Tuesday, October 08, 2013

What I Can't Write

There were some things Lovecraft couldn't draw
I can't write mystery, hard sci fi, romance, police procedural, high fantasy; and I'll tell you why.

I seem to be telegraphing my antagonist when I write mystery.  I don't know if I don't have the right kind of devious mind, but my bad guy is too obvious too early.

I don't have the math skills for hard science fiction.  The kind of sci-fi I'm thinking of you really need to be able to explore the mathematical possibilities of things and I just don't have the math chops to even ask a math/physics person a question they won't scoff at (I know, I've tried).  I also don't have a hard science education.  Anthropology is considered a "soft" science.

I can't write romance or police procedurals because I just don't like them.  I don't like them enough to read them, I would never be able to write them.  You may be confused by my dislike of police procedurals, but you see I don't see that subject as one suitable for entertainment.

High fantasy is a bit of a puzzler.  I love certain fantasy, Tolkien, Pratchett, Asprin, Le Guin spring to mind.  I just can't stand others.  Again, if I can't read it I could never write it.  I don't think I could write it based on a very few authors because the sample size is just too small.  Additionally, I just can't get into it the way some people can.  I'm just not comfortable working in the genre.  I had been at one time, but I think I'm in a different place in my life and it just doesn't sit right with me anymore.

I'm not moaning or whining.  This is purely analytical and I'm using the process of elimination to determine what I CAN write.

What does that leave me?  Soft SF, contemporary fantasy, horror.  What type of horror?  Not slasher, I don't know about suspense, but I think I'm pretty good as weird fiction.

What I like to read:  Mystery (mostly cozies or cozy-esque), Hard SF, very select fantasy and very select horror.

Very select horror?  Why would I be able to write horror and not fantasy if my reading tastes are similarly limited in either genre?  I'm not really sure, but horror is what I've sold.  About 75% of the very very VERY meager earnings I've made have been with horror stories, or at least weird fiction.

I think it may be because it doesn't scare me to write it.  You know how it was always your older sibling, the one that wasn't actually afraid that told all the scary stories when you were young.  They were able to get into it with intensity and enjoy it.  They could dig in and make it ghastly and suspenseful.  It didn't bother them to leave a hero hanging over the edge of a cliff until the next bedtime story or to kill everyone off at the end of a campfire story.

The trick to writing that way is to keep your audience's fear in mind.  I have heard some authors that write what scares them, and that's great because they can check the effectiveness against themselves.  My way I can't do that, but if I always keep my audience in mind, which I do, I can do it reasonably well.

I think another trick is to make it as believable as possible for as long as possible.  That way the audience won't know when you strayed from actual facts and into the woods.  They will just suddenly find themselves in the deep dark without knowing how they got there or how to get out.  No idea how to get out at all.

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