1. Joran Selemis
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    Joran Selemis Member

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    The most important part of a genre

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Joran Selemis, Sep 16, 2009.

    OK, so there's basic things in a genre like story idioms, language used, explanations of magic or inventions or whatever that differ from any other genre. But what I want to know is what you personally feel to be the most important part of your chosen genre; that is, when you're writing what is the thing apart from characterisation, plot structure etc that you focus on most. The unnecessary element that you include.

    Personally, as a science fiction writer, I feel colloquialisms/slang are the most important part of a sci fi story. It's in the future, and even in present times things aren't called what they are. There's slang for them, and it's this slang which really brings the world of the story alive for the reader. Story-writing in general requires empathy from the reader for the characters' different worlds that they live in, and creating unique slang is an easy way of doing this.

    What are your thoughts?
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    As an (I guess aspiring) writer of literary fiction, the most important aspect of the genre is in its title: literary-ness. Its all about style, style, style. Formal and aesthetic concerns dominate my writing to the point that sometimes the basics get obfuscated...its something I'm working on, and something I admire successful writers for. In my view, if you can have a random passage by a writer and identify their style from it immediately, they're successful (and, I'm sorry to say, I really don't see that in much of the fantasy and sci-fi I've read. With a few notable exceptions, its all very samey).
     
  3. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    For sci-fi and fantasy, a sense of wonder.
     
  4. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Never do something gratuitous. Never take the easy way. Also, as someone who is a big fan of using slang, I can tellyou that it is not easy. Invented languages are easy. Convincing made-up in English is damn hard. Anyone remember "Chubba"? Way to go Star Wars EU. On the other hand, BSG's "frack" was more than mildly popular.

    I write varying strands of sff. I don't do anything "unnecessary". So I can't pick something I think is ore necessary than anything. Maybe a strong character. Someone that isn't RandomFantasyProtagonist #2456 and doesn't follow a specific character type just because the author thinks it's cool or an "easy" sell.
     
  5. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    The genre I tend to focus on is historical fiction so for me accuracy and clarity take center stage when I write.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I personally feel that too much "future slang" can get in the way. I did write one short story here that made significant use of near-future gamer slang, largely as an exercise. But generally I prefer to keep the language more natural/contemporary. I want the reader to feel present in the story, not like a midwestern minister's son in the crack neighborhoods of LA, understanding only every other word.

    What's important to me in writing science fiction is plausibility. I try to keep the story consistent with well-established scientific principles, even when I speculate into the scientific no-mans-lands. Sometimes that means a good deal of research and calculations.

    None of this can take away from effort put into fiction basics like character and plot development, pacing, POV management, etc.
     
  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    My thoughts are that slang and colloquialisms stick out like sore thumbs when the author attempts to create them on his/her own.

    Science Fiction authors are rarely linguists. And even well crafted slang is going to sound, sorry, cheesy to the reader's inner ear.

    These slang terms, which would not be words used in the present day, attract attention to themselves overmuch. This is no different than the Fantasy stories that sprinkle the story with Fantasy World Speak.

    Younglings instead of children.

    Wiselings instead of elderly.

    Bockchortlian Double Handed Swinging Blade instead of sword.

    (facepalm)

    I think the most important thing in any story of any genre is the creation of characters that make the reader care about them. Three dimensionality. Depth.
     
  8. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    To me the most important thing is the story. Plausibility is one important element, but not the only important element. This is true of all fiction.

    Future slang is near the bottom of the list to me.
     
  9. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    IMO, telling a GREAT STORY is the main thing for any genre. This is why people with no particular pretensions to fantastic literary style can still get published. And why some classics are still popular but others are a chore for schoolkids.

    wow, Charlie beat me to it!
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Except the question was about the element other than the basics of all fiction.
     
  11. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    But most things fall under "basics of fiction" if you look at the goal instead of the surface. If it doesn't, it's gatuitous and most writers don't seem to be actively for that.
     
  12. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Fantasy is about imagination, what we want to be possible despite what science tells us.
     
  13. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Okay, sorry.

    I don't know that there's a "genre specific" most important anything. Genres are too wide a topic.

    And plausibility, I would think, is important in all the genres...perhaps some more so (historical fiction). Much of science fiction is totally implausible... perhaps more implausible than any form of fiction other than, perhaps, fantasy, and certain types of horror involving the supernatural. It's about far-out imaginary things.

    Even the claim of the OP (future slang) is far narrower than the wider genre (science fiction) as much science fiction is not set in the future.

    The only thing I can imagine being important is that it's fiction that involves science.

    But something that's most important to Star Wars, and also most important to The Time Traveler and most important to War of the Worlds and most important to Journey to the Center of the Earth and also most important to The Martian Chronicles and also most important to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and also most important to Cormac McCarthy's The Road, and most important to I, Robot and most important to Fahrenheit 451, and Jurassic Park and on and on...

    (Several of those had no need for future slang, BTW)

    but not important to the Da Vinci Code or the Shining or Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, or the Maltese Falcon or David Copperfield or any of the millions of non science fiction books?

    Gosh, I have no idea of anything bonding those and separating those from the others, other than them being science fiction! Certainly, I'm not sure of a "most important element" that can't be applied to other genres. I'd like to say, "imagination" or "speculation" but that's important in many other genres.

    Charlie
     
  14. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    I'm largely with Arron, in that I don't aim for any particular genre of writing, but for simply writing a really good story. So, your question really, I think, might be more specifically about genre writing, in particular, where I agree with the view that there are some important conventions and peculiarities that are important to writing FOR a particular genre audience.

    It's worth saying, though, that there are notable literary works that have [also] been marketed successfully as genre pieces, presumably in order to expand their appeal beyond the purely "literary" consumer. I've read some works I think of as literary fiction, which have or could easily have been marketed as science fiction, historical, romance, mystery, and so forth.

    It kind of seems like to me that a writer chooses either to write because he loves language and writing and storytelling or because he hopes to appeal to a particular readership (likely one that includes himself as a reader). Neither one of those choices, though, requires either substandard writing or disappointing storyline, IMO. They simply reflect shades of choices made by the writer in what he or she aims to accomplish and choices about what kind of tools to use to accomplish that author's writing objectives.

    I'm working with a writer now who aims to write her own thing, but her editor is shaping her story (a first novel) to suit a particular market (in order to launch this writer's career). There's nothing at all inherently right or wrong about her choice to go with that. A published author of a piece of genre fiction is more likely to be taken seriously when she writes something that diverges from formula than an unpublished author who's determined to do either one.

    So, there ya' go ...
     
  15. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I like using neon lights, red, blue, pink . . . or just things that glow in general. Glowing drinks. Glowing fish tanks. Glowing swimming pools.
     
  16. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I enjoy writing High Fantasy and when writing I want to bring the land to life. I want to give everything and everyone a history. I know I could never put it all in a single story. As most of it would be useless to the majority of readers. So I try and narrow it down(hopefully its all done in a more subtle manner)
     
  17. Joran Selemis
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    Joran Selemis Member

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    Whoah, a lotta people like to write their great stories.
     
  18. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Me, I like gratuitous, unessential happenings and conversations.

    If it's not important, but is entertaining (say, the characters are having repartee while cooking steaks in the front yard on a warm afternoon; I lap that stuff up) then hit me with it.

    I think the problem with people these days is that they want EVERYTHING to be ABSOLUTELY essential to the story in an unchangeable fashion.
    Me, I like to see the characters whom I have grown to love doing mundane or even nonsensical things.

    That pulls me in and makes me care even more about what happens to these guys.
     
  19. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    Whatever genre you work in, everything that occurs has to either move the story on or add to the development of the character and the journey they've undertaken. As a thriller writer, I can't afford to wallow in meandering moments, or unessential happenings or conversations, needing to be specific about action and reaction in order to keep the tension and momentum on track.
     
  20. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I definitely don't think that's true of all genres, though it certainly is of the thriller books you describe. Consider something like Romance, where the intention is not to speed the reader through a story but to develop a particular mood, a particular setting, something like that. A tangential digression might be a perfectly apt way to set the mood, so to speak.
     
  21. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    It's not tangental if it moves things on and develops character and the relationship between characters.
     
  22. Robert
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    Robert Banned

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    I don't think there is a 'most important part' of a genre. Successful writing relies on the coming together of a whole bunch of elements, any one of which can lead to failure if poorly handled.

    Cheers,
    Rob
     
  23. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    And its not useless if it doesn't, which was my point.
     
  24. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    I believe it is, but we'll have to agree to disagree.
     

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