Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Writing Genres and The Casual Vacancy.

This morning began with my partner calling that breakfast was ready from downstairs. Breakfast was a cheese, eggs and bacon sandwich with the kettle already boiled and ready for me to make any hot drink I desired.

Not a bad way to start the day.

It's now an hour later. I've yet to get out of my pyjamas, my fiancee is sitting next to me and working from home, I'm on my second Milo of the morning and I'm pleasantly surprised to find that I'm enjoying my read through of J. K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy.

Although it's incredibly obvious that this book is by the same author as the Harry Potter books, Rowling's writing is easy to get into. In The Casual Vacancy as well, there is no great battle between good and evil to push the plot along at the expense (in my opinion) of character. In Rowling's first novel for adults, the plot is the characters. The prologue of the book shows the last hours leading into the death of the central character. The plot of the novel is the people who are left in the town, and the way their lives have been changed in the wake of this central figure's death. The cast of characters are diverse. Dislikeable and sympathetic. Annoying but understandable. They range in age, race, class status. Rowling does a very good job of fleshing out what feels like a real small town in England.

This is not a fantasy novel or a children's book, and it represents a great diversion from the style of books she is best known for.

I've gotten very used to writing urban fantasy and young adult novels. The urban fantasy / paranormal romance series in particular, with the release of Gothic. But I know that I have almost complete versions of the second and third books Revelry (coming very soon from Leap of Faith publishing) and Smoke and Mirrors, so perhaps it is time to pause and take up a different genre of writing for a while...

In a conversation I had with my partner before Christmas, when I was having a terrible time with my mental health, I mentioned the difficulties I was having with writing the fourth book in the above Shadows of Melbourne series.

Him: Have you been writing anything at all lately?

Me: Not really. It's easier to pay attention to the real life job. All I have to do is rock up there, not cry and stay there till the end of the shift. There's a manual we follow, we've gone through training to understand the manual and anything outside of that I can transfer or ask someone else for further advice. With writing thought, I have to make things up as I go along, things have to fit together and if I get to a road block, I'm the only one who can unblock the damned thing.

Him: What if you weren't making things up as you went along? You've always liked journal writing and you've had a bunch of interesting things happen in your life. I'd really love to read that. What if you were to go through your old journals and write up a narrative around them?

Me: .....

My partner is also observed I've been reading a lot in the biography/memoir genre lately. I've written here before of my love for Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. I shortly after followed that up with her novel Committed which, to be truthful, I didn't find as alluring. Since this conversation, I have also added the semi-autobiographical novel Marrying Buddha by Wei Hui to this list.

From these books, I have observed things that I thought worked, didn't work. It has also occurred to me that a good memoir seems to be as much about what you decide to put in as it is about what you don't decide to put in. The format of a narrative is necessarily neat. But real life doesn't happen as a neat narrative, obviously. There are threads that occur in a chronological time line that may have little or nothing to do with the greater story you're setting out to tell. Some bits you'll emphasise, some bits you'll belittle, and some you'll leave out altogether.

I don't know what to do with this statement, I just want to have it here.

I've been guesting blogging between posts here as well. Follow me here at my fellow Leap of Faith author blog, Gemma K. Murray:

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