Monday, June 13, 2016

And after doing all that research, too…

Guys, I have come to a hard realization. You may want to sit down.

My novel… isn’t a hardboiled detective novel.

You’ve been with me through my many drafts, versions, and imaginings of my novel. You’ve watched me do endless research. You’ve seen me through the frustration of outlining and writer’s block and plot holes. So it’s probably just as hard on you as it is on me to make this difficult change of heart.

It’s okay guys. I promise. Let me tell you why.

One of the premises of hardboiled fiction is: the story is about the case, not the detective. The detective takes it in, lets it get personal, makes judgement calls and moral calls and such, but the case is the thing. In my novel, the case ends up being very personal to Cassidy. The story is about her, because the case is about her, and the two cannot be split.

After I read all my research material into hardboiled fiction, I read a book series, The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. It’s about a wizard detective in modern-day Chicago. I loved this series—it managed to capture everything I loved about the hardboiled genre and eschew everything I didn’t love, and it made me realize that I love the trappings of hardboiled mystery. The idioms, the sardonic tone, the mean streets and the almost-corrupted yet incorruptible protagonist. But it also was very much about the main character. He sees everything through the filter of his own biases, which is true for hardboiled fiction as well, except that in the Dresden Files, his biases are important to the story—to the case, to the way he ends up solving the mystery and resolving the conflicts.

I realized that that was what I wanted out of my book. I wrote a mystery about a character, then I selected a genre that divorces the main character from the mystery—smart going, Elly. But giving up the official genre of hardboiled doesn’t mean I can’t rub right up against it, try on its shoes and makeup and steal its change from its bedside table.

Stressing about genre is probably the least productive thing you can do when you’re trying to give birth to an idea, but knowing your genre can determine the direction you go when you’re writing, so… it’s a conundrum. I’m glad I got this figured out. At this point, pointing it out doesn’t really change much, but it feels good to do so.

1 comment:

Becky Munyon said...

Stressing out about genre is a kind of initiation. We all do it. I hate genre classifications and the idea that everything has to fit into neat little boxes.
This isn't really that big of a revelation for me. I always knew your story wasn't a traditional hard-boiled story, but a lot of the elements are there. I saw it as a new twist on an old genre. Which is cool.