Friday, April 1, 2011

What's This Rules Business?

This week, the Wicked Writer’s were prompted with the following: “How do you find the balance between following the rules, but still being unique to your chosen genre?” By the very nature of the question, I suppose we need to first set the table, as it were. One: There are rules to be followed. Two: The writer must be unique to their genre or their work will not be noticed.

Rules: So just what are these rules to be followed? To tell you the truth, I wasn't entirely sure, myself, although I did seem to feel, in the back of my mind, that I had a sense of what they were. So, I did what any enterprising individual would do in my position: I Googled 'em!

A post that I found for the Horror Genre writer explained how horror writers needed to capitalize on the emotion of the readers, using their own phobias and fears against them. It seemed to indicate that rather than focus on plot, the writer would build the sense of dread and then sustain the suspense until the climax of the tale. I don't know whether I agree with the focusing less on plot than the whole dread-thing - and perhaps I miss-read their position - but, as I suspected, I knew this already. At least I did on a subconscious level. Perhaps this is why we writers need to be reading as much as we can in our genre, because having read thrillers and horror novels most of my life, my creative mind already understood things such as pacing, foreshadowing, etc., without me actually realizing that I might one day need to explain it.

Being Unique: The underlying point here in point two seems to indicate that if one’s writing is not fresh and new it might be relegated to the slush pile and not be noticed. When I realized that what I was writing was a vampire book, I then had to figure out, in a world where every other film, book, and television show had vampires in it, how mine was going to survive and be noticed. Whether it has or hasn’t, I’m hoping that it is still too early to say; however, I did go for a crossover angle. My vampires live in a world where good versus evil is clearly established, and that line of demarcation is challenged and investigated.

My World: My crossover Christian vampire novel is good. That’s not me bragging. Is it the great American novel? No. Will I one day pen an earthshaking novel that breaks new ground and moves mountains? I hope so. I’m certainly hoping to improve and endeavoring to go beyond myself. What I mean by that is many readers have sought me out to inform me that not only did they enjoy the book, but they thought it was something special to them. Once again, they sought me out to tell me that. In a world where it is very easy to begin doubting one’s self, I need to cling to this truth and never give doubt a chance to seed.

The problem that I am having, along with every other writer, and perhaps some of you, is getting the work noticed. I have a pretty good presence on the Internet, I have given many copies away and have had them positively reviewed, and I have a presence in my hometown (where the novel takes place); however, it was not the big hit that I thought it might be. Being a baseball guy, it wasn’t as if I thought it might be a home run in my first at bat, but I was hoping for a solid double down the left field corner.

It may yet be that hit, but I might have to foul off a few more pitches until I get that pitch that I can handle. What would you folks write about this subject were it your assignment this week? Do you have any thoughts? What do you know of the rules of your preferred genre? I’d love to read them.


  1. It was H.P. Lovecraft who said "Never state an (sic) horror when it can be suggested."

    So, I think another rule for horror is not to let the cat out of the bag early. Think of "Jaws" where the shark was implied vs. "Jaws 2" when the shark appeared early and just looked silly.

  2. I'm not usually one who loves rules. But I love the romance genre basic rules:

    The woman always wins.
    There's always a Happily Ever After.

    Works for me.

  3. Of course, Greg, it doesn't hurt when the mechanical shark doesn't work more times than it does!! Sometimes genious is accidental.

    I do know what you are saying. These films that show too much do themselves a disservice. I recall as a teen, sitting on the edge of my seat, while unsuspecting victims walked around Camp Crystal Lake, not knowing just exactly when Jason Voorhees or his mother might jump out to get them...and me!

    Thanks for the comment.

  4. Hey, Sharon. It's been my experience that the woman should always win...Romance Genre or not! ;) Sorry, I never know when I might need those points.

    Have a great weekend and thanks for the note.