Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Genre-Device Mnemonic Caper

             Middleman reference.
            Very sorry I missed the last two weeks. Lots going on, which I’ll get to in a minute 
            I wanted to toss out a couple of quick, easy genre/device mnemonics for you.  These are a couple of things I’ve heard over the years.  Sometimes—when I’m struggling with something in a story—I’ve found them helpful for getting my head wrapped around things.
            So, what is it you’re working on right now. Maybe keep in mind...

            Suspense is about what’s going to happen
            A thriller’s about what is happening
            A mystery is about something that already happened

            Granted, these are kind of broad definitions, and there’s always going to be an exception or two. But I’ve mentioned once or thrice before the problems that can crop up when I try to push this kind of story into that framework.  And if I’m trying to write a thriller that’s about events that already happened... well, there’s probably a reason I’m having problems with it.  Or maybe my readers are having problems with it.
            It’s not a bad thing to double check what I’m writing about and what I think I’m writing about.
            Now, let’s flip this and talk about devices.

            A mystery is when my characters are actively searching for a piece of information they don’t know.
            Suspense is when my readers—or the audience, in a larger sense—knows a piece of information that my characters need to know but don’t.
            A twist, is when we’re talking about a piece of information that nobody even suspects exists (readers or characters), but once we learn it, it’ll change how we view a lot of what’s already happened in the story.
                       
            I think we all mess these up a lot when we’re starting out. We’re trying to use a device or write in a specific genre, but we fall into the patterns of another one.  Or we’re so focused on having, for example, a cool mystery that we don’t realize we’ve actually set up a twist.  And it’s kind of a weak twist because... well, we’re still trying for a mystery.
            Worse yet, sometimes we learn these mistakes.  They become that thing we’re convinced is right because we never learned anything different. And so we stick with these mistakes for years, focusing on other things instead fo the one clearly-wrong thing.
            Make sense?
            That’s why I like a lot of these little mnemonics.  They’re easy things to keep in the back of my mind and check my work, so to speak, every now and then. Good for starting out, good for later on, too.
            Next time...
            Okay, truth is, I had surgery last Tuesday.  Nothing super-serious, don’t worry, but it was pretty intense and the painkillers have really knocked me for a loop (and really messed with my sleep). Heck, this post was mostly done last week and I couldn’t pull it together long enough to get this up on the site.  Barely got that cartoon up the other day.
            Long story short—no idea if I’ll have a coherent post done for next week.  August might be my lame month.
            At the least, I’ll put up another cartoon. At the best... well, we’ll see how close I am to reality at the given moment.
            As always, please feel free to toss any requests or suggestions in the comments below. Or any handy mnemonics of your own.
            Until then, no matter what... go write.

4 comments:

  1. Hope your surgery went well and you recover soon!

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    1. Thanks. Surgery went fine. Recovery... is a little rougher. :)

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  2. This post struck a chord and made me realize an interesting aspect of some of the things I enjoy and engage.

    I am a magician/mentalist who stages séance performances, generally during the holiday season, i.e. Halloween. The best way to describe them is "spirit theater" and in the course of the presentation, all three of the story elements you mention occur during a séance.

    There is the suspense of what is about to happen as the lights are dimmed, candles lit and the sitters prepare to contact those on the other side. As the séance progresses, a wee bit of mayhem may ensue which touches on thriller aspects and at the conclusion of the séance, there is often the revelation of secrets and motivation of the spirits which help to solve the mystery that was presented.

    Last year, I conducted a séance at The Clown Motel in Tonopah, NV for the benefit of my friend, Chris Sebela who dared to stay there for an entire month and wrote about the experience.

    BTW: I've been trying to find out when you'll be at Mysterious Galaxy for a Paradox Bound signing. Did I miss it or has it been scheduled?

    Best of luck and wishing you a continued speedy recovery.

    Cheers,

    T. Tyson

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    1. You actually went to the Clown Hotel? The one out in the desert across from...?

      And, yes-- there's going to be a signing at Mysterious Galaxy on October 1st, right after the Writers Coffeehouse. :)

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