Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Cho on the Practical Merits of Genre Structures

Over at her blog, Zen Cho (Sorcerer to the Crown) discusses how two failed novel-writing attempts led to her finally completing her highly anticipated debut. Excerpt:
In October 2012 I was ready for a new project and I found 10,000 words of an idea I’d written in early 2011 squirreled away in my hard drive. ... It seemed to me that they had promise. A frothy magical Regency romance with an earnest dude protagonist and a reckless female counterpart—it sounded fun. It sounded potentially easy: clearly I didn’t know what I was doing when it came to plot and structure, but I could just steal the structure of a standard Regency romance here. So I spent some time outlining the novel and in December 2012 I started writing the first draft.

This was the book that eventually became Sorcerer to the Crown.
I have wondered why it was this book that worked out, when most of my previous published work was set in Malaysia/primarily about Malaysian characters, and I think it’s because of the structure thing. I really did not know how to construct the shape of a novel and this is something I’m still learning. ... When you adopt a trope or subgenre like a Regency romance or, say, cosy mystery, that gives you a shape to work with. You make it your own, but you get some help with the bones.
Read the whole thing. Cho’s praise for the practical virtues of genre is part of the reason why I prefer it. I mean, I don’t hate literary fiction or anything like that. (Dare I offer the tokenism of saying that some of my favorite books are literary?) It often boasts beautiful verbiage, complex characters. But so very often I find myself at sea while reading it. The traditional literary preoccupations mean that its books tend to deemphasize pacing and plotting. Somewhere around the midpoint of most literary novels, I usually find myself wondering just where the author is heading, what point he’s trying to make, what the sum of this great whole will end up being. There’s nothing wrong with making a reader have to work hard to grasp The Big Picture. After all, the writer worked hard in creating the story. But it’s hardly controversial to say that that’s far less fun for most people. Not only does genre structure provide narrative signposts for readers, it frees up writers to focus on something they should never forget—enjoyment.

(Picture: CC 2008 by Owen Benson; Hat Tip: io9)

No comments: