It's a really big question when you think about it:
"Why do you write the way you do, in the genre that you do?"
If I were to answer that question off-hand, I'd probably just say, "Because it's a part of who I am." And it is; oh, it is! It is so much a part of me that I don't even think about it any more. But if I were to break it down? If I were to really take that question apart, think about it, muse over it while savoring every word and wondering what it means to me deep down? What would I answer then?
Most of you know that I love fantasy. I do. I love it. And I know a lot of writers who also enjoy fantasy (and science fiction, and a load full of other genres). Because I love this genre so much, my writings tend to be based in this genre, and if I were to ask such a question to a writer who's genre was horror or mystery, the answer would be worlds different.
As a fantasy writer asking myself this question, I don't have to look far to find my answer: it just takes a little time.
I write fantasy because it is the genre that I feel the most free in. Not only free in writing it, but free in reading it as well. Fantasy is the singular genre where there are no pre-assumptions attached.
Right about now the Science Fiction Lovers are going to pop in and start hitting me with their keyboards and paperback books (paperbacks because hopefully they aren't aiming to kill me... and if you are aiming to kill me, please get it over with quickly and as painlessly as possible.
Anyone grabbing at their bookshelves to chuck their latest find at my head?
But I'm totally serious here.
Romance books are expected to have romance in them.
Horror must be scary.
Mystery has to have a secret or an question that just must be answered.
Even in Science Fiction a reader usually assumes it has something to do with space, or at least technology, and there is almost always an explanation for anything supernatural.
But with fantasy there are no such pre-assumptions. A fantasy book can easily tie together romance, horror, mystery, and technology all in one book and in no particular order... and you never know if the next book you read in the genre will be similar or different by a thousand worlds.
As a writer, I like that. In fact, I like it a lot. If I sit down to write fantasy, I don't have to know exactly where the story is set or how it will end. I don't have to have a certain element in it that makes it the genre that it is (although most people believe that there must be some form of magic in the book to make it fantasy... which isn't necessarily true.) I don't even have to have done any research, or be any smarter than the average Joe working two part time jobs to make a living... I just have to write.
And my story can take me anywhere!
Now, if you write or read some other genre, know now that I am not trying to convert you! The most important thing is that you write the genre that fits you best... the genre that you feel "free" in.
That is why I write what I write. (That, and a complicated childhood back story. :D)
And in honor of my favorite genre and my love for writing it, here's an excerpt from the novel I started for Nanowrimo last year. It's from chapter 12 titled "Voices in the Trees". It's still pretty rough, but it's also one of my favorite scenes
Ganeff turned another corner, paused, and glanced around. His fingers moved nervously up and down the haft of his bow as he glanced from tree to tree.
What is going on here? he wondered to himself. This has never happened before.
He glanced behind him, then ahead again, and then from side to side. It was no use: everything looked the same.
The word floated skeptically through his mind. From his first lone romp into the woods to his final mission as an apprentice pickpocket, he’d never gotten lost in Rover’s Wood; never! But then again, he’d swear he’d never even seen this part of the wood before, let alone stepped foot in it.
Perhaps if I turn around, I can track my own footsteps and they will lead me out again. But upon turning, he discovered that his footprints were not there. Dead vegetation covered the dear trail he’d followed, and it looked like it hadn’t been disturbed in ages. The trail itself was gone as though the bushes had picked themselves up and moved to cover his only known way back.
Something shimmered in the corner of his eye and then was gone. He spun quickly, searching for the light. There it was again, but coming from a different direction. And again… only that time it was a different color.
Ganaff fingered the string of his bow, his free hand already slipping to the quiver at his side. What sort of devilry is this? He wondered.
There again! The light flashed and then was gone, green this time. Then again, a purplish hue. But now when he looked around he noticed that it was not just one light; thousands upon thousands of them flashed around the trees, up in the foliage and through the underbrush, blinking different colors into existence before vanishing once more. The forest was alive with them.
Only once before had Ganeff seen such a spectacle, when he and Aura had been sent to Thatcher’s Corner to investigate the rumors of ghost lights spreading throughout the forest’s inhabitants. Weapons had seemed useless against the lights then. He let his finger slowly brush by the lip of his quiver and back to his side.
A soft breeze flitted through the trees like a quiet ripple of laughter.
Come and catch me if you can!
Ganeff started at the voice, spinning around to see the speaker. There was no one there; just the lights and the laughing wind.
Come and play, Ganeff! You’re it! Try to catch me!
A few yards ahead of him, between the gaps of two tall maples, a swirl of golden light transformed itself into a hand. It beckoned towards him with long, elegant fingers before shattering into a thousand pieces and darting away among the shadows.
Ganeff ventured a step forward. A breeze rattled the branches of the trees as the laughter rippled through the air again.
Come and play with me!
“I’m coming,” Ganeff called to the empty air, and pushed his way through some thorny brambles to the place where the hand had been. Perhaps following the lights wasn’t the very best idea he had, but it was better than being totally and completely disoriented among trees that he’d never seen before.
“I’m going to catch you!”
The words seemed silly to him, but he could think of nothing else to say. Another wave of childish laughter ran through the trees. A few yards farther along, the lights converged again and another hand waved towards him before vanishing.
Ganeff chased after them, twisting and turning through the underbrush to follow the elusive lights as they darted every which way through the trees. Every few minutes another hand would appear; the trees’ laughter grew with each step forward until the whisper had become a voice, and the voice had become a song, and the song urged him forward with each step. The words of the song were strange to him, sung by a sweet childish voice. There seemed to be no particular melody to it, but the nonsense lyrics conjured pictures in his mind until he was almost sure he could understand the words.
Shuttle and loom go ‘clickle, clack'
Sting runs through and is pushed back
Patience is a virtue learned
Young fingers spin the wheel a turn
Round it goes, and round again
Each rotation one year’s end
‘Til Hair once dark is silver spun
Upon a wheel where stories run
String that ages, string that binds
String that frees the caged mind
In and out she weaves the years
Silent silver fall her tears
Ancient loom to be her cage
Ties the artist in her age
Bound eternity to spin
Weaving lives she can’t be in
Until one rises to take her place
Before the world should fall to waste
A life of stories, none the same
A work she loves, but cannot claim
A thousand years, or maybe more
Before a girl will come to her
A girl as ignorant as a child
Though fire hides within her, wild
Sit her down; the loom will tame her
Fate has come: the Tale has claimed her
Old one, teach her how to weave
New tapestries before you leave
An oracle whose gift once hidden
Comes to light before it’s bidden
Weave anew the fraying threads
Before dark might brings all to end
Suddenly the music stopped and, as if coming out of a trance, Ganeff looked about him. He was standing at the edge of a clearing. The colorful lights darted back and forth over the grasses, disappearing momentarily, reappearing the next minute.
Have you come then? The voice was soft as if the very wind had breathed the words. Have you come to play?
The trees rustled with the laughing breeze as the lights dashed into the middle of the clearing, their many colors flushing gold. A woman’s voice trilled a rapid scale of notes, both terrifying and lilting at the same time. Ganeff let his fingers drift towards the hilt of his throwing knife, gulping back the terror he could feel welling up in his chest. He went to take a step back, but found that his feet were frozen in place; he couldn’t move!
The lights converged in the very center, drifting in a long, lazy spiral around the space where the strange voice seemed to come from. The voice grew louder, joined by another: a man’s this time. Their song filled the clearing with a strangely beautiful yet dissonant harmony the likes of which Ganeff had never heard uttered from the throat of any bard before. As the notes of the song escalated, the golden spiral spun faster and faster, swirling in patterns of wild abandoned, growing tighter the faster they spun until there was no space left between one line of gold and the next. Their brilliance became unbearable to look at. Ganeff squinted his eyes to try and shut out some of the light, but found he couldn’t close them completely. He had no control over them; they simply would not obey him!
Suddenly the light burst into a thousand starry pieces and Ganeff felt like the blunt end of a stick had been thrust into his stomach. He doubled over, lifting his head to squint through the haze of drifting light. A tall man and woman stepped out of the air and glanced around. The woman’s mouth was opened in song. Her voice seemed to give life to sapphire swirls of light which floated from her lips and away into the trees. The man held her hand gently, as if it were made of glass and could break in an instant; his lips were closed, but a haunting harmony still drifted from his throat; Ganeff could see it. The lines of harmony were a rich and vibrant purple. Shimmering gold lights flickered in the purple haze like the notes on a music staff.
But as strange as the colorful haze of music seemed drifting from their lips like living beasts, what seemed an even stranger sight were the set of massive wings flowering out from the two being’s backs, towering above their heads like giant and beautiful guardians: the man’s wings were the color of ink and smoke with veins of red as bright as newly spilt blood tracing their way from tip to tip; the woman’s wings were a deep sapphire, gilded with patches of gold and with veins of silver filigree swirling through the blue in intricate patterns. She glanced over her shoulder, fluttered them twice, and smiled. As the music faded away, she turned her smile on her escort.
“You were right, Creon; it does feel good to have my feet planted in the rich soil of this earth again. I had nearly forgotten how the full the air seems of song and life.”
The man called Creon nodded, glancing around the clearing. “Yes, the Tale has favor on the beings of this land. But try to remember, my dear, that we are here for a purpose that must be fulfilled ere we return to your kingdom, and we must not overstay our welcome.” His eyes finally sought out Ganeff standing in the shadows on the edge of the trees. “Ah. There he is. Just as you foretold.” He broke his grip on the woman’s hand and walked towards the boy. As he walked, his feet barely seemed to touch the ground.
“There is who, my love?” asked the woman. It took her a few minutes longer before her eyes finally settled on Ganeff. She looked him up and down, as if uncertain about something. Her pale blue eyes became worried. “Are you sure, dear? He looks so slight, as if he is only half shadow himself: unsubstantial like a Breeze Daughter. I do not doubt a single blow from your lips would knock him to the ground twice his own length from where he stands.”
Creon glanced over his shoulder, something between a smile and a sneer working the corners of his mouth. “He is slight indeed,” he said, “but do not be fooled by him; the Tale has granted the inhabitants of this world the gift of endurance, and of the Tale’s other gifts, frailty is not among them.”
Ganeff opened his mouth to speak, but before he could utter a single word, Creon waved his speech away. “Be still, Earth Child. We are granted but little time to speak with you, and there is much to be said. But first, answer me this: are you the guardian of Aura, Light Spinner?”
“You see?” said the woman, gliding towards them. “He is dazed; our words do not make sense to him.”
Ganeff drew himself taller. “I understand you,” he said, “but I don’t know who you’re talking about. The Aura I know is a spinner of nothing unless it is a story of questionable origin. I don’t know what a light spinner is.”
The woman chuckled lightly, pale white hands flying to her lips to modestly hide her mirth. “Perhaps you are right my dear,” she said to Creon. “He is not as fragile as he looks: it would seem his substance lies in a sharp tongue rather than in his body.”
Creon frowned. “My dear, you are insulting him.” Then to Ganeff, “Come and join us.”
Ganeff didn’t have much choice. The tall man grabbed him by the hand and pulled him out into the open before he could say a word. With a wave of his hand, thousands of colorful flickers danced around Creon’s palm. He studied them for a few minutes before shoeing them away. Unabashed by the dismissive gesture, the lights converged several feet away into two separate spirals: when they broke apart again, two thrones sat in the middle of the clearing, one silver set with onyx and ruby, the other gold set with sapphire and diamond. The lady made her way over to her throne and sat in it, bouncing slightly in her seat as though she were a child.
Creon stopped Ganeff in front of the thrones. “Stay here,” he ordered before walking over to the silver throne. The lady straightened herself as he approached. At a nod from him, she flicked her wrist and white staff appeared in her hands. Ganeff tried to hide his surprise, though he was sure they could see it reflected in his eyes. The lady waved the staff over a pile of leaves that stood beside her thrown.
Ganeff blinked, then blinked again. Was his mind playing tricks on him? He closed his eyes and shook his head, but when he opened them again, he could not deny the fact. Where, a moment before, nothing had stood, now a golden loom was slowly fading into view. Before it was even complete, the lady picked up the shuttle and began gently sliding it between the warp and weft threads.
Clickle, clack. Clickle, clickle, clack.
Her fingers moved so swiftly through the strings, that they shimmered as they moved. A tapestry was slowly being built, but Ganeff couldn’t quite make out the picture just yet.
Creon nodded to the lady but then turned to Ganeff.
“Young man, do you know why you stand before us today in the presence of both Fae and Faeling?”
Ganeff shook his head, his curly hair tumbling down into his eyes. His knife and bow, long forgotten, hung limp in his fingers. “I became lost,” he answered simply.
“Lost, yes!” sang out the lady. “Lost among tree shadows. Lost while searching for something… while searching for a friend. This is true, is it not?” Her fingers flew over the loom.
Clickle, clack. Clickle, clack.
“I was looking for Aura.”
“Aura.” Creon’s eyes were trained on him. “The girl who is the key to everything. The girl who could change the world forever… or break it on a whim.”
“I’m not sure we’re talking about the same…”
“But we are,” Creon interrupted. “Your friend, the Light Spinner." At Ganeff's questioning gaze, Creon sighed impatiently. "You say she has a gift for telling stories. Do you know why she is so gifted?”
This time Ganeff didn’t move, waiting for the answer to come to him instead. He’d made a fool enough of himself to answer right away.
As the lady spun, she began to sing:
Little girl whose gifts are hidden
Child of light, whose flame is cloaked
Stories spill from you unbidden
Mischief by your heart is stoked
You who wander field and water
Hide your talent by a mask
For all know the Rover’s daughter
Mustn’t find her father’s past
“What is that supposed to mean?” Ganeff asked. “The only gift that Aura has is an overactive imagination that keeps getting her into trouble. That’s why I’m out looking for her… and what does Rogue Quince have to hide?”
But the lady just laughed and continued to weave.
Seek the Spinner, seek and find her
Guardian of half-wove dreams
She is with those who would mind her
Teaching her the way of things
Heed my song, ye brave young warrior
Lest thy heart is clove in twain
For Aura’s life is bound by thread now
Never to be freed again.
Life is light, and she the Spinner
Stories roll from off each finger
Wove in chord, in string, in thread
That cannot be undone again
The pen is mightier than the sword
The Tale has penned its lasting word.
Ganeff scowled. “Why do you speak only in riddles?” he demanded. “Are you trying to confuse me with your worthless songs? You have told me nothing.”
“Be still.” Creon commanded. “The Lady’s song is prophetic; you would be wise to heed her words, even if you lack the understanding of them.” He waved a hand and flickers of light immediately darted to it. He held it out for Ganeff to see. “Do you recognize her?”
Ganeff leaned closer to see it better. In the middle of the ball of light, there was a face. He recognized it at once.
“That’s Aura!” he shouted but Creon shook his head.
“It is not,” the Fae Lord said. “Look again.”
Ganeff peered at the picture again. It was Aura; he could recognize her face anywhere, but…
Something was slightly wrong with this picture, though the differences were so subtle that he hardly noticed at first. In this picture, the face looked older, more mature than Aura’s did. On yet a third glance he realized that it wasn’t Aura at all. The person in the picture had lips the perfect color and shape of a rose bud, and her thick hair was almost black rather than just dark brown, falling over her shoulder in curly torrents: Aura’s hair was straight.
And her eyes… the lady’s eyes were the most captivating part of the picture. Aura’s eyes were strange and beautiful, but they almost seemed dull in comparison with these. The eyes in the picture weren’t dark brown like so many other rovers’ eyes; they weren’t the color of emeralds, like the gypsy rovers from the north, nor were they the flashing brilliant blue color that made Aura’s eyes so mysterious. These eyes were Violet, a purple so pure that it was its own primary color. And deep within the purple irises, flecks of gold gilded the rims like fireflies caught in a net.
Ganeff had only seen a picture like this once before, and then, too, he had at first mistaken the girl for Aura. But he’d soon learned the truth.
“Th-that’s Aura’s Mother,” he stammered.