Monday, May 17, 2010


The weather forecast had me all geared up for a big rainy weekend, but after a stormy Friday, it ended up being fairly nice. That was probably for the best, as the book I had set aside as the perfect read for that kind of weekend turned out to be a huge disappointment.

It was one of those that seemed to be in the format I was describing last week, with a framing story where someone is tracking down the "real" story, only I didn't get far enough into it to find out just how it would have ended up working. I was loving the framing story, and that got me very intrigued, but then we switched to the "real" story, and the first-person narrator there was gratingly annoying. You know there's a problem when you find yourself sassing back to the narrator. It went something like this:

NARRATOR: I am so #*%( edgy. Do you know how #(%)$* edgy I am? Did you notice that I swore five times in the first #$*#& paragraph? I also smoke and get really drunk and even drive drunk, and I go home with a total stranger for hot, twisted sex. And I'm a chick doing all these typically male things. Pretty #$*%*& edgy, don't you think?
ME: I don't know, it sounds more like a kid working way too hard to look cool. I bet you've got a "Honk if You Love Unicorns" bumper sticker on your car and have The Sound of Music memorized.
NARRATOR: $#*%($&* you! Okay, how's this: I'm mired in self-loathing. Everyone else thinks I'm some kind of #*%&# genius, but I think my work is @*#*# and they're all stupid for not realizing that.
ME: So, you're a misunderstood artist because no one gets how lame you really are? Would it make you feel better if I thought you were totally lame?
NARRATOR: Well, I'm so mired in self-loathing that I went off to an isolated place to get away from everyone.
ME: I bet they were grateful. But the isolated place sounds promising. The cover did say this was a fantasy novel, though it was vague on what, exactly, the fantasy element would be. What is it? Is the house haunted? Is there a portal to hell in the basement? A genuine fairy ring in the back yard? A passage to Narnia in the hall closet? Heck, at this point, I'd even be glad if a vampire or werewolf showed up, just as long as you didn't fall obsessively in love with it. After all, we're on page 60 of a fantasy novel, and nothing has actually happened, so let's bring on the magic!
NARRATOR: First I have to tell you about my last failed relationship and how it drove me to needing professional help, plus my terrible creative block.
ME: Back to the library with you! And I'd better resist the urge to write nasty letters to the authors who gave glowing endorsement blurbs on the cover. Though now that I think about it, none of those blurbs actually said the book was good. They were more along the lines of "the author knows how to put words together." I'll have to remember that one if anyone ever asks me to blurb another book.

I think the one thing I dislike about current trends in what the industry is calling "urban fantasy" (aside from the onslaught of angsty, sexy vampires) is this idea that the heroine has to be some kind of edgy, tough chick who drinks, smokes, swears and has meaningless sex, like there's no way a non-smoking, non-drinking, non-swearing person could possibly be tough enough to fight the bad guys (though wouldn't you think that the non-smoker, non-drinker might be in better physical condition?). It seems to be that there's no room for a heroine who can't be depicted in the generic urban fantasy book cover -- the tough, brooding-looking chick wearing low-slung black pants (preferably leather) and with maybe a tattoo or two. It does make me wonder what the fate of the book I'm working on will be -- my heroine may not swear, smoke or drink, and she wears pastel florals, but she could probably reduce most of these tough urban fantasy chicks to tears with a couple of well-chosen words, and she's in the kind of physical condition where she could also probably beat them up, if she has to move beyond words. It will be interesting to see what the publishing world's reaction to this book will be. Will it be seen as refreshingly different or as not fitting into any of their pre-conceived boxes?

Assuming that the issue isn't with quality, I suppose. Today I start the "major surgery" on this book, rewriting the parts that need serious changing and deleting the scenes that don't really belong anymore.

Meanwhile, what I was hoping that book I tried to read would be has sparked an idea for something to work on down the line.


Chicory said...

Now, I'd like to read a story about someone with `honk if you love unicorns' on their bumper sticker. :) I have only a select few urban fantasy authors that I read.

I suppose I'm a minority, not being a tough girl AT ALL, but why aren't there any urban fantasies with heroines who secretly watches old Disney movies between saving the world? Or who own macaroni art from their pre-school niece?
That sort of detail would go a lot farther toward characterization in my book than swearing. Plus, the contrast would be that much greater between the heroine's normal world and the monster-ridden places where she fights evil.

Carradee said...

*laughs* Nice post! ^_^

I, too, wonder if my heroine might be deemed not "edgy" enough for the 'urban fantasy' genre. I hope yours gets thought refreshing, because I wanna read it!

And you've made me realize: I should figure out what kind of movies she likes. Hm. That means I'm gonna have to actually watch some movies. *gag*. But thanks.

I often like the idea of urban fantasy more than I usually like the execution. Sometimes I want to smack some sense into the characters, and sometimes I'm scratching my head and wondering if a popular author has really missed that plot hole, or if it's something that's intended to be handled in later books.

I love your commentary to the narrator's sass, though. ^_^ I'm marking that in my blog reader.