What Genre Do I Write?


Ask me what I write and I will have a little difficulty telling you. There’s a lot of things I like to write, but there does tend to be a focus towards urban fantasy. Bear with me as I try to explain how I feel about this.
-Compare and Contrast-

I don’t really like what urban fantasy means to me.  Mostly just because of the name and the connotation of it.  Something about the word “urban” turns me off, especially because I prefer “rural” settings in my own personal life.  Urban sounds noisy, modern, crowded, and superficial.  It makes me think of “urban myths,” like the crocodile in the sewers, and that makes me not take it seriously in some regard.  And then pairing urban with “fantasy.”  Fantasy, to me, conjures up everything I love – rich, wild worlds with magic and sword fights and fantastic creatures.  How could something so amazing be paired with something so ugh?  It seems to me like an oxymoron.

I also don’t like urban fantasy because it feels lazy.  Those high-fantasy novels I love so much are their own complex worlds built from scratch and require a lot of effort.  I struggle to come up with a unique world so captivating that doesn’t feel like a rip off of something else.  Modern realistic fiction – which I will compare to “urban” here – can sometimes be too easy, because the writer is more or less writing about what they know:  the real world.  There are times when research is needed and can make it more cumbersome, but from my experience in writing realistic fiction, it’s almost effortless.  The rules of the world are already laid out because it’s how the world around me actually works.  Taking out the hardest part of world-building makes everything else - characterization, plot, style - so much easier to handle.

-I'm Hard on Myself-

So when I say I write urban fantasy the most, I feel a little embarrassed.  Like I’m telling you that I live in my parent’s basement or I work in fast food.  It’s not really that shameful, but it’s like something you don’t really want to share because it feels like it will always make a bad first impression if you tell someone about it.  That I’ll be judged for writing something easy, something fluffy, something overdone.  Not to mention that my urban fantasy stories also tend to be classified as “young adult” – which can basically get judged the same way.

But that’s totally just me being hard on my own self.  I don’t judge other urban fantasy writers – I actually do love the genre!  Next to plain fantasy, it’s my next favorite genre to read.  I love the way that the real world can subtly or drastically be turned on its head as supernatural, strange things happen.  It’s part of the reason I like writing it.  I like to at first make the world seem normal, with subtle hints that something isn’t right, and then all of a sudden, bam, confrontation by the paranormal.  It’s also interesting to explore how your average-joe person would react to something so out of this world without going crazy.

I also like it because I have a bit of a problem with reading real horror stories and things of that nature.  If it’s fiction and obviously fake, it doesn’t bother me and becomes something I can enjoy in the safety of knowing that these supernatural things don’t actually happen.  It’s why I like fiction in general, too.  Sci-fi, fantasy, and even realistic fiction – it’s safely not real.  The scariest episode of Supernatural, to me, is that episode where Sam gets kidnapped by real-live backwater human-hunting cannibals and nothing supernatural is actually going on.  It’s all real people with real twisted beliefs.  In comparison to everything else that happens in the series, that episode is the realest thing that could happen, and that’s spooky. 

-But Wait, There's Most-

But urban fantasy isn’t everything I do.  I do have a realistic fiction coming-of-age sort of story in the works.  I have an awesome idea for a sci-fi story, but I can’t tell if it would be a short story or a novel.  Probably just short. 

Actually, that’s probably where my line is drawn.  I am a lot more likely to branch out into other genres if I write them as short stories.  I’ve dabbled in sci-fi, dystopian, horror, suspense/thriller and the like as short stories.  But when it comes to novel-length stuff, it will probably mostly be urban fantasy. 

The only non-fiction I like to write is essays, of sorts, and things like these blog posts or my own journal.  I’m entertaining the notion of starting a film and literature critiquing segment on this blog.  I only have the “first episode,” planned, though, so I don’t want to start it until I have more material. 

-The Line I Don't Cross-

There are things I don’t write.  I don’t write romance or smut.  My stories might have couples and budding relationships and might even have a sex scene somewhere, but they would not be primarily classified as romance because it is not what the story is centered around.  It’s just a part of the grand whole. 

I don’t really write horror, mostly because I don’t think I can scare anyone with words.  I tried to write a short story about a haunted house once, and I think I failed terribly at actually making it scary because I relied on disturbing imagery and “jump-scares,” which don’t really work the same way on paper as they do on screen.  I lack that disturbing understory that really makes something scary, just as I lack that high-fantasy universe creation. 

And I definitely, absolutely, do NOT have the attention span to write something as research heavy to be classified as “historical fiction.”  The amount of effort Dan Brown probably puts into his Robert Landon series just blows my mind.  And I don’t write crime fiction or westerns or anything like that either.

-And Don't Even Know It-

Apart from novels and short stories, I do dabble in poetry.  The poetry I enjoy writing most has structure, beat, and rhyming.  I feel like the challenge of conveying a feeling within the confines of a strict format makes it more interesting, makes every word you use just that much more important.  I do let loose with free form now and then when my feelings escape every attempt at keeping them contained in rigid lines.  Especially if it’s raging poetry.  Let loose the beast! 

Something I’d like to try more would be micro-fiction.  And I mean micro.  I want to try and make something as shocking and amazing as one-sentence horror stories. 

And I think that about covers it.  If it pleases you, I’d like to leave you with one of my favorite poems.  I submitted it to a poetry contest back when I was, oh, in 9th grade or so.  I got in the top ten in the nation amongst hundreds of poems and it was published on page 13 of an anthology of poems that were selected.  I'd tell you the book but for the life of me, I can't find my copy, which is rather upsetting. I’ve since updated the poem numerous times to make it flow better, but the meaning – the meaning – has stayed the same.  It’s something I wanted to share because it meant so much to me, and still does.

"The World"

If the whole world was blind,
It wouldn’t matter how you look,
And because you can’t see a cover
You cannot judge the book.

If the whole world was deaf,
One voice would be as loud
As a thousand others
Shouting within a crowd.

If the whole world was blind and deaf,
Then we would all have a fresh start.
We wouldn’t depend on senses,
But to what is inside the heart.


-Dana Lockhart

Comments

  1. Dana, Interesting to see your thoughts on the genres you write in. And by the way, that’s an absolutely beautiful poem (and that’s coming from a guy who is not into poetry at all). I don’t know much about you other than having read the excerpt of The Un-Life of William Moore (which I found very interesting), but it seems you have a good grasp of storytelling in general. I think most storytellers eventually go off on a tangent and write a few pieces that are outside of their comfort zone. I’ll be curious to see if in the future you decide to write a crime or horror novel or something different like that. It may seem doubtful now, but the creative mind changes occasionally over the course of time. It brings to mind a paranormal book called Touch by Elmore Leonard. Elmore’s one of the greatest crime and western writers of all time, but he felt compelled to write Touch even though it was completely in a different zip code from his other works. It was not well received, even shelved for a number of years by his publisher, but I recall reading in an interview that it was one of the works he was most proud of, probably because it was so outside the box compared to his other writing. Anyway, I think it’s cool that he stepped out on the ledge like that when he had a very successful career with other genres. Good luck with Un-Life (I’m looking forward to reading the rest of it) and whatever genre of book you decide to write next.

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