Monday, March 12, 2018

Across a Crowded Room

QUESTION: I have a scene in a restaurant where staff is coming and going. How do I describe that? Do I mention all the movement?

This is really about viewpoint. You are describing the scene from your viewpoint character's perspective. What will she see?

Imagine this. You are in your favorite romantic restaurant. Across from you is your special someone or your favorite sexy actor. You are eating your meal, flirting, and talking. Would you be aware of who is coming in and out of the room?

Your character in a similar situation would do the same thing.

Imagine this. You are in that restaurant with that sexy lover, but someone wants to kill you.

You would be very aware of who is coming and going in the room, and so would your viewpoint character.

If it's a situation that's emotionally neutral like a banquet meal with servants coming and going to bring food, you can say something like "A steady stream of servants, each with a large tray of food or an empty bowl, moved through the room tending the tables.”

Then, unless there's a reason to mention the servants again, or a servant again, you don't mention them. The reader will fill in the visual blanks.

Monday, March 5, 2018

What Genre Is My Book?

Many writers, particularly those who self-publish, believe that genre has nothing to do with them.  They write what they write and refuse to follow the “rules.”

What most don’t realize is that genre is not so much about following a particular formula as it is about finding the right market and readers.  Publishers and Amazon want the writer to know the correct genre to insert their book in to because they know that that’s how the readers find the books they will enjoy.  

Nothing makes a reader madder than reading a book labeled as a romance where one of the romantic pair dies instead of offering a possibility of a “happily ever after.”  Or a mystery where the bad guys win or the murder isn’t solved.  This fails the promise made by the genre label.  

How do you determine your genre or decide what genre you want to write? 

One of the first things you do is consider the books that are similar to what you are writing.  What genre are they listed as?  Pick books that are from traditional publishers since some self-pubs haven't a clue about their genre or they slap on a popular genre to attract more readers.  

Once you have some clue about the genre or genres to look at, do some searching of terms.  If you think you may be writing urban fantasy but several searches and reading of articles on urban fantasy tell you that you aren't, do some more searching for terms like "contemporary fantasy."

As a starting place for finding good writers to read in a particular genre, go to a site like RTBookReviews and read a bunch of reviews to find books similar to yours.  Pick the writers who are recommended reads.  It's best to pick writers who aren't "names."  Nora Roberts can do what she wants because she's Nora Roberts so she's not the best example for the books you want to emulate.  Neither is Stephen King or James Patterson.  

If you discover that you have done very little to no reading in a particular genre, you need to rethink your book because you will open yourself up to writing cliches, annoying readers, and making massive mistakes that will destroy the book's market value.

Genre distinctions are a particular interest of mine so I have a number of articles on the subject.  Click on the "genre" label on the right side of this blog.  If you are writing a mix of genres (cross-genre) or a subgenre of a popular genre like romance, click on the label "cross genre."