Monday, April 15, 2013

You Can't Make Your Story Into Something It Isn't

This last weekend, I was at the UW Madison's Writer's Institute. I love conferences because it really brings the professionals back into contact with the writers (something that I think needs to happen more than it does). In any case, I heard a couple of writers talking in the hallways about their projects and something one of them said really hit home.

This particular author was talking about some comments that they had received from one of the editors or agents during the pitch session. I don't remember exactly what the author was pitching, but it was what they were going to try to do next that stood out. Apparently, the story they pitched might not be what the individual was looking for. Still, there had been a request made. But here is the twist. The writer was planning on adding a few things to the story to make it more of the genre the person was supposedly looking for.

Now, here is the point of this blog. Your story is what it is. Just adding a few things to the story, making it longer, making it shorter or deleting specific scenes or characters is not going to change what your story is.

When we talk about the genre you would market your story as, simply describing it different ways doesn't change the actual story. You are simply spinning it in a different way.

I was talking about this specifically in the session I taught over the weekend about defining romance and women's fiction. In the case of a romance, one of the criteria that puts a story into this genre is the happily ever after. Therefore, if your story doesn't have that element, it doesn't immediately put it into another genre. It simply means that you are marketing it the wrong way. Along the same lines, simply adding the happily ever after doesn't make it a romance. It will still be whatever that other genre is you wrote with a happily ever after.

You have to understand that your story fits a certain category, not simply because of one characteristic, but a combination of several elements. It is the interaction of all these elements that make it what it is.

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