Saturday, March 29, 2008

I’m Lost in the Genre Jungle

By Keith Fisher

I was going to post an article about the Whitney awards but I’m sure everyone is tired of that. Maybe I’ll save it and post later, when I’m too busy to write. Until then, here is something else.

I entered the LDStorymakers first chapter contest again this year. Since I placed third in the Mystery/Suspense category last year, I thought I had a chance. My manuscripts are so much better than last years, how could I lose?

I lost! Yeah, I lost because everyone else’s manuscripts were better. It’s a fact . . . you learn to deal with those things . . . I guess . . . seriously though, congrats to all the winners. I know you did a great job. After the contest, I picked up my packets and found some interesting comments from the judges. Some were good, some bad—all of them were helpful.

I learned much from those comments and I was reminded that every writer and reader has different tastes. The same paragraph can get a wide range of criticism depending on who is doing the judging. The same applies to teaching and books about writing. Everything is subjective but it is valuable—even if only for a good laugh. The important thing is to believe in your writing—glean what you can from a critique, be honest with yourself, learn from the good suggestions, and disregard the rest. From my critique packet, I discovered I’m genre-less.

No, its not a disease . . . well maybe . . . depends on which group . . . let me explain. In the past, when people asked me what I write, I told them I write contemporary LDS, adult fiction. When someone presses further, I say it's like Dean Hughes. Not necessarily historical, but have you ever read Midway to Heaven? Or his new book Before the Dawn? Basically, it’s the feel good type of coming of age or dealing with life kind of story that we all love.

Since my manuscripts weren’t mysterious or suspenseful, I asked if I could still enter the contest this year. I was told to submit it in those categories anyway. I did, and that brings us back to the comments. It was suggested by many of the judges that I put more suspense in the hook.

In the prologue of one of my entries, there is a man on death row with no explanation as to why, only vague regret and the emotions of brothers saying goodbye for the last time. In the other entry, a man plunges to his death in a mountain climbing accident while his friend fights for survival in a blizzard, trying to get off the mountain. Would you read these books? I suppose I could put a serial killer in someplace, but I think it would mess up the plot.

At the Whitney Awards this year, I cried when we honored Dean Hughes for his achievements. In light of my dilemma, I propose we honor him further by naming a genre after him. Instead of mysteries, we could have Hughes-eries. Then everyone would know the kind of story I’ve written and I wouldn’t have to write the first chapter of a mystery in order to enter the contest. Like the two I started to enter the contest last year.

Good luck with your writing---see you next week.

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