Author Craig Boyack is very busy with his blog tour this week, (as you can see from the picture, he is busy celebrating!), but he takes time out to invite us into that weird and wacky place (his brain) where the ideas behind Will o’ the Wisp, The Cock of the South, and Arson (to name but a few) were born, and shows us how he manages to write so successfully in multiple genres. Take it away, Craig…
I write in multiple genres, and have been asked several times recently how I manage to pull it off every time. Whether I was successful or not is up to the reader to decide, but that’s the way the question was posed to me.
My stories are all within the area of science fiction, paranormal, and fantasy. My first secret is not to admit they are separate genres. They exist for marketing purposes, but are actually one big genre that I call speculative fiction. I refuse to limit myself to one corner of the speculative fiction market. It’s a mindset more than anything.
The second secret is to believe that all stories are about people. Readers can only relate to people through people emotions. The characters can be robots, lost clownfish, or calypso singing crabs, but they have to be written like people.
I try to bring engaging characters to my stories so readers will cheer for them. Maybe my goal is to make readers hate the characters. Either way, I’m going for an emotional connection. I’m not saying I nail it every single time, but there is usually one memorable character in every story.
After that the genre is all window dressing. I’m a big believer in examples so let’s make up a character. I’ll call him Goozle. He’s elderly, has long white hair and a bum leg. Let’s see what happens…
Goozle pulled his floppy hat down low and stuck to the forest shadows. He leaned on his staff to support his arthritic leg. He discovered a way to create winged creatures that could carry messages throughout the seven kingdoms at the speed of lightning. That was before the worthless heir to a good King had him banished from the land.
War is coming, and fast accurate reports are the only way to survive the coming onslaught. His cave was heavily guarded. He swirled his wrist three times and blew across his palm. Voices appeared in the forest south of the entrance. When the guards investigated he slipped inside the cave.
He lit the wall sconces at the five equal points in the summoning chamber and dragged his staff in a clockwise circle across the floor. The circle glowed. The lights reflected and formed a perfect pentagram in the air around him.
The beast materialized out of thin air. Nearly nine feet tall with thick wool to serve as armor, and horns that jutted out over it’s heavy brows. It knelt on one knee and said, “Master.”…
Okay, it looks like some prince somewhere is going to regret crossing old Goozle. Try this one…
Dr. Goozle propped his bad leg on the seat across from him. The hyper train lurched forward, pressing him back into the seat. He pulled his hair into a ponytail and drew his greatcoat around his shoulders.
The junior executives killed his plan to replicate laboratory animals. He could make anything they wanted; white rabbits, apes, pigs, even rats. They only lasted a week, and cost the company nothing. No more inspections by animal welfare groups. No more endless permits for the more useful species. The short sighted fools. He could move research ahead by generations if the company would only support him.
He entered a code into his belt buckle and electrical impulses spread across his leg implant. He left the train and walked to the Ceton Corporation.
In the basement his equipment sat covered with sheets and a layer of dust. Goozle pulled on his lab coat and yanked the sheet off the Lab Rat 3000. He turned the dials up as high as they would go, and watched the systems boot up one at a time. At full power, he poured the stem cell cocktail into the reservoir and threw the switch.
The lights flickered throughout the building. An electronic crackling resonated from deep within the machine. What came out the other end had never been seen by human eyes before. It looked at its crimson claws with dead black eyes, and clicked it’s pincers together. Crawfish boy turned to Dr. Goozle and said, “Master.” …
Okay, so the junior executives are in trouble this time. Both stories are revenge based. Both stories have a character who might be over estimating his worth. Goozle even created creatures in both stories.
Which one is the better story. Well, they both suck, but they work as an example. Magic Goozle could be paranormal or fantasy. There isn’t enough story to decide yet. Call the creature a Minotaur, and you’re getting close to labeling it a fantasy. Call it Kyle, and maybe it’s urban fantasy.
Goozle has to travel somewhere fast. Once you know what kind of story it is, he can use flue dust, a teleporter, or a winged Pegasus.
Goozle needs information; it’s a crystal ball, advanced Internet, or gnomish spies.
I used to say pick a lane and drive in it, but that isn’t completely true. It is possible to mash up genre points and still deliver a good story. It’s really hard, but it is possible. It also poses a problem when it comes time to market the story, because that’s the time for labels.
Obviously, Goozle needs to be fleshed out a bit. It’s a blog post and I do what I can.
Once you follow my thought process, it isn’t hard to imagine The Iliad set in the Star Wars universe. (Trojan Bantha anyone?) It isn’t hard to imagine the gyrations of the Starship Enterprise as a wooden ship set during The Odyssey. Why can’t Arthur pull Excalibur from a parallel universe?
You can’t ignore the research either. There has to be some realistic genetic material to go into the Lab Rat 3000. Maybe Goozle’s bad leg should relate some older disorder, like gout. It might even be caused by using magic all his life.
I don’t necessarily write multiple genres, I just envision my genre as being a little bit bigger. I write speculative fiction, and it’s a big field to play in.
Craig has recently launched a YA paranormal novel called Will o’ the Wisp, just in case you had temporarily left the planet and weren’t aware, and is in the middle of his blog tour, find out more on his blog. You can check out his books on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
Also, if you hop along to his blog right now, you might find a little post there from me…