Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Who

Kurt Vonnegut's 7th rule of writing:

Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

I've struggled with what to write, where to set it, how to write it, etc, for a long time- almost the entire time I've been writing.

See, the majority of publishing comes out of America, and it's tempting to think that you have to fit some American norm. And I don't. I'm a Black, female from the Caribbean. I don't fit ANY American norms. (I do happen to fit every Barbadian norm however.)

It took me a while to start trying to write books set in the Caribbean. I'm stil working the kinks out. But then I realised that the Caribbean is a huge population, which is currently not catered to. At all.

There are 50,000 people between the ages of 0 and 14 in Barbados. There are at least a million if you add up the entire English speaking Caribbean. And right now, they have NOTHING written for them. I think the difference is more than just setting. Maybe it's because of our accelarated education system. Maybe it's because we see so much more of the outside world. But teenagers in the Caribbean don't suffer from the same things that afflict other teens. Maybe that's why YA still hasn't caught on in Barbados.

On top of that, as a teen, I always felt like literature left me out specifically. I uttered my first cuss word at the tender age of 17. But I wasn't a sheltered child. I knew things. I didn't think the world was all daisies and cheerleading competitions. I knew about sex, and drugs, and death- some of the darker themes you see in YA.

I was in a tough place. Because books about sex and drugs and death almost ALWAYS feature rough language. And books without cussing are almost always about shallower themes.

And with all that in mind, I know who I want to write for.

1. Teens (and adults- I plan to write a women's fic or two some day) from, or with an interest in the Caribbean. (And possibly Japan or the other random places I may write about some day.)

These days the grand majority of books are set in the US. That's followed by the UK. And random places in Europe, Australia, and everywhere else vie for third. I don't have a problem with any of these places, or really with anywhere else. It's just that when you read as much as I do, you need a little more variety.

2. People who aren't into cussing, but don't mind deeper themes.

Like I said, this is a black hole. But I don't see why a story that includes dark themes has to have bad language. Gone With the Wind (1939) was the first movie to have the word 'Damn' onscreen, but it was not the first show with an angry/frustrated character. The advantage that books have over movies is filtration. There are a million and one ways to let readers know that someone cussed without using the cussword. I can't think of a single natural way to do it onscreen.

3. People who don't think deep themes mean unhappy endings, or that the whole story has to be a tear-jerker.

Recently, I've been reading lots of deep-theme YA. Actually, that's at least half of the contemporary YA these days. And I am almost guaranteed to end up bawling. And there's a good chance I'll be in a "why-does-the-world-suck-out-to here?" mood when I'm through.

But why do I have to be depressed because the world sucks? No offense to the world or anything, but it always sucks. And I have no intent on being miserable every day.

Maybe it's the bipolar in me, but I'm on a mission. A mission to represent a sad story in a not-so-sad way. A funeral can be a mourning of a death. But I'd rather it be a celebration of life.

Howz about u guys? Who do you write for?

PS, Micheal asked yesterday about using "fabumazing." Feel free to use any of madness. If it's larger than a single word, please quote. And I've locve it if you linkied, but you don't absolutely have to. :)

5 comments:

Abby Stevens said...

But why do I have to be depressed because the world sucks? No offense to the world or anything, but it always sucks. And I have no intent on being miserable every day.

Maybe it's the bipolar in me, but I'm on a mission. A mission to represent a sad story in a not-so-sad way. A funeral can be a mourning of a death. But I'd rather it be a celebration of life.


This is such an excellent attitude, I can't even begin to tell you how happy I was to see it articulated in such a lovely, concise way. It's not the bipolar in you shining through, it's the good attitude!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I loved reading this. Actually, I always like to read your posts, because of the way you write. Therefore, I'd enjoy reading your stories no matter where you set them.
That said, I believe you have an opportunity to bring fantastic storytelling with Caribbean setting and sensibilities. A lot of people would gobble that up. Or stories of the English teacher in Japan. Or any of your other experiences.
As for deep themes that have hope in them, that's my favorite kind of story. Write on.

Kate said...

I definately think there is a market for what you want to write. Like you said, even if you only sell your book in the Caribbean, there are a lot of teens in the Caribbean looking for things to read and relate to. But with a little luck and good marketing, your writing may also be able to introduce a new part of the world to US teens. I know as a teen many of my favorite books were set in other countries. Reading them was like going on vaccation without leaving my living room

Marsha Sigman said...

Love this post. And I think what you are talking about would be considered dark humor (and I am so all about that). Write what feels right for you and I for one would love to read anything set in the Caribbean.

Colene Murphy said...

That is awesome! I would be really interested in reading YA set in the Caribbean! You could be a YA pioneer for that! ;)