filled the room, making him drool. She turned and grinned; she was as hungry as he looked. This would be a good feast.
Alice slipped out of the covers and curled her toes when they touched the cold wooden floor. She pulled her legs up and reached for her thick woolen socks. Once her feet were enclosed in the soft warmth of the wool, she wrapped a large dressing gown around her and walked downstairs. She found her aunt and uncle busily cleaning the kitchen counters. She thought it was odd as breakfast was not on the table but their smiling faces pushed the thought away.
“There she is. You do look better this morning, rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes. Now what do you fancy for breakfast?”
“Whatever you and uncle Gregor are having is fine, thanks auntie.”
“Well I think after such a dreadful night you should choose, I haven’t begun anything yet.”
Why were they cleaning so thoroughly if they haven’t eaten yet? Her uncle’s large hand on her shoulder made Alice dismiss the thought. She turned and smiled up at her large heavyset uncle.
“Sausage and eggs would be perfect, if I may. Thank you, Auntie.”
“Good breakfast choices, Alice, I think we will all enjoy eating them.”
Alice walked to the counter and pulled out the cutlery drawer then began laying the table settings. Her aunt turned to the stove and placed a large skillet on the heated ring, while her uncle picked out sausages and eggs from the fridge. The sausages soon began to sizzle and their tantalizing smell filled the kitchen.
When the food was cooked and placed on plates, they sat down to eat. Alice chewed the spicy sausages and marveled at the unusual but delicious taste. The eggs were special too, bigger than Alice had ever seen before with large deep yellow yolks. Alice collected all the plates once everyone had their fill and set them into the sink before turning on the tap. She heard a clickety click behind her and turned swiftly. Her aunt and uncle were smiling at each other and both frowned at Alice’s sudden movement.
“Whatever is it, dear?”
“Didn’t you hear it? That clickety click noise.”
“No dear just the water running and your uncle’s belch. Really Gregor, your manners!”
“I must be overly sensitive, that nightmare was so real, and I swear I could feel its breath on my face. Thank you both for caring for me.”
“No need for thanks, Alice, we are here to make sure you are healthy…”
With her back turned, Alice didn’t see Cattrine punch Gregor’s arm hard.
“What Uncle means is happy and healthy, Alice. Now are you meeting Bernadette today?”
“Yes, I am. Her Mom will collect me at ten o’clock so I should get dressed.”
Cattrine watched Alice leave the room then licked her lips. Gregor sat with his head down sucking at his fingertips.
“Good grief, Gregor, watch your tongue around her. Get yourself up and go to the pens and feed them.”
Gregor stood slowly blocking out the window with his massive bulk but scuffing his feet like a reluctant child. Cattrine huffed and turned to the cupboards. As she took out a huge pot, Gregor opened the back door and left mumbling under his breath.
“If you are swearing about me I’ll know it, Gregor.”
She heard no answer so began her chores. In the pantry, she unlocked a metal container’s lid and inhaled deeply. Drool dripped from her mouth. She sucked in deeply to return it to her throat. The aroma tantalized her in a way nothing else did. Cattrine pulled out a slab of meat and carried into the kitchen. Footfalls on the stairs made her stop and return to the pantry. She closed the door and stood at the sink waiting for Alice to enter.
“You do look nice, Alice. It’s nearly ten; maybe you should walk down to the end of the lane and wait for Bernadette’s Mom there? It will save her driving all the way up here and it’s too nice a day not to enjoy.”
“Yes, it is lovely out there the sun is so warm. I should be home by four o’clock, Auntie.”
“Have a wonderful day, dear.”
Alice kissed her aunt on the cheek and skipped out of the door, happy and carefree. Absently brushing away a spot of wetness from her cheek as she walked into the wooded glen.
Cattrine returned to the pantry, picked up the slab of meat and began cutting it into strips. Next, she took out a large mincer and fed the strips into the machine. The extruded meat formed a pink and white curl into a bowl beneath it. When all the meat was minced, Cattrine began adding spices and herbs to it. She dug her hands into the mixture and kneaded it repeatedly. Her mouth salivated as she did so.
As writers we all know the struggle of editing and revision once the first draft is completed. I am continuing to ‘polish’ my western romance, Willow Tree Tears. Today’s excerpt centers around my protagonist, Madison. She is thrilled about seeing the delicious Italian again but also discovers something is wrong with her father. I would welcome comments regarding how this excerpt relates her relationships and if it gives you an idea of her personality.
Madison’s excitement kept her awake. Today, Lucio would be revisiting. She admonished herself, trying to sleep. You will look absolutely awful tomorrow with great big bags under my eyes and sallow skin. Fall asleep, damn it. Eventually, she gave in and took half a sleeping tablet fearing a whole one would have her sleep in. The crash of a pan downstairs frightened her awake at seven o’clock. Was that Pops? She hurriedly grabbed her rope and ran down the stairs into the kitchen. She found her father scooping scrambled eggs off the mat and swearing under his breath.
“Frightened me half to death, Pops. What happened?”
“Damn thing slipped right out of my hand. Darndest thing.”
“Sit down, I’ll clean up the rest, Pops, if there’s anything to clear up Bandit seems to have managed most of it. Are you sure you are okay?”
“No need to fuss, girl. It just slipped.”
Madison bent down to mop up the grease off the tiles. From the corner of her eye she could see her father rub his left arm and then smack it as if it were numb. He’s keeping something from me. Maybe Doc wasn’t out this way for someone else the day I passed him on the road.
With the floor clean, Madison made a new batch of scrambled eggs while her father began to make a pot of coffee. Bandit slumped down under the kitchen table satisfied with his early morning treat but kept one eye on Madison just in case there was another spill.
“Pops, how about using only two scoops this morning?”
“It’ll have no taste, girl.”
“It certainly will, Pops, and my heart won’t be racing afterwards and neither will yours.”
Her father didn’t argue. There is something wrong. He would have fought for the usual four scoops any other time. I’m going to talk to Doc the first chance I get, patient confidentially or not. I need to know what’s going on. Breakfast was served and eaten almost in silence apart from the scraping of cutlery on plates, as father and daughter were lost in their own thoughts. Madison carefully watched her father ascend the stairs. He’s leaning to his left and favoring his right arm, I hadn’t noticed until now.
On her way to her room, Madison peered into her father’s room. He was sitting on the bed rubbing his arm again. Does it hurt? Should I say something? I’ll talk to Doc first then I’ll know what I need to do. In the meantime I need to take more notice of what he’s doing.
Copyright 2015 – Mandy Eve-Barnett – Willow Tree Tears.
Sorry for the delay – this section is from my novel, Life in Slake Patch, a speculative alternative future novel. Men and women live in separate compounds with visiting on only one day. It is from the viewpoint of the main character, Evan. I’m interested in what imagery you get from this.
I entered the laundry to the familiar sound of heavy hoof beats. At the rear of the building were six oxen harnessed to a tread wheel. The motion moved a system of pulleys by way of thick ropes, high in the ceiling. Through a series of cogs the ropes turned wooden struts, which were submerged in large vats of soapy water, twisting the clothes. The water was heated by a furnace situated between the laundry and the brewery house. The machine had been built using a plan found amongst the books in the library ten years previously, which made the laundry duty a much faster and more frequent process. The lye soap aroma had me remembering how I would watch my mother and sister make it. They mixed the lye with melted lard and water then boiled it. I can remember running out of the cabin shouting.
“That smells so disgusting Mother.”
“That is as maybe my boy but without it you would be blacker than mud.”
Later when the mixture thickened it was poured into shallow pans and once it had hardened I would help cut it into blocks. It was not a favorite chore but once the blocks were completed mother allowed me to deliver some to her neighbors. It gave me the opportunity to play ‘seek and hide’ with other boys in the compound, an enjoyable excursion from chores.
Jacob had told me that before the laundry machine had been built, men would wear their clothes until the smell was too much even for them to bear. At that time washing was limited to bashing the clothes with rocks in the river and then only when the river bank was clear of ice. In the winter months, so Jacob says, it was all you could do to sit next to someone. The stench within the long houses had many men risking the bitter winter cold just for relief from it.