1. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    Transcend my genre? Heck, I'm just trying to transcend basic literacy.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by mrieder79, Apr 13, 2016.

    In my search for agents, I've been seeing a lot of, "...looking for stories that transcend their genre..."

    This is my first rodeo. I'm just trying to make sure my MC makes it out the front door without forgetting his pants. In fact, I'm not really sure what it means to "transcend a genre" much less how to do it.

    Guess that's why I haven't gotten any acceptance emails yet, lol.

    Seriously, though. Can anyone think of how a story transcends a genre?
     
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  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Genres have established, well-worn tropes. I think they're looking for works that move outside of those, or subvert them in some way not typical of the genre (probably because they receive so much that IS typical). That said, once published there is a market for standard genre fare.
     
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  3. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Transcend
    verb (used with object)
    1. to rise above or go beyond; overpass; exceed:
    to transcend the limits of thought; kindness transcends courtesy.
    2. to outdo or exceed in excellence, elevation, extent, degree, etc.;surpass; excel.
    3. Theology. (of the Deity) to be above and independent of (the universe,time, etc.).
    verb (used without object)
    4. to be transcendent or superior; excel:

    Looks like a fancy way to say they're looking for something that fits a genre but in a new and exciting way.
     
  4. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Not possible, everything has already been done. Unless you are willing to go out on the fringes, to the branches that take a special kind of madness to pull off.

    So you have to ask yourself: Am I that person that can walk out on a twig and not fall off? Am I that crazy to pull of that which pulls all the stops out?

    Pretty sure you are going to have to wander into the land of obscure and insane to 'transcend' a genre. Well good luck with that. :superlaugh: Cause your madness has to make sense in the end. :superlaugh:
     
  5. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I'm also content to stay firmly untranscendent in my genre. :D

    I don't think your story is one they're going to read and think "that's so overdone!" and I also think few editors are really looking for something new. They want the same old tropes but not a rip off of Twilight or Harry Potter.

    Actually some of them do seem to be looking for rip-offs... how many BDSM erotica novels have I seen lately? A LOT.
     
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  6. Indefatigable Id
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    Indefatigable Id Member

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    Just in this forum post, you've already managed to throw out two worn-out, tired expressions. "My first rodeo" and "Remember to put my pants on". Do you always express yourself in extremely popular, late 20th century phrases? Maybe you do, I dunno.

    People are always looking for something that will reignite that fire inside of them. They want new. They want good. They want new and good. A fresh perspective. (Or at least, fresh for them.) If that means looking at the world through the eyes of a madman, then that's what it will take.

    Being a total weirdo is a big hindrance to having a social life or any kind of normal career. But, when it comes to the creative endeavors... I never stop laughing at the idea of "normalcy" having any relevance. Normalcy is what ordinary, white-collar, red-blooded Americans are trying to escape! Nobody wants to escape into a world just as mundane as their daily grind.

    If someone reads enough stories, then they're going to encounter the same stories again and again, eventually. The ideas become inbred within a certain community. Each genre becomes its own echo chamber and people begin to laud one another on their ability to sound just like each other. Nobody wants to try to be different, because it attracts all kinds of criticism, and nobody wants to sit around being criticized all day.

    If you want to transcend something, you have to go as far as you can go and then go a bit further, push the boundaries a tad. You must rise above the so-called norm. What does this mean? Use your creativity. Your imagination.

    I think it's funny when people trash talk Twilight and all of the books that followed after it... because the way I see a lot of people writing is copying books much older and much more frequently imitated than Twilight. But Twilight spoke to its target audience. At least she let herself dream.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2016
  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    You really take your signature seriously, huh?
     
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  8. Indefatigable Id
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    Indefatigable Id Member

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    I take expression seriously. It comes from my gut. I think about not saying what I really mean to say, and I realize that it would be better not to say anything at all. But then, not saying anything at all seems so... I mean, at that point "being alive" is little more than having a pulse. Way I see it, we've all got just the one life to live, with no certainty as to its length or quality. I know most people would rather take everything for granted, but I feel that having a voice and a mind and time and the means to realize my own existence is more important than... well, whatever the hell it is that people think matters so damned much more than that.

    If you try hard enough, play the game and do your best to be agreeable I suppose you can get enough people to like you that you can start reaping some benefits from it. No guarantee that someone who lives like that will like what they see when they look in the mirror every morning, but it's one way to slog your way through life without ever really having to learn jack shit about yourself or your own limitations.

    I care about what I think of me, at the end of each and every day. That's what matters most. If I self-censor because of what I believe others will think of me, then I am lying to myself and to others. If somebody likes me because I'm pretending to be someone else, that just doesn't hit the right spot. As it is, I'm still as vicious as I was when I was 17, my hair isn't falling out and I get carded when I try to purchase alcohol. Something about the way I'm living is just working so well for me. And I think a part of it is that I'm not fighting against myself. I'm just having more fun than what is normally allowed for good, decent humans. It's really obscene and something should be done about it.

    We're talking about excess in excess of what is normally considered excessive, over here.
     
  9. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    I've only heard "my first rodeo" expressed by fictional characters, and only by characters who're meant to be "the Southern one." I found it striking and interesting to see someone use it themselves, and I'd love to see at least one book written in that speaking style.
     
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  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    There's a big difference between expressing yourself honestly as a writer and shooting from the hip (mid 2oth century expression) at anything that moves.

    Your snotty (20th century) dig at the OP's choice of language came out of nowhere, and just served to create an unpleasant atmosphere in an otherwise interesting thread. If this unpleasantness pleases you, and is what you were striving to create, fair enough. But it will get old, fast. Nobody fancies (an 18th century expression) being a sitting duck (late 19th century expression) for your sniping.

    I'd say go write something of your own, instead.

    ..............

    Note: If you are a person who has Asberger's then I apologise for my tone and retract my remarks. Your remarks probably weren't intended the way they came across. Let us know if that is the case, and we'll adjust our reactions accordingly. Otherwise, I stand by what I said.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2016
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  11. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Actually I was referring to your rudeness to another writer.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2016
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  12. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Dude, mate, bra, Anime hair doesn't give you an excuse to be a dickhead. :D Neither does being a writer. I'm disappointed. :bigmeh::bigmeh::bigmeh:
     
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  13. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    To get us back on topic -

    What we're looking at here is publishing code words. This is because they can't just outright say 'we're looking for highly marketable writers; talent optional' because to do so would encourage normal people to think they can have a go. So they don't say that. They get a bit subtle.

    The thing is that 'transcends it's genre' is supposed to mean 'so good that people who don't like this genre will like it'. Harry Potter and Game of Thrones transcended beyond their traditional audience to break into the mainstream and in doing so rule the world. Taken at face value you could be forgiven for reading it as 'cultural phenomenons only'. And that might be just about plausible for an agent to ask for that; except that the majority of people deliberately trying to write a cultural phenomenon create pretty crappy books that no-one wants to comb through.

    No-one can tell up front who or what will transcend their genre. The things that determine your transcendence are for the most part not in your control. It's about zeitgheist (my spell check says that's spelled wrong but I far prefer the idea of a zeitgheist being some kind of banshee riding a skeleton horse scything her way through culture) and fans and momentum.

    So, what does 'transcends it's genre' really mean? In my estimation it means 'would it be too much to ask for a unique element we can sell people on?' No, it doesn't mean you need to be amazingly wonderfully transcendent but I think it is trying to ask for elements of something else coming in because the audience for 'pure' genres tends to be quite set in their ways. They like what they like (almost in complete defiance of quality on occasion *glares are YA readers* ) and if you want to elbow your way you need to offer something fresh not just 'more of the same'.

    It's no coincidence by the way that this lesser form of transcendence (lord save us from a world of low expectations) sounds suspiciously like 'write a good book'. Not to say that 'pure' genre writers can't be good writers too but even the schlockiest of genre hacks (looking at you Dan Brown) understand the need to jazz up their work with a unique setting or element.

    In terms of selling your work, yeah figuring out the right way to do it sucks. Especially because the right way still isn't going to be very successful, it'll just give you the best chances.
     
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  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I like your idea of 'a unique element we can sell people on.' I suspect that—peeling away all the literary fluff—is what they mean.

    'Transcend the genre' can be taken by some to mean 'push the boundaries of the genre.' But that can get you into trouble, too, if you push the envelope too far.

    I suspect they mean: 'Remain within the genre, but please send me something I haven't seen a million times before. Surprise me.'
     
  15. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    That's my interpretation too.
     
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  16. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I think they mean either do something not expected in the genre or reverse something expected in the genre. As @LostThePlot said so eloquently "a unique element we can sell people on". Really their just asking you to be interesting. Or at least, to me that's kind of standard. I love playing with genres, in the same way as themes, characters and plot points.
     
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  17. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    When I was writing screenplays, that's what my partner and I aspired to—something new, but within the boundaries—because that's what spec screenwriting was/is all about... well, maybe not these days; now they just want another superhero movie that can move the stock price up (unlike B vs. S which moved it down :) ).

    My understanding is that this "special something" needs to be inherent in the logline (or whatever it's called for novels). My partner and I agonized over finding this "special something" to inject into our loglines for hours, days, weeks—nay—months on end. It's not easy to find... if you're looking outward.

    My partner and I went our separate ways over 20 years ago with neither of us finding any success as a screenwriter—during or since... not that success as a screenwriter would be noticed by anyone other than our Moms and Dads anyway, but still. Point is, we never found that "special something" while working together and I believe it was because we had two extremely different world views/approaches to writing, life, etc. and that made it far more difficult for us to agree on anything we found whilst digging around inside our own souls for ideas.

    And when it comes to agents and publishers, they have a different world view from the average wannabe writer (I'm guessing here, but it seems to make sense). So if, while looking for that special something, I look to their world, I won't find anything that isn't already there, nothing that will make them sit up and take notice... because I'm trying to look at the world of storytelling from their POV... and I'm not very good at that.

    When I started getting encouraging comments on loglines and story titles was after I looked at all the work I'd already produced (finished and unfinished—mostly unfinished) and asked, "Based on this, who the hell am I and what do I like in a story?" Because even my drawings, paintings, and songs—and the roles I took as an actor—betrayed who I am.

    And finally, I had to face the fact that my ex-partner (who still sits in judgement inside my head) wasn't going to like anything I came up with that way. Agents might not like it, either... nor publishers. And letting myself go in whatever direction my unconscious wanted is the hardest thing I've ever done.

    That, I think, is what makes a story transcend its genre: exposure of one's true self within the story. That magic "special something" these agents want is a writer who can touch that place in his/her soul that connects to the universe... like Harper Lee did with To Kill a Mockingbird, or JK Rowling with Harry Potter... or Stephen King with, well, almost everything he ever wrote.

    I'm still struggling with it and might be until I drop dead at this keyboard. But that's what I'm aiming for: the universe... while using my soul as a lens. And rewrites? That's just me wiping the fingerprints off the lens. :)

    ...

    Too dramatic? :)
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2016
  18. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Beautiful! :blowkiss::blowkiss:
     
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  19. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's actually one helluva story.

    I like the voice, I like the aspiration, the flawed MC with his inner demons.
     
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  20. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Does this put you in 'transcending genre' mode, or leaving genre behind mode? Assuming you are writing within a genre, hoping to sell it to a genre agent/publisher/reader, how do you go about exposing your true self within a semi-restrictive format?

    I'm not suggesting you can't, I'm just wondering how. What would your boundaries be?
     
  21. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've always loved science fiction, so almost every story idea I come up with falls within that genre. But, the only science I've ever delved into is computer science, hardly the basis for a story of any kind (or maybe it is and I'm just too close to it to see it). Besides, if anyone were to write in actual computer science terms, the only audience would be other computer scientists; everyone else would think it was all wrong because the terms/situations aren't those they've seen in the movies (which are all wrong). But I digress...

    With no hard science to base my ideas on, I had to look elsewhere for story ideas. For me, that meant bringing my sense of humour into play. So, I write absurdist science fiction and coming up with absurd ideas in that realm is easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy... for meezy.
     
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  22. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    And I think, by leaving the hard science out, you transcend the sci-fi genre. :D
     
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  23. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, that's very kind of you to say and since you're the only person on this forum who's read my stuff... I guess you'd know. ;)
     
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  24. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Agents want moneymakers, high concepts - books with good taglines. So for that matter the only thing you need to worry about is that logline - if that's what you're aiming for.
    Transcending is all about taking an old idea out of storage and bringing it out at the right moment - Like Harry Potter when wizards weren't in vogue or tragedy - the fault in our stars when zombies are in favor. Transcending is part anticipation, part freshening up old ideas, part damn good writing.
    And there's no way of really knowing that you're writing something that's transcending. Might as well just write what you're excited about. That's all I'm doing. I'm not really a high concept person but I am trying to improve my loglines to fake it.
     
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  25. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    Certainly no-one would reasonably suggest that The Fault In Our Stars transcended anything on it's quality alone...
     
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