A Story in Every Port

For hundreds of years, it was often said that sailors had a girl in every port.  Now that there are a lot more woman sailors, the saying is that they have a lover in every port.  That also covers LGBTs and is a less discriminating and more PC comment.

So, what does the title of this blog have to do with that?  Well, some time back while working on my new novel, it occurred to me that my story and characters could fit into almost any genre.  It could be an urban fantasy with my characters hunting vampires or zombies.  It could be a more traditional sword and sorcery fantasy story.  It could be an epic fantasy story.  It could be a historical novel.  It could be a mystery novel or a crime novel or a police novel.  It could be a western.  It might even fit into mainstream  literature.  I’m certain it doesn’t fit into a romance novel, but with a little alteration, it might.

Why would it fit into any or all of these categories?  Well, because I write about people and their conflicts.  People have conflicts within themselves.  People have conflicts with each other.  They have conflicts in their organizations.  They have conflicts with people in other organizations.  They have conflicts with lawyers, lovers, doctors, the police, with governments, with terrorists and criminals and who and whatever else you can think of.

In Ernest Hemingway’s story “The Old Man and the Sea” the hero has conflicts with the weather and the ocean, and with the swordfish he’s trying to capture.  It’s conflict that makes all stories interesting.  After all, in “The Walking Dead” TV series, how interesting would it be if all that happened was that characters ran from and killed the zombies and did that week after week after week after week?  I hope you see my point.  Just fighting and running to fight later on isn’t enough.  Its the conflict within the heroes’ group, as well as with other characters and groups of characters, that makes it interesting.  Some viewers might just enjoy seeing zombies shot all the time and the odd character eaten alive by the zombies.  However, such a show wouldn’t last very long.  Without new blood (bad pun, right?), the show’s popularity would fail after awhile.

So, if you think your story can fit into another genre easily enough, you have to make certain of certain details (and you must be absolutely honest with yourself and be quite familiar with the genre you want to switch to).  What are these details?  The details I’m referring to aren’t about how big a character’s nose or how dainty her feet are.   Nor am I talking about her hair color or his lack good hygiene or any personal details about characters.  You have be absolutely certain that your characters are strong enough that they could fit into any other genre.  And you have to be certain that the story is strong enough, too.

I’m talking about the story between the characters.  How strong they are and what their weaknesses are and how their weaknesses or strengths move the story along and cause problems.

For instance, Superman has Lois Lane and green kryptonite and genuinely cares about the people of Earth.  Batman, on the other hand, is obsessed with justice and is very cynical; he could never be a Robin Hood.  These are two great opposite characters.  One with super powers who is at the mercy of his humanity and compassion and the other who is so strong physically and intellectually that he’s trapped by all that strength.  Batman and Superman, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, are conflicted within themselves.  Neither can be what they truly want to be.  Batman wants to impervious and invulnerable to pain and injury, he want’s be free from emotion and untouchable.  And Superman, he just wants to be a regular guy.

That’s how your characters have to be.  You have to make them strong, but you have to give them weaknesses.  If they easily overcome their weaknesses, their weaknesses aren’t that bad and they won’t be very interesting as characters.

Will I change my story to a different genre?  No.  I’m satisfied with where my characters are and where they’re going.  I just realized, for that moment, they could fit elsewhere, too.

To be a writer, you have be a student of humanity.  You have to observe people and listen to how they talk to each other and how they respond to each other.  And you have to be willing to do this with yourself, too.  How do you respond to someone who disagrees with you?  How do you react to someone who’s angry with you or hates you?  How do you respond to violence, whether its verbal, emotional or physical?  And how would you prefer you responded to it?

Good luck!

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