Obvious Post of the Year: Some Stories Are Harder to Write than Others

I had the opportunity to spend most of yesterday writing and catching up with my NaNoWriMo-ing (“catching up” is misleading; I’m supposed to have about 25,000 words written by now, and I have… considerably less than that). But it finally struck me why this story is moving about as fast as a pregnant elephant: it’s realistic. 

My first novel was a sci-fi spy thriller with lots of romance. It was easy to end up with an overblown 140,000 words because it’s easy to imagine badassery, isn’t it? Of course she could high-kick that guy in the face. Who’s going to refute that, in the world of the story, that’s possible and even likely? But this second story is contemporary and based in a present-day, boring, natural high school. The place we all went for four years and hated. (If you didn’t hate high school, I don’t understand your life). The girl is also largely based on some personal experiences of mine (a terrifying task that I don’t recommend to anyone). But it was a story I really wanted to tell, and the most agonizing part of it is trying to figure out how the characters would actually talk to one another.

The closer characters are to our own reality, the more suspicious we are of them. We imagine what we might say or do in their situations, and any unexplained variation from that makes us cry foul. ALL characters must be believable, regardless of genre. But the spy in my first novel is so far removed from what we know in our daily lives, that she has a little cushion in how she interacts with others and the world, while girl-next-door protagonist, I believe, is pinned under the microscope. This isn’t something I had even thought about before beginning this project, but it’s something I’d love to discuss with someone else who has ever written across genres.

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