Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Pencil poised - fresh notebook


Welcome to the September meeting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group.
Link here to sign up.
Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

The awesome co-hosts for the September 7 posting of the IWSG are Kim Lajevardi, Cathrina Constantine, Natalie Aguirre, Olga Godim, Michelle Wallace, and Louise - Fundy Blue!

Remember, the question is optional!

September 7 question - What genre would be the worst one for you to tackle and why?

I'm going to sort of answer the question, but I'm using it more as a prompt for a stream of conscious on genre altogether...kay?

I am generally not adverse to tackling any genre. I have novels in my drawer that are YA, some that are mystery, a couple that are contemporary literary. As well, I have plays, poems and essays. I hope that I choose the genre, or indeed form of writing, because I have a certain story I want told and the genre I choose is the best one to tell it with. I don`t make a Nicoise salad in a frying pan. So the worst genre for me to tackle would be one that doesn`t suit the story.

For my novel, The Crooked Knife, I chose the broad genre of mystery - maybe it is a detective story, but not really a procedural as I am more interested in what happens to the characters than in how evidence is collected. I did not write it as a cozy mystery, because the story I`m telling is a dark one. Maybe it is an environmental mystery. I cannot parse it so fine. When I knew it was actually going to be published I entered into a discussion with my publisher about the back cover copy - the place of blurbs and concise ways in which the prospective reader can be informed as to the read she might encounter. My publisher wanted to write that the story is set in Canada`s North. For those of you who read this, who aren`t Canadian, this next bit might be confusing but bear with me. To most Canadians, when they hear the words Canada`s North, they are thinking about the western arctic - Baffin Island, the North West Territories, the Yukon. My book is set in Labrador, in the Eastern sub-arctic. So I did not want Canada`s North mentioned in the blurb, as to me it would give the wrong idea. But I agreed that one of the selling points was that it was set in a northern community. So I invented a new genre - Northern Canadian Noir. It`s a subtle difference I`ll give you that, but it lands differently. And it nicely addresses the problem of what kind of mystery it is.

I didn`t know it was a noir when I was writing it, but I do think it fits the description.

Here are a couple of descriptions I pulled out of Wikipedia - the first two on the term Noir:
A typical protagonist of noir fiction is forced to deal with a corrupt legal, political or other system, through which the protagonist is either victimized and/or has to victimize others, leading to a lose-lose situation. 

In noir, everyone is fallen, and right and wrong are not clearly defined and maybe not even attainable.

That might not be strictly what The Crooked Knife is but close enough. Nell Munro is dealing with both victims of greed and corrupt influences in the government and police.

Nordic noir comes a little closer: here again from Wikipedia

Nordic noir, also known as Scandinavian noir or Scandi noir, is a genre of crime fiction usually written from a police point of view and set in Scandinavia or Nordic countries. Plain language avoiding metaphor and set in bleak landscapes results in a dark and morally complex mood, depicting a tension between the apparently still and bland social surface and the murder, misogyny, misandry, rape, and racism it depicts as lying underneath. It contrasts with the whodunit style such as the English country house murder mystery.

So here is my invention - definitely needing some rework but hey!

Northern Canadian Noir is crime fiction, usually written from a police point of view and set in northern communities in Canada. The landscape, both in its wildness and inherent difficulties informs the story, as does the mix of cultures found in northern regions of the country by nature of its Indigenous and Settler roots. Isolation and the sense that criminal activity can go unchecked where the population is thin, also adds to the despair and darkness of these stories. 

In Other News...

I had a quiet August as far as events for my new novel, but took the dog-days of summer as an opportunity to get a good chunk of my newest mystery, the working title of which is Butter and Snow. I made myself a promise to get a thousand words done a day - had a few in the bank to carry me over some rather busy days and ended up yesterday with 31 thousand. I`m very happy with my new (ha!) old approach - which is what someone described as going down a road with a flashlight illuminating only the steps directly in front. That sounds a bit right. I`m now sort of beginning the middle section and know things won`t flow so quickly, as I will have to respond to various ideas that I threw on the page in those heady early days. That is all known to me. Having been through the complete process now - from idea to publicity - I know I can do it. It doesn`t mean that I will do it - but why wouldn`t I?

I`ve also spent a bit of my time almost every day now for the last two weeks walking across the road and down the path and over the rock beach and into the ocean. This is my favourite thing ever to dog, Bella, comes with and waits patiently on the shore for me to come to my senses. She distrusts water that has waves or isn`t in ditches. 

And I`ve been making pastel paintings almost daily. It has become my most favourite medium (other than words natch) and I`m on a steep learning curve. I just keep up my mantra (which is also helpful for a first draft) "don`t worry about what you are making - just enjoy the process"

How is everybody else`s back to fall going ??


Margot Kinberg said...

What an interesting discussion of genre, Jan! I often think that genre and sub-genre labels are too narrow for a lot of books. Many of them have elements of more than one genre in them. Thanks for your thoughts.

Natalie Aguirre said...

From your description of genre, your new mystery sounds interesting. The setting is so unique, which can set a mystery out from the others. Glad you had a productive month.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

A new genre - well done!