Thursday, April 21, 2011

Genres and Expectations

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about genres lately, mostly because I’ve been trying to cross them up with little success. And I realize how important it is to live up to people’s expectations. I’m not saying you can’t cross them up – but making two groups of people happy with the result of what you are doing isn’t easy.

Perfect example… Game of Thrones. Anyone see this? It’s the new HBO show and I’m going to give away just a little snippet of what happened in episode one to make my point.

Brother wants to reclaim his throne and basically offers up his beautiful winsome sister to a savage warlord so he can claim the warlord’s army and take back his crown. The man/beast is 6 ½ feet tall. Dark hair down his back. Painted face. And about as fabulous a body as I’ve ever seen on a man. (Sorry Eric from True Blood… but I haven’t seen you in months!)

The wedding happens. The savage beast leads off the poor girl. We see him strip her of her dress. She’s crying and trying to stay brave, we see the man kneel her down and…. Cut.

And I thought this is perfect. This is really going to showcase the difference between what is true fantasy sci-fi vs. what would be a romance novel.

Because let’s face it… in a romance novel – the savage warlord has some change of heart. Or maybe he only meant to scare her. Or his conscience gets to him. As a romance reader/writer my expectation of how this seen ends is that he’ll eventually stop before he rapes the girl. Then sometime soon in the future they’ll develop feelings for one another and eventually the warlord will have his way with the girl – but by then we’ll all know she’s totally down with that. Warlord guy is HOT after all.

But this isn’t a romance. This is fantasy sci-fi. And I have to believe that my expectations might not be met. I don’t know – because we never see the conclusion of the scene and maybe we won’t. Maybe we’re just supposed to assume it happened and that the warlord is an unfeeling caveman. Maybe the story is the girl just suffers through her marriage and some other result takes place between them. I don’t know. I don’t read enough in this genre to know if there is any particular pattern here.

It just really highlights that some things are absolutes. And making sure you know what those absolutes are is really important if you’re going to attempt to mix them up and make both groups happy.


Molly O'Keefe said...

I did watch Game of Thrones and I'm a little confused as to who is who and who had who killed and which brother is schtuping which sister (seems like most of them) but I'm totally sucked in. I'm invested in a whole bunch of story lines and one of them is sister and the war lord - and you're TOTALLY right about the romance viewers take on that scene - I kept waiting for him to walk away and leave her - he gave her that beautiful horse after all - but no. That would have been a terrible cop out and frankly, leaves much more story to be developed there - 'cause she's gonna be angry. very very angry. and the cliff hanger at the end - awesome. Yep. I'm in. Sinead, I take back everything I said about it being nerd tv.

In other great TV writing - Friday Night Lights? I'm saving my thoughts for a blog post - but man, I love that show.

Sinead M said...

I watched too and I'm totally in. They hooked me with the freakin' opening scene, because honestly there's nothing I love more than mysterical, murderous creatures.

And loved the sister with the warlord, and the weary father, and the various plots and I'm so in and excited for the rest of the episodes and from everything I've read, the episodes get better.

Stephanie, the mixing of genres is such a great conversation. It's a drinks at a bar conversation because it could take hours. I love genre mixing, love reading mixed genre books, especially when one of those elements is romance.

Maureen McGowan said...

Great post. I love to be shocked by a story, but I'm becoming resigned to the fact that in spite of saving they want something different, most genre fans want their expectations met. Trick is understanding those expectations.

Eileen said...

I haven't watched the mini-series yet, but I've read the first two books of the series. The storyline between the girl and the warlord will end up satisfying both romance and sci-fi fans, I think.

It's hard to keep track of all the family connections, etc., even in the books and Martin is AMAZINGLY detailed.

But back to the actual point of the post . . . Isn't that always the challenge of writing genre fiction? To stay within the box, but to do it in new and surprising ways?

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