Challenges of Writing in a New Genre

Hi everyone!

There was a time when I thought, “Fantasy is fantasy.  There are no sub-genres.”  I was wrong.  Only in the last few years have I discovered that there are a whole slew of different sub-genres in the fantasy realm!

Even still, after making that discovery, I thought, “Writing in one sub-genre probably isn’t much different from writing in another.”  Once again, I was proven wrong.  But this isn’t the first time I’ve changed which genre I write in.

In the Beginning – Sci Fi

Image Source - http://www.thenextweb.com/
Image Source – http://www.thenextweb.com/

I think I was around 11 or 12 when I wrote my first story, however old I was in 5th grade.  It was a Sci-Fi fan fiction (though I didn’t know it was considered fan fiction or even what fan fic was at the time.)  It was horrible.  Never-the-less, I loved writing it!  For the most part, every story I wrote after that for many years was Science Fiction.

In fact, I’d say about 90% of the 100+ short stories I’ve written in the past 18 to 20 years were science fiction, the rest were ‘literary fiction’ (whatever the heck that really is) for college.

Much of what I wrote was fan fiction throughout those years, but I did try my hand at an original novel, which I sadly lost after 12 chapters (learned the hard way to back up my work.)  My fan fiction series ran for 7 years with 70 short stories, and up until these last couple years was my most prolific time.

There’s no getting around it, at the time, I thought I was going to get published as a Sci-Fi writer :)

High Fantasy

As I think I’ve mentioned in my blog before, what eventually became known as The Sword of Dragons started out very different: Star Dragon Legion was a science fiction, and Sword of the Dragon was a single short story within that universe.

Image Source - Google Images
Image Source – Google Images

Sometime in 2002 or 2003, I don’t remember when exactly, I had the idea to take that short story’s concept and turn it into a fantasy story instead.  By this time I had a lot of practice in writing science fiction, but I also had a lot to learn, as I would later learn in my creative writing classes.

I honestly have no idea why I made the change.  I think it really was just because I saw the short story as something that could make a great fantasy, and hey, I’ve read as many fantasy novels as I have sci fi, why not?

What I didn’t realize then was that my novel wasn’t just fantasy, it was considered High Fantasy.  Furthermore, it took me time and practice to find my voice in High Fantasy.  That first novel in 2004 was atrocious!

Eventually I did find my voice, and my inspiration.  I still believe that The Sword of Dragons and its sequel are the best stories I’ve written to date, and are the first novels I’ve written that are publishable.

Chronicles – YA Modern Fantasy

A good example of a modern fantasy written in another universe - Final Fantasy 7
A good example of a modern fantasy written in another universe – Final Fantasy 7

The more appropriate genre term for my new project is probably Contemporary Fantasy, but I think Modern Fantasy sounds better :)  In any case, this is essentially a new genre for me, very different from High Fantasy where you get to build the entire world from the ground up.

Chronicles of the Sentinels is set in the here and now, modern day Earth.  The characters, for the most part, are us, humans, normal every-day humans.

Surprisingly, I am finding this a bit challenging.  A fun challenge, to be sure, but I am not flying through the chapters like I would another TSOD novel.  In fact, as of today I am 4 pages into chapter 3, and that’s it.

It’s hard to pin down what exactly about it makes it a challenge, but I think a big part of it is my brain saying “this is set in a world everyone knows, so you don’t have to describe things like you would in high fantasy.”

That is not the case.  I would say I shouldn’t describe the world and characters the same way I would high fantasy, but I still need to.  I don’t need to invent the world, but I do need to build it for the reader.  They need to be able to see the characters, see their surroundings…in fact as I write this, I realize there’s still some more I need to add to chapter 1, lol.

The thing is, I want readers to fall in love with the characters.  I want me to fall in love with them. Which means I need to show who they are and what they believe.

This needs to be about them as much as it is about the plot, perhaps more-so.  I can’t afford to be lazy.  Especially when so many people have told me they are looking forward to this story more than any other I’ve written.  I don’t want to disappoint you all!!

-Jon

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5 thoughts on “Challenges of Writing in a New Genre”

  1. This is a great post! I think it’s easy to underestimate the differences between the genres. I did almost the exact same thing, switching from sci-fi to fantasy, with my original manuscript. I always thought I was a sci-fi writer, but found I loved the freedom that fantasy gave me. It’s more fun to write, in my opinion :) But yes I absolutely agree that the story needs to be about the characters not just plot!! To me, characters drive the story, not the other way around. An amazing plot rings hollow if there is no emotion behind it or anyone for the reader to invest in. Good luck! :)

      1. I played through it a bit a couple years ago. Still love it, but I ended up getting mad at something and haven’t touched it again since. (I’ve been super busy!)
        It’ll always be my favorite though.

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