Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Camel-Dog -- Whimsical, or Just Plain Wrong?

If you try to be something you're not, sometimes the results can be ridiculous:

Yeah, that's a dog.

As much as this dog's owner wants it to look like a camel, the essence of dogginess is still there.

Now, a lot of people will think this is wrong. But I'm of two minds on it. On the one hand, it obviously lacks authenticity. There's a basic dishonesty about it. (Plus, it probably embarrasses the dog. Give the dog a piece of bacon, though, and it'll likely get over it.)

On the other hand, a part of me kinda likes the whimsy. I think the world could use more whimsy.

If we twist our brains a bit, I'm sure there's something here we can apply to writing fiction.

*twist, twist, twist*

When you're true to your voice -- whether you're literary or hard-boiled or funny or erotic, or whatever -- then I think your readers pick up on the underlying "you-ness" and are more comfortable. More willing to suspend that disbelief for the brief time they spend with you. So it helps to know what you are, and make the most of it, instead of warping your work-in-progress into the genre du jour.

But maybe you're just a born camel-dog kind of writer. Maybe that's what comes naturally to you. In which case I say...


Just don't feel like you have to write a literary-inspirational-vampire-zombie-erotic police procedural to make your book stand out. Unless that's YOU. (And if it is, let's talk. Because I really want to read your book.)

If you write, what's the most comfortable fit, genre-wise, for you? 

(Which isn't always easy to pin down. Believe me, I know. For the longest time I thought I was writing funny paranormal mysteries, but it turns out they're light urban fantasies. Hey, I just write 'em. I let the pros categorize 'em.)

If you're a reader (as I strongly suspect you are; otherwise, really, why would you be here reading this?), is there a book that's drawn you in despite being a genre you normally don't salivate over*? What was it about the book that worked for you (if you can pin it down)?

*Note the clever doggy reference to tie up this blog post. You know, Pavlov's dog? The salivating thing? The way that...oh, never mind. Trust me. It works. 


Unknown said...

I'm a YA-er at heart, mostly, dark tragic tales, but every now and then I like to write something different.

as for reading, I'm pretty all over the place. My least fave genre is the fantasy, so I'm sure it will be no surprise to you that the book that answers your question is none other than the GAME OF THRONES books (I've read three of the five so far). Their just not your average fantasies. Yes, there's magic and dragons and kings and nights and eunichs, but the magic isn't overdone, it's not a crutch used to get heroes out of sticky situations and really, there aren't all that many HEAs. It's this enthralling, harrowing journey, and George RR Martin is not easy on his characters, especially the ones you want to root for, which ofttimes has you shaking your fist and growling. It's great! ;)

Anne Gallagher said...

Oh the poor dog. I suppose it would be okay for Halloween, but everyday? Give that dog a pound of bacon.

As a writer, I'm drawn to angsty love stories. People/characters, why they do what they do all in the name of love.

As a reader, a little bit of fantasy, thrill, not so much literary but good strong writing. I'm thinking Harry Potter here. I also love me some cozy mysteries.

Tara said...

Believe it or not, Diana's books came highly recommended for over a year before I decided to pick up Outlander and give it a shot - cause, yanno, that's not a genre I read (um, what genre?![g]). Pretty sure I don't need to give you specifics on what worked for me (everything!).

abby mumford said...

i read YA mostly and that's also what i write. i love the freshness, the newness, the abundance of emotions, the almost adultness of it all.

Bess Weatherby said...

We dressed our dog up as a pumpkin once. HILARIOUS. Wrong? Possibly ;)

It's interesting. As authors, we have to pay attention to what's being read, what's popular, and somehow strike a balance between acknowledging and respecting it, and ignoring it. Like, I wrote a historical fiction and every agent rejected me because no one is reading them! IBut then, on the other hand, if you write something *really* awesome, then the publishing world will go along with you. My HF wasn't a gamechanger, so I shelved it and started working on something else.

Have you ever read "The Forest of Hands and Teeth?" Zombies. I didn't know I could get on board for zombies. Apparently, I can :)

Carol Kilgore said...

I write short and long fiction. My short stories, for the most part, a dark, noir crime fiction.

My novels are different. They're still some kind of crime fiction, but humor pops out. I can't sustain that darkness for a full novel - I think because I don't take life or myself that seriously and usually see the funny side of things. Plus my novels all have a love story, too.

Writers have to go with their voice or what ends up on the screen is a total disaster. At least in my experience.

Judy,Judy,Judy. said...

As a writer I'm not sure I've found my genre yet. I just finished a Gothic romance. Never thought I'd like that but it was fun to write.
Next I'll probably be trying my hand at romcom cause a female demolition derby driver protagonist is driving around in my head.
As a reader I'm a romance genre girl. I don't normally like historical romance. But some writers do it so well, I read it and like it.
For example, Amanda Quick, aka Jayne Anne Krentz. It's her voice that does it for me. I love JAK's voice in all it's many names & genres.

J.L. Campbell said...

The camel dog does look sad. I write in a variety of genres, but have never thought to write according to what market trends are demanding. I think if I did that my voice wouldn't be authentic. I do best writing when I feel confident I know what I'm doing.

Steph Schmidt said...

I normally don't like dystopia (too depressing), really don't like a lot of cussing in books either. But the voice in the Avery Cates series is so antihero and gritty I can't put it down. It's a series that takes those situations where the hero should be thinking guns blazing and instead the hero is thinking of escape plans.

Lola Sharp said...

I think the camel-dog is kinda cute. :)

(and only YOU would find a picture of a dog groomed as a camel. Though, there IS someone crazier, the person who thought to groom their dog like a camel) (maybe, hopefully, it was for halloween?)

I read every genre and love it ALL. Good writing is good writing, I don't care what era, age range, creatures, etc are there or not. What I care about is the writing and the characters. Bad writing and fab writing exists in every genre. Make me care, don't pull me out of the story with sloppy craft, and I'll read it.
I could honestly be quite happy writing many different genres (and do), but right now I'm having fun writing a literary urban fantasy. (I know, I know, I can practically hear you rolling your eyes from here, but I swear it is)

I hope you had a lovely holiday weekend. :)

Teri Anne Stanley said...

I am working on my niche...the Amish Erotic Romance thing is going to be hot next year, or so I've heard, and that sure appeals to buttons or zippers to worry about...

I have been really surprised that I have enjoyed the whole Hunger Games thing. I don't generally go for YA, and that whole dystopian thing gives me hives, but I find that it's not the genre so much as it is the I'm broadening my horizons daily!

Sarah Tokeley said...

Hmm...the last MS was YA, the one before that was apparently 'futuristic fiction' and the current one is contemporary :-)

Patsy said...

I'm not normally a fan of sci-fi, but I like the Nora Roberts/JD Robb books.

I've tagged you over on my blog - hopes that's OK. I'm fairly sure you can do random.

Beth said...

Funny thing--I used to dream about writing old-fashioned romantic suspense, a la Mary Stewart.

But somehow, what comes out on the page is fantasy. Always. Give me a story prompt and I'll find some way to add fantastical elements to it.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Oh, that poor dog. Reminds me of our old dog Buck. He was a large gentle soul. Blond, and he looked like a cross between a collie and a German shepherd. Anyhow, I got him a lion cut one time. When we picked him up from the groomer, all it took was one look, and we all got hysterical. I mean, tears rolling down our faces hysterical. Poor Buck was traumatized, I'm sure.

Anyhow, if I have to pick a genre, it'd be women's lit, but the men who read my book liked it too, so who knows? Kinda along the line of Anne Tyler books, I suppose.

As for reading, I have preferences, but will read just about ANYTHING. And enjoy most.

Unknown said...

Oh you know I write YA, and read YA most of the time. But sometimes I love books like a THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS that can leave you thinking about the characters for days.
And seriously, where do you get all those hilarious pics??? ;)

Dianne K. Salerni said...

WHAT is on that dog's back? It looks like some kind of horrible skin disease!

Based on what you wrote, Linda, you probably won't be surprised to hear that the genre of my reading material matters less to me than the author's style. I am drawn to voice, and with the right voice, I'll read all kinds of genres.

Michele Shaw said...

I love to read everything, but I write YA. Specifically, I write YA romantic suspense. It's all about kissing with an injection of mystery. I also write YA horror. However, my most recent favorite book to read was adult literary fic...The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen. That was just flat out amazing writing, which is all that matters in the end.

Al said...

Historical fiction set in the middle of the twentieth century!

Isis Rushdan said...

Writing paranormal romance comes naturally to me. I also tend to read it and urban fantasy (which I also write). Epic/High fantasy doesn't really appeal to me in books, but it is great on the big screen. Although I have enjoyed Game of Thrones.