genre

The World Of … : The Songstress Murders – Mixing Mystery, Romance, and Magic! a.k.a. Genre Fusion

For the next few weeks, Wednesdays will be focused on the lead-up to the full release of my latest book, The Songstress Murders, which you can pre-order from Amazon at THIS LINK.  So, without further ado, let’s get into The World Of The Songstress Murders!

Genre fusion is something that is pretty old-hat by now.  It’s like chocolate and peanut butter; mixing the right taste combinations creates something greater than the individual ingredients.  It’s at the very core of cooking, be it for food or for new literary cuisine. The Songstress Murders is no different.

But as with most elements of writing, genres and their fusions have to be handled properly.  Each genre brings with it certain core elements and genre conventions, as well as certain preconceptions brought to the tale by the reader herself.  To write a genre tale well involves understanding these themes and elements, as well as how to both cater to and play with the reader’s expectations.  One must balance both embracing the genre and creating a unique and interesting interpretation of said genre.  Rehashing the same formula, even if it is a tried-and-true formula, gets tiresome for readers after a while.

(more…)

Advertisements

Starving Review: South of Rising Sun by J. D. McCall

23981527

South of Rising Sun by J. D. McCall (Goodreads)

STARVING REVIEWER’S NOTE: Mr. McCall had the misfortune of his previous publisher imprint closing up shop.  However, he has already been picked up by another, so South should be available through Amazon and other outlets again shortly.  I will update the links when that happens.

If you’ve been hanging around the Starving Review kitchens, then you know by now that I love a good Western.  Of course, the emphasis needs to be on the ‘good’ part.  As a fan of the genre, I am obviously most sensitive to amateur chefs who burn the bottom, sour the filling, and generally botch up the recipe.  From first bite, South of Rising Sun seems to be as pure of a Western genre recipe as possible, but does it live up to standards or do we have another cake dropped on the kitchen floor?

Before we find out, let us review the code of the Starving Reviewer:

  1. I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre
  2. I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible

(more…)

Writing Is A Bad Habit: Lazy River or Raging Torrent a.k.a. The Many Rights of Pacing

Pacing, pacing, pacing!  It’s one of the most vital elements to get right in a story and it’s one that I wind up commenting on often in my Starving Reviews.  The problem with reading my reviews to learn about pacing is that the ‘right’ pacing for any work is an elusive beast.  When I say in a review that the pacing was ‘sluggish’, that may mean something different depending on the book that I’m reviewing.

Pacing, maybe more than other core plot elements, is fluid.  You need to think of pacing as a river.  A river is water flowing down a channel.  You want a safe current down that river, but how much water you need to make that current depends on the channel that’s cut.  It also depends on what you want to do in that river.  Do you want to go white-water rafting or spend a lazy day fishing on the river bank?

To turn the comparison back into actual literary terms, the ‘right’ pacing for a particular piece is determined by theme, content, genre, and the plot itself.  Action pieces may call for a swift pace.  Introspective pieces may call for something steady and methodical.  It’s even quite likely that the pacing of a work will slow and speed, alongside the rises and falls of the dramatic curve.  This all serves to reinforce the other elements of the book and the all-important dramatic tension of the plot.  This is why pacing can be such a dominant force in whether a reader loves or hates a book.

So, when you put together your next work, pay attention to the ebbs and flows of your plot and use the pacing to help enhance and reinforce that plot.  The pace is the spine and the speed limit of your tale.  You need both to be just right to create the best works you can!

Questions, insights, or critiques?  Drop them in the comments below!  Until next time, good reading, good writing, and good luck!

Plot and Motivation: Foreshadowing and mystery

This morning, I realized I needed to do the reformatting work on the second edition of The Opening Bell and, in doing so, I wound up taking another look at the Prologue and Epilogue I had originally written for it.  I wound up taking both entirely out of the novel for the second edition, not because they were poorly written (they weren’t) or that they were unnecessary (though in a sense they were).  I took them out because I felt that they foreshadowed too much, especially the Prologue.  That then got me to thinking about the struggle between foreshadowing and mystery in general.

I think foreshadowing is a great thing, personally.  It helps provide a sense of logic to your plot and can give clever readers a feeling of satisfaction for noting the foreshadowing when it happens and the pay-off comes later.  I think the sense of logical consistency is the greater of the two benefits, especially in many kinds of genre novels.  Sometimes, the ‘rules’ of the genre can lead to a sense of illogic, but some proper foreshadowing can provide a trail for a reader who doesn’t normally read that particular genre to follow through the possibly confusing genre conventions.

The problem with foreshadowing is when it’s taken too far.  As a writing technique, foreshadowing is usually meant to be subtle, a trail of breadcrumbs that an astute reader can pick up on and follow.  The more experienced a reader is, the more he/she picks up on.  Every once in a while, a very direct application of foreshadowing may be called for or even used as a sort of red herring to obfuscate the plot instead of enlightening it.  However, if you find that you’ve not just scattered some breadcrumbs to follow but drawn a line in glow-in-the-dark permanent marker straight to the end of the plot, there may be too much foreshadowing.

It’s not foreshadowing if you have made an obvious arrow pointing at the heart of the mystery.  Instead, you’ve ruined that mystery for your reader.  This may not be too serious of a blow if your piece isn’t focused on the mystery, if it’s a side plot or a minor event in the main plot.  If the mystery you just revealed six chapters early is a critical point of the main plot, though, you have most likely shattered the dramatic tension caused by the mystery itself.  The reader is likely to become bored as he already knows the key plot points coming up ahead and his/her frustration at the protagonists for not also seeing the obvious plot point can lead to a breaking of the suspension of disbelief needed to enjoy the tale.  At worst, the reader will just sigh, close your book, and not come back to it.

That’s what I did with the first edition Prologue of The Opening Bell.  In just one page, I revealed a major character who is slowly built up to for chapters and laid out in the spotlight, straight down to a strong implication of motivation.  Thank God for second editions!