“Fantasy is my favorite genre for reading and writing. We have more options than anyone else, and the best props and special effects. That means if you want to write a fantasy story with Norse gods, sentient robots, and telepathic dinosaurs, you can do just that. Want to throw in a vampire and a lesbian unicorn while you’re at it? Go ahead.” Patrick Rothfuss
I know what you’re thinking. We’re all thinking it: unicorns are asexual. But that’s the whole point of the quote, isn’t it? In fantasy, you can write whatever you want and there will be a place for it. Nothing will seem out of setting. (Out of character is up to you.) I’ve chosen to write in the “speculative genre” because I like making stuff up.
When I read, however, I choose novels with a strong sense of place, regardless of genre: Patrick Taylor’s Irish Country novels, Alan Bradley’s post-WWII Flavia de Luce mysteries, and anything by Fannie Flagg. There are no fantastical bits in these novels but their settings are so wholly other to me that I’m transported, and I get the same feeling I get when I read an epic fantasy.
Anyway, I put up this Rothfuss quote because I’ve been feeling guilty lately about not reading enough in my genre. You want to make sure that the brilliant idea you just had hasn’t already been done to great acclaim. (oh, how sad I was to find out that Guy Gavriel Kay wrote novels starring mosaic artists!) You want to find offensive tropes and avoid them. You want to find something you adore so you can write the author a love note. A lot of my guilt is assuaged by the fact that the library is not stocking mass-market paperback new releases in paranormal romance and my purchasing budget is a hefty null right now, but then I thought of all the books that sucked me in. Some of them are fantasy/sci-fi, but a lot of them are not. When I read, I am learning how to write something that transports the reader into the story I’m telling, and THAT is the best part of finding a good book.
And by learning, I don’t mean osmosis. I mean I take a notebook and write down what happens in Chapter One. Chapter Two. Midpoint. Climax. What swept me up, what I skipped, what dialogue I wish I’d written. It’s part of the journey and I am absolutely committed to getting a book on the “weird shelf.”
So I’m off to the bookstore to read the backs of books! I am in the mood to read a fairy tale. Wish me luck!