Friday, January 10, 2014

Trends, Tropes, and A Bit of Bravery

I had something else planned today. I was going to talk about drama and excuses. I blogged about it not too long ago, but it's always worth another go. But there's been something bugging me for a bit. It fills my brain all the time actually.

The market.
The trends.
The tropes.

And then there's what I actually write.

And this week, it popped up in four places. First, Megan Whitmer vlogged about how to make your story stand out, even if it's a familiar trope. Then #NALitChat was talking trends and tropes people were tired of and what they want to see more of. Then Jessa Russo was tweeting about how not every female MC doesn't have to be a carbon cutout. Then to top it off, Kelsey Macke vlogged a pep talk that might of been for all her followers, but I know she was sending extra love my way. Basically she said, believe in yourself.

So, where does that leave us?

As a writer, it's very tempting to see an agent you covet tweet something on Twitter and think, "I could totally write that story!" and then write a story for the market or for that one agent. While that might hook in representation, you're left with a problem. The story you wrote was Contemporary and you really write Historical. Then what happens? You have one success and then you have to start over. You wrote for the market, you wrote a book, but you didn't write for the longevity of your career.

I write Adult and New Adult and I'll admit, I've been tempted to write to trends and the market. I did it with one story and it felt so fake to me that by the end I hated it. Ironically, it probably would get published if I sent it out to people, but it's nothing like what I love to write. Someday I might let it see the light of day again, but for now, it has to go away.

In this business, you have to remember all the things I've heard this week, and all the things before that.
Your story DOES need to stand out, even if it's a familiar trope.
Readers DO want something different, even though that's a scary place to put yourself.
Not every character HAS to be the same, that's what makes books so great.
You MUST believe in yourself and keep going.

I was going to talk about what trends are popular and what people want to see, but really, there are a hundred blog posts on that. Instead, I'm going to talk about some things I'm going to try out in my books. Some may call it stupid to try and buck the trends, but I like to think I'm a little brave. And maybe someone out there has a story they want to tell and they'll feel brave, too.

Here's a few things you'll see coming in my words. They don't really fit in, and honestly, I don't really care. Someone will want to read my stories. I know they will.

1. Not all my MC's know what they want. And what they do on the outside is rarely what they feel on the inside. They say they're fine and agree to things, then in the next chapter they have inner turmoil. I've gotten varied feedback on this, but I don't know anyone who doesn't do exactly this. Sure, we read to escape, but we read to connect as well. And I want characters that act like people I know, or even myself.

2. My females aren't always strong. Sometimes they need saving. On the flip, not all my males are golden gods who are capable of doing the saving. My characters make bad choices and no, they don't do what you'd do. They do what they'd do. Everyone says they want something different, but in editing, those different choices are usually the first thing to go because people say, "No one does that."

Right. How refreshing would it be for a character to do something you didn't expect? Like a cool drink of water.If I write a female character that isn't freaking Katniss, the feminists will jump on me. If I write a male who's a jackass, people will expect me to redeem him. If the best friend is too perfect, then I'll be criticized for giving my MC some kind of inferiority complex for attention.

But what if the female MC was raised in an environment where it's normal for her to want a relationship and rely on a man? That doesn't make her a villain. It probably makes her pretty normal. I'm a strong woman, I can take care of myself, but damnit, I like my husband to open doors for me. I like help opening jars. I feel complete with him in my life. Am I weak? No. I'm in love and I have a partner. So sue me. But I write MC's like this, too.

What if the male MC is brainy? Fit but not a beefcake. What if he's the one not sexually experienced and is a bit shy about doing it with the lights on? Does that make him not a man? Maybe he likes to clean his house. He has OCD so he's a bit neurotic. So now, I'm supposed to make him meet a girl and be a big, burly lumberjack who can Hulksmash the guy who is treating her wrong? I'm rolling my eyes right now.

The number one complaint is that the women in fiction change as soon as they find a guy and an equally big complaint if the guy doesn't change as soon as he finds a girl. What??? How is this a thing???

What if the best friend seems perfect because the MC is telling the story and that's how they SEE their friend. It has nothing to do with comparison to the MC her or himself, just that they have one person they can count on. I think my best friend is the bee's knees. And she might have faults, but you can bet, when I describe her, no one else can compare.

3. I write NA and most of my stories don't take place in college. Or if they are in college, it's doubtful it will be party or frat house heavy. I have an NA story where the characters are married and getting ready to have a baby. Another character is single and has a career. She owns her own business. Not every 20-something goes from home to college to meeting a guy. Then marriage, house, babies, etc. That is one formula and it works. But it's not the universal experience. As a matter of fact, I think it's not even half. Some people travel, some go to vocational school or community college. Others go right into the workplace because they are married and have a baby on the way. Or maybe aging parents, or younger siblings that they have to help raise because their dad's a drunk. There are a million stories out there of how people do it and though one kind of NA is selling big right now, my books won't be like that.

4. My characters have relationships with their parents. NA or Adult, the parents come into play. Some love them and some hate them or love them but can't be in the same room together. That means that sometimes I have grandparents in my books. My Grandma was everything to me. We shared everything right up until the day she died. I can't be the only one in this world that was close to their grandparents and parents while I was in my twenties. Just because you go to college, doesn't mean you outgrow your parents. Some people even live at home if they go to a local school. My point is, there isn't one formula to a NA book. Most of thm just haven't made it to the shelves yet.

5. My characters might love more than one person. There might be cheating. There might just be friendship, no romance. There might be a single mom or dad. People will die. The ending won't always be happy.  Sometimes it will work out because the character makes the right decision, not the Disney approved Hollywood ending. And I know I'll get haters. But it's my story I want to tell. I don't want to put out another homogenized book for the bookstore, I want to make a work of art, something that will stick with people.

I'm sure there's more to add here, but you get the point. 

I write flawed, quirky characters who follow their own drum and have relationships with their parents that may or may not go to college and are probably not great at relationships or always using their words. And I'm not going to change. Not for tropes that are popular or trends that are....trending, (Hi..I write good.) or to catch the eye of someone or a publishing house I might not be able to maintain because I can only write one story like that.

I want a career of writing but that's not why I write. I write for the words and the characters and the chance to create something new in the world. And like I said, maybe it's foolish, but I'm going to buckle on my gold star for bravery and call it good.

Do you have something unique in your work that scares you to put out there in the world? Share it with me in comments.

See you next time. And write bravely!

1 comment:

  1. Angi, this post is perfectly timed for me! I've been trying to write all the words today while fearing my beta, heart on his sleeve, not afraid to express his emotions hero might be found not "heroic" enough. Most of the romances I read involve alphas or the stoic types and while I love those characters, that's just not my hero in this story. Thanks to this post, I'm gonna keep on going and loving my beta hero. I'll consider my critique partner and beta-reader feedback when I get it, but you're right. There are readers out there who'll love him too. I know it!