Thursday, April 14, 2011

Somewhere out there

I remember reading somewhere (several places actually) that once you build a fan base- and you start from the moment you put yourself out there, whether with a published book or a blog, etc- that you should try to stay in whatever vein you were in when you started. That's not to say you can't evolve. The warning's against having your first book be a story of rainbow fairy unicorn princesses and your second about a serial murderer who leaves the toilet seat up.

This is kind of a scary thought for me, since my entire life is characterised by not staying in one place and not doing the same thing. So, I've been trying to find a broad enough thread to link my stories. Let's look at Stephen King, for example. What's the unifying thread in all of them? Everyday supernatural horror. He's taken everyday things that people are often afraid of (the prom, clowns, small mostly-deserted towns) and woven them into these supernatural horror threads.

I couldn't find anything in my stories like that.
WIP1: about two girls growing up in a bad neighbourhood and their exxperiences.
WIP2: set in a world where dark-skinned people rule and are prejudiced against the light-skins.
WIP3: about a girl who loses her mother in her second to last year at secondary school.

The only thing they all had was a lead character under 20.

Enter Takashi Miike.

I was watching another odd Japanese movie, Zebraman, earlier this week. As usual, I looked it up to see if I could find a plot summary. (My Japanese is decent, but sometimes I understand most of what is said, and still miss what's going on. Although this might be due to the movie. Sometimes I watch Japanese movies with subtitles and still have no clue what happened.)

Turns out the director was Takashi Miike, who also directed a movie I rented last week. I looked him up at that point and it turned out he's directe 5 Japanese movies I've watched. Since I can't even name 5 movies by any other director, I think that makes Miike my fave director in the world. But something else in the article caught my eye.

Dark. Humour.

Dark/black humour/comedy is a subgenre in which a serious/scary topic (often a taboo one) is examined in a not-so-serious way. It ranges from laugh-out-loud sort of funny to Damn, how could they write such things?

Some examples:

Addams Family: A family of monsters who love one another. While this is more to the comedy end of the spectrum, the Addams family uses a scary base (monsters) to examine the concept of family. Even though they are monsters, they love one another, and are not at all dysfunctional. In fact, lots of real families have a lot to learn from the Addams. Another interesting fact with the Addams is that they don't realise they freak other people out. My moral of the story: no matter what you think of a family looking in at it, it's fine if they love one another and are living in each other's best interest.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian: A native American goes to an all-white school and finds he doesn't fit in there or at home. With it's cartoons, and self-degrading voice, it looks at racial issues. It's not a straight-out comedy either, but comedy plays a role.

Catch-22: I haven't actually read this yet. (I know, I know. It's on my Kindle. Promise I'm getting to it.) This is the other end of the spectrum- where things are funny in more of a "Hmm" way than a "Haha" way. Catch-22 looks at the madness that is war.

The perk of dark humour is that it spans 2 extremes. I love issue books, but after a good book about death or suicide or rape, you just feel so depressed. And I feel less fulfilled reading slapstick comedy or light cheerleader stories with scarcely a moral in sight. Dark humour is the bridge. My way to deal with an issue in a way that doesn't make me (or my audience) want to sob.

It won't be easy- it's a small, difficult, often-banned niche- but it's better than being miserable about what I wish I was writing.

All of that to say this: Just because you haven't found it (your niche, your voice, your agent), doesn't mean it isn't out there. Keep looking. It'll come.


Glam,Glitz&Gut said...

Good to hear :o)

Gracie said...

That is so true about the comedy and issue books -both alone leave an unfulilled feeling.

Anne R. Allen said...

I write dark humor, too. In fact the tag for one of my books was "Sometimes the darkest truths have to be told with a punch line."

But you don't want to tell agents you write funny. Took me a long time to figure that out. Put "humor" in your query letter and it's an instant reject from most agents. That's because humor is so subjective. I love cerebral, Brit-type humor. The three Stooges leave me flat. Most Americans are the other way around.

But you write YA. So that's your genre. You can do anything in YA. Plus you write "multi-cultural" YA and have a fabulously multi-culti background. That's your niche, and it's a great one. I LOVE your idea of a turn-about fantasy culture where dark people persecute light people. We need that book.

jbchicoine said...

I love Dark Humor and I sure wish I could write it! I think my first real exposure to it was back in the 70's--Harold and Maude--it's still one of my favorites.

I'm so excited for you, in finally claiming your genre! Can't wait to read a bit of it! :)