Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Writer Birds

My grandmother had a name for people who were unusual or eccentric in some highly visible way: odd ducks. I've always liked that term because it sounded funny and kind of charming instead of cruel and derisive. It certainly applied to more than one elderly family member, like the one who always refused to wear undergarments because she felt those parts of the anatomy needed to "breathe" (she always wore skirts, however, which was why my mother always made me stand right behind her when we were on stairs or escalators.)

I know I definitely gravitate toward books by certain odd writer birds out there (and not because they refuse to wear underwear.) I enjoy books with an original voice or that defy classification, which in this trend-driven industry is tough to sell. To me a truly gifted storyteller is one whose work doesn't remind me of anyone else's work but stands on its own, separate and unique. But I don't think these writers should all be called ducks, odd or otherwise. While I like ducks, there are a lot of other interesting birds out there who seem to fit better.

Horror and dark fantasy are both genres that have always embraced the innovators among us without burdening them with a lot of preconceived notions about what "must" be in the book. Now that the genres have grown to encompass many sub-genres (urban fantasy, paranormal romance, steampunk, what have you) there's even more room to create. The shadowy elegance and fierce independence of the best writers in these genres make me think of black swans.

Although it's often called formulaic, the romance genre has also been opening up (okay, we've had to use crowbars most of the time to pry open the back doors, but I think the best of today's romance writers are taking us to places we never could dream of twenty years ago.) The romance writer who breaks away from the flock and does something new and different should be called the lone flamingo.

Inspirational fiction has also been (slowly) going in some different directions. Along with Christian writers who are experimenting with new types of fiction, we now have writers of different faiths building worlds based on their belief systems. Thirty years ago Pat Wallace used astrology to build an alternative Earth based on the zodiac instead of skin color (and probably got a lot of crap for it); now we have stories written by practicing Wiccans, Buddhists, Jews, atheists, you name it (I'd just like to see some sub-category recognition for inspirational writers of other-than-Christian faiths, but I won't hold my breath just yet.) The most original of these soulful writers are doves of many colors.

You don't have to be an odd duck to be a successful writer, but even if you're firmly settled in your flock it doesn't hurt to take some time now and then and write something different. Pick a genre you haven't ever attempted and write some flash fiction, a scene, or a short story. See what you can do with what you haven't tried yet, and maybe you'll find it allows you to spread your wings like nothing else you've done.

Now it's your turn: what sort of writer (or reader) bird are you? Let us know in comments.

9 comments:

  1. I may be a black swan. A little one, mind you, a juvenile bird.
    Thought my novel was magic realism/urban fantasy - sans vamp and weres, but lots of ghosts.
    Publisher wasn't comfortable with that or with paranormal romance, because the story contained more paranormal than romance. Romantic suspense left out the paranormal.
    They settled on paranormal suspense, so I'm a happy bird.

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  2. Hmmm...I think I must be either a black flamingo or a pink swan. Haven't decided.

    I write Regency werewolves and contemporary ghosts (not in the same book of course though...) always romance and always with HEAs.

    And "odd duck" must be a generational thing because my mother and grandmothers used it too! :o)

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  3. Hmm. Maybe I'm a black swan, then, but I should probably aim to be a phoenix and keep rising from the ashes. *g*

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  4. An original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate. ~Chateaubriand

    Like an eagle...which would be the ideal bird in my opinion, but that's not me...I'm more of an odd duckling :D

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  5. Oooo!! You're talking about House of Scorpio, which I got second-hand from a friend in seventh grade and read 10 or 12 times before the beautiful, creepy cover fell off and the spine disintegrated. I threw it away, thinking that surely I'd be able to pick it up easily at any big library book sale, but I've never seen it again. Now you've inspired me to go look for it on eBay. I loved that book.

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  6. Me, I'm a carrier pigeon, doomed to fly the same path, over and over.
    I'm a total novice, unpublished, wanabe fantasy novelist, hence the carrier pigeon: ubiquitous and redundant. :)

    If you like different, then try "Absence of Nectar" by Kathy Hepinstall. She calls it "Gothic literature". She is definitely an odd duck.

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  7. I like the term odd duck. Use it all the time, and now am thinking I must have picked it up from my grandma, the fast-drivin' librarian. The only writing I do right now is for the church bulletins, but as far as birds go, I will claim for myself the cactus wren. Small in stature but tall in feistiness. :-)

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  8. Awesome post, creative choices on birds. :) I think it's so cute that you chose the flamingo for writers in the Romance genre.

    ~TRA

    http://xtheredangelx.blogspot.com

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  9. Well, my mamma is a pink flamingo and my papa a black swan; which makes me... not yet published. :-)

    Very creative post, btw.

    Nina

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