I’m often told that the writing I do for Valkyrie Squadron isn’t like most other sci fi pieces. It tends to be a little more light-hearted than most, and that’s because I don’t write sci fi. I write light-hearted characters in a sci-fi story. Big difference.
Yesterday, I saw a tweet that read “Man, it’s hard to write fantasy” or something like that. There are a lot of writers who seem to get bogged down by their own genres, and I wanted to take a moment to discuss the best methods for writing for genre: DON’T. Genre is irrelevant.
The concept of writing “for genre” is really, really stupid, but it’s surprisingly common among writers to think “I can only write fantasy” or something like that. If a writer wants to learn how to write “for genre”, there are plenty of resources and books out there that’ll teach how to write action stories, or sci fi, or romance, or whatever. All of these are fairly unnecessary if you know what you’re doing.
Any story ever is merely characters interacting within a pre-defined world. In fantasy, that world is filled with dragons, or magic, or fairies. In sci-fi that world can be filled with robots, or armored fighters, or flights in outer space. In steam punk, the world is filled with cogs, corsets and fetishes. Either way, the world is defined by a set of rules determined by the writer. World building is an art unto itself, but after all the rules are properly defined, there shouldn’t be any problems here as long as the writer stays true to the world’s internal logic. Then, there are the characters. As long as a writer has taken the time to define these characters’ personalities, there shouldn’t be too much problems here either. Defining these worlds or characters can be a challenge, but once all the infrastructure is laid out, the only challenge left is composing the three-act story.
World + Characters. People need to sound like people. The world needs to stick to its own internal logic. The kind of world is irrelevant. Genre is irrelevant. Write a good three-act story. Read Invisible Ink if that’s a challenge. The point is that story and character development come first ahead of whatever silly trappings surround your characters. Whether your story has dragons or neon shoes, tell a good story first. Obey the rules of the world. The genre will work itself out.