Tag Archives: fantasy
(Cross-posted from Write Club)
Yes, I’ll admit it. I was one of those literary snobs who turned up my nose at genre (or commercial) fiction.
It didn’t start out that way. During my middle school years, I devoured mysteries, fantasies, horror, and thrillers. When I first starting writing (again, in middle school), I wrote a horror anthology called “Tales of Terror.” There were three issues, composed of short horror stories penned on notebook paper and stapled together. On the back page of every “anthology” was a place for feedback. During that time I also wrote three YA mystery/thriller novellas.
High school found me writing stories about 1920s gangsters and poetry. Encouraged by my English teachers, I enrolled in college with the intention of graduating with a degree in English.
Around that time I also had the lofty (if delusional) idea of writing literary fiction. But not just any literary fiction. Pulitzer Prize quality literary fiction. (Yeah, told you it was a delusional idea.)
I continued writing poetry and a few short stories. A writer friend tried to persuade me screenplays were the new American novel but I wasn’t as yet convinced. I think I tried my hand at writing some awful plays. I also served as editor of the literary magazine (one issue) and the college newspaper. (It’s not as impressive as it sounds.)
Now journalism occupied my time, particularly the alternative press. Another friend loaned me copies of In These Times and Sojourners. Instead of the current pop favorites, my musical tastes ran to political bands like Midnight Oil, Johnny Clegg and Savuka, Billy Bragg, XTC, Peter Gabriel, etc.
My goal was to now write Pulitzer Prize winning articles. I even planned to go to graduate school for journalism, Columbia being my first choice.
I graduated from college with a B.A. in English and a minor in creative writing. I never pursued my Masters. Nearly 13 years would pass before I started to write again. Why? Because every time I started a project, my inner critic silenced me. Not only was I not writing literary quality work, I wasn’t writing creatively at all. (I was, however, working as a freelance writer for a couple of local magazines.)
In 2003, I decided to write a novel. The catch? I didn’t allow myself to edit until the first draft was complete. And I did finish it, a 50k YA horror. The following year I participated in my first NaNoWriMo.
Since then, I’ve written one novel, three short novels and one novella. I also have three short novels in progress and several ideas for future books. Guess what? They’re all genre fiction: horror, mystery, paranormal, urban fantasy, etc. Well, you get the idea. The point is I’ve written more since I returned to my writing roots.
Maybe I should’ve stuck with genre writing and not been a literary snob.
I hear them drawing nearer, their voices rising and falling. In my mind’s eye, I watch them wind their serpentine way around the meadows and hills in this danse macabre. Nervous laughter gives way to raucous cheers as the new recruits reach out a tentative hand to the last person of this human chain.
But I stand alone, commanded by the Angel of Death to play and charm these new denizens of the underworld while he leads them to the scales where good deeds are weighed against bad ones. As expected, the virtuous are escorted to Paradise while their unlucky counterparts are left to wander as earth-bound spirits.
It’s the screams of the ones left behind that I cannot stand. Nor does my music soothe them and their howls and wails unnerve even Black Shuck, the Angel of Death’s canine companion, who whines and licks my hand until I pat his head and murmur consolations.
Perhaps it’s better that I don’t see the contorted faces and pale, blood-streaked cheeks of these tormented souls. The Angel of Death agreed, which is why he blinded me before requiring my services. I am under his protection for eternity.
You see, I’m not dead.
And therein is the problem. My perceived truth doesn’t correlate with actual reality. If it did, I’d be dusting my Pulitzer Prize medal or shining my Oscar. And while I did place second in a short screenplay competition, I’m reminded that inflated dreams can lead to deflated results. For years I was so intent on writing the perfect article, screenplay, novel, etc., that I didn’t write at all. And Lady Karma took great pleasure in humbling me. However, I did learn valuable lessons as a freelance magazine writer. These skills included writing concisely, meeting deadlines, and interviewing people for articles. That last bit may be the most important of all for it’s the characters that people relate to when they read stories. If I don’t care about any of the characters, most likely I won’t care about the plot.
I realize I may never win the Pulitzer and I’m okay with that. Once I accepted that I enjoy writing genre works, including fantasy, mystery, and paranormal, I actually started writing more. I can still pursue my literary dreams via playwriting but in the meantime I’m going to have fun with this. After all, one can only be on hiatus for so long.