We are continuing our foreshadowing discussion today, and I might say something about genres that you will not like.
Music licensed from Storyblocks:
“More Jam Please” by Raighes Factory
“Morning Coffee Full Mix” by Bobby Cole
"Strawberry Daiquiri (instrumental)" by Sarah Angel
"Blow Off Some Steam" by Ben Bostick
"Sail Away" by zoze
If you have plot bunnies coming out of your plot holes, it’s time for a writing break.
Hello there. It is so good to be in your presence once again. We are continuing our foreshadowing discussion today, and I might say something about genres that you will not like. The bookstore we are descending upon today has a cafe, so let’s head there first, arm in arm, for a little heart to heart.
Welcome to the Depot Cafe and Bookstore located in the heart of Mill Valley, California. This chic and spacious store features ivory walls and black bookshelves. There is plenty of seating both inside and outside, and the cafe serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. How about we place our order, and I’ll fill you in on some publishing news?percent when compared to:
So far workers in five Barnes and Noble retail stores have voted to unionize with the goal being “to secure better wages, guarantee access to comprehensive training, and create a safer work environment for team members and our customers.”
There are at least 57 writing contests with deadlines in December that are free to enter, and one fabulous person over on Medium has put them all together in one article for you with the deadlines in ascending date order. Check the show notes for a link to that list and to all of today’s news stories.
Now how about we move to the Overthinking Couch for a tirade about genres?
One listener and budding author recently asked me if he really needed to pick a genre. He feels his book encompasses too many genres, and he doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed into one category. This is a common sentiment among new authors. Some authors feel they invented a genre, which is actually up to the readers to decide in the end, but saying you invented a new genre is not a strong selling point with publishers, I can tell you that much.
So, do you have to pick a genre? Yes. Is this limiting? I don’t think so. Your book primarily fits one genre. That’s the truth. Proclaiming that to the world lets the readers interested in that genre find your book, read your book, and pay you for the privilege of doing so.
It is possible to list your book under three categories, but you should know which is your main category. Whether you truly have invented a new genre, only time will tell.
Now, it’s time to take a stroll around the shop and check out an independent author.
Today we are looking at Salt by Liz Shipton, which has both an adult version and a young adult version. The former includes spicy scenes, and the latter does not.
“What do you do with a drunken sailor when the world is underwater?
In a brutal dystopian water world, where survival depends on sailing, skill, and smarts, Bird Howsley is a beautiful disaster. A drunken sailor, a sharp-tongued back-talker, and a magnet for chaos, Bird is one bad decision away from watching her life go completely down the drain.
Her only lifeline? Level-headed sailing teacher, Sargo Paz. Sargo is a second-generation immigrant striving to prove himself in a city where no one looks like him, and despite Bird's salty demeanor, he seems determined not to give up on her.
But when a cryptic message from her dead brother sets Bird on a quest to find answers about her past, one reckless act puts her and Sargo in the crosshairs of a dangerous underground organization hell-bent on their demise.
Forced to flee their hometown, they embark on a treacherous voyage across the Salt, where pirates, perilous seas and close quarters stir up emotions neither of them expected—and they discover that the organization they're running from holds darker secrets than they ever imagined.”
Interestingly enough, the author is sailing around the world while writing this series. The adult and young adult versions are available in ebook and paperback formats, and the adult version is free to read with Kindle Unlimited.
Now how about we settle in for today’s writing tip at a table outside in the California sunshine?
Continuing our discussion of foreshadowing, I couldn’t quite let the topic go without firing Chekhov’s gun. Let’s begin with the man. Chekhov was a Russian playwright and short-story writer. Chekhov's gun is a principle of storytelling that states that every element introduced in a story must be necessary, and irrelevant elements should be removed. It is sometimes referred to as "the principle of superfluity" or "the rule of economy." In a letter to a young playwright Chekhov wrote "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, in the second or third act it must absolutely go off."
This generally means that every detail introduced in a story must have a significant bearing on the plot. This does not mean that every detail must be explicitly mentioned again later in the story, but rather that it must be relevant to the overall narrative and contribute to the reader's understanding of the story.
For example, if a character is introduced early in a story and is described as carrying a gun, it is likely that this gun will be used in some way later in the story. If the gun is never used, it should be removed from the story. By removing unnecessary details and ensuring that every element in the story is essential, writers can create stories that are more likely to engage and captivate their readers.
One byproduct of following this rule of economy is foreshadowing. And this begs the question, if we know that a gun will go off, does that ruin the suspense? Nope. It heightens the suspense. The reader is certain it will go off but not certain of the target or the shooter. That is exciting. That builds suspense. That is good storytelling.
Of course there are exceptions to the rule, and I really hope that you consider very carefully whether or not you truly need to make an exception in your story. But here’s one example: if a gun collection is shown to establish something about the character, you might be able to get away with it, but I think, if there is a gun collector, there should be a smoking gun at some point. So just consider whether every detail in the story is necessary. That’s just going to make your story better, I guarantee it.
Here are some examples of Chekhov's gun in literature:
In Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, a gun is introduced in the novel when passengers are boarding the train. The gun is never explicitly mentioned again, but it is implied that the murderer used the gun to kill the victim.
Oh, spoiler alerts, by the way, I forgot to say that.
In Shakespeare's Hamlet, a sword is introduced early in the play when Hamlet's father, the King, is murdered. The sword is used by Hamlet to kill several characters throughout the play, including the King's murderer, Claudius. This use of Chekhov's gun helps drive the plot of the play and create a sense of violence and revenge.
In The Lord of the Rings, the One Ring is introduced early in the story and is the object of Sauron's desire. The ring is ultimately destroyed at the end of the story, which brings about Sauron's defeat.
Similarly, if not exactly the same, in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the Sorcerer's Stone is introduced early in the story and is the object of Voldemort's desire. The stone is ultimately destroyed at the end of the story, which prevents Voldemort from regaining his body.
So, Chekhov's gun, this rule of economy, is a valuable tool for writers of all genres. By following this principle, writers can create stories that are focused, suspenseful, and realistic.
That’s all the target practice we will be doing today. Until next time, thank you for listening, and remember, you deserved this break.
If you would like us to visit your favorite independent bookstore, feature your favorite independent author (even if it’s you), or discuss something you’re overthinking about, please email me at email@example.com.
Thank you for making space in your mind for The Muse today.
Writing Break is hosted by America’s Editor and produced by Allon Media with technical direction by Gus Aviles. Visit us at writingbreak.com or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.