Fiction Trends of the Future!

Yesterday I was in the future. Wait, I mean in the future, I zipped back to yesterday. Or was it tomorrow that I…never mind. It doesn’t matter. Bottom line is what’s important here and here’s the bottom line: I know what book trends are going to be hot in three years. Yes, you heard me. (Really? Did you just hear me right now? Like in an audible voice? Because that’s either the coolest thing ever or a sign that you should schedule an emergency appointment with your psychiatrist.)

While I was in the future, I did a little historical research. All because I love each and every one of you like Stephen King’s literary agent loves Stephen King. In other words, a lot (pending your decision to utilize my editorial services for a perfectly fair fee considering how famous you’ll be someday thanks to all the information I’m providing).

The following seven trends are going to be huge. I’m talking Dan J.K. Meyer Brown Stephenie Rawlings huge. You have just enough time to complete a novel in one of these genres so that it will be ready for the literary agent of your choice to sell to the highest bidder.

At great risk, I’ve included the actual title of the trendsetting novel for each genre to make it even easier for you to succeed. I have not, however, listed the authors. Did I see the authors’ names? Yes I did. But I don’t want to mess with the future any more than I already have. You know how this time travel stuff works. It’s delicate and wonky and there’s always a chance of the universe folding in on itself. I don’t know about you, but I’m not quite ready to be folded out of existence.

Okay. So here they are. Pick one and write it. And remember, if you need editorial help from a sharp editor (who has already seen the finished book), just email me.

Future Fiction Trends

1. Science friction fiction – Read that again, carefully. This genre is devoted entirely to stories about scientific things that rub against each other. This might seem an impossible challenge, but you’ll be happy to know “scientific things” includes hot scientists. You do the math.

Future Bestseller: Iris and the Spectrometer of Doom (Mostly it’s about the Spectrometer. Iris is just there for eye candy. And for rubbing up against things.)

2. Hamish love stories – I know. I had to do a double-take on this one, too. In case it’s not clear, these are love stories featuring a protagonist named “Hamish.” And that’s all you need to know.

Future Bestseller: Gwen’s Eggs and Hamish (No, not those eggs. It’s not about procreation. Gwen is a breakfast cook at Denny’s. A really good cook.)

3. Plant fiction – Think Charlotte’s Web, except with talking plants. Most of the books in this genre apparently are set in the jungle, though the chart-topping bestseller listed below was obviously set in a backyard garden. So if you’re the lucky author of this one… sorry about that.

Future Bestseller: Rutabaga’s Lament (NYT review: “A literary, vegetarian masterpiece of Dickensian brilliance!”)

4. Gaimaniacal fiction – This one threw me at first. Any guesses? Yep. It’s a genre of paranormal novels in which every character is a creative interpretation of real-life author Neil Gaiman. (This is because Neil is a fantastic author and a tremendous human being and everyone likes him. Plus, he just responded to a Tweet in which I mentioned referencing him in this blogpost and it is quite possible that in so responding, he triggered the very event that will result in the future Gaimaniacal fiction phenomenon described here. Makes your head spin, doesn’t it?)

Future Bestseller: Neil Before Me (It’s really quite amazing. Did you write it? Can I have your autograph before Neil sees this on the front table at Borders?)

5. Historical fiction: 1970′s – This might seem like the easiest of the bunch, but there’s one little detail you should know: every chapter has to feature a detailed description of orange shag carpet. The noted book below did this with subtle grace, by the way. If you’re the author, I salute you. (And you owe me a box of Kleenex.)

Future Bestseller: Shag ‘n Me (This was huge in Britain – first day sales of 500K. But then they read the book and discovered it was about carpeting. That’s when it took off in America. Go figure.)

6. Adverbial mysteries – Save those adverbs. You’re gonna need ‘em for this genre. Basically, it’s a mystery genre – but each page is packed with a plethora of adverbs. I guess people like adverbs in the future.

Future Bestseller: Beautifully, Seriously Killed Dead (I know. That’s a terrible title. Don’t shoot me, I’m just the messenger. And who can argue with 3 million units sold? Well, you could, stupidly.

7. Neurotica – I don’t have to describe this genre do I? Good. Because I’m not sure I could do it well enough to satisfy the critics who will spend upwards of three months obsessing over an accurate definition before ultimately decrying the genre as meaningless, purposeless soul-sucking crap.

Future Bestseller: Does Distress Make Me Look Fat? (I’m not going to tell you any more about this one.)

Well, there you have it. Enjoy writing your bestsellers. And let me know how I can help.

Until next time…

Finally, the Post About Novels and Love Stories

So here we are. Last Friday I made a rather bold claim – that all novels are love stories. Since then, a few of you have chimed in with opinions and ponderable things relating to my claim.

Headless Mom (gotta love that name) wrote:

One could argue that regardless of topic, all novels are love stories: the love between the author and his/her words, the author’s love of the story.

Amber asked for examples.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts. Let’s be simple. Like if there were a great children’s story about a doggy wanting a bone and how the doggie hunted for the bone, would the love story be between the dog and the bone? What about the good stories that are just lust stories?

And then yesterday, Seth (who happens to be Amber’s husband) had all kinds of things to say about the claim, including these words:

Can’t an author delicately and intentionally pick words that convey a story that he does not love, but that he is compelled to tell?

And these:

I think that well constructed characters seem to write themselves and I hope that they can chose to move in a way that is beyond the author’s discretion. If so, can characters lack love? Can a situation, or entire string of them, be constructed without love being found within either central or peripheral proximity? Don’t characters and scenes move, from time to time, with hatred, violence–or worse, ambivalence–sometimes without redemption? And if that happens, a novel can be birthed devoid of love.

And also, these:

My point is this: sometimes a story should be allowed to write itself, much like life. If that removes love from the equation, so be it. If that requires love, so be it.

Okay. First of all, thanks to all who have weighed in on this (and will yet today, if you feel so compelled).

Let me begin with the first comment from Headless Mom. In a word, “yes.” This is one of the two reasons I believe all novels are love stories. Now, it needs to be said here (and below) that not all authors love their words or stories equally well. Some may love the act of writing – the discovery of it. Some may love every word they put on the page (don’t let these writers near an editor). Others just may love the dream of being a published author someday.

I believe Seth is right when he says it’s possible to write a story you don’t truly love, that you are “compelled to tell.” But why do you still write it then? Pure obligation? What is the compulsion? Couldn’t there still be a “love story” in there somewhere? Maybe it’s the “love of getting paid” or “a love for the way words sound” or could it be the “love of storytelling” itself?

This is where I segue into the second reason I believe the claim is true. But before I do that, allow me to clarify what I mean by “love story.” I am not suggesting that all novels include a character who falls in love with someone else and then they live happily (or not) ever after. While I think you’ll be surprised to discover just how many novels – in all genres – include this plot element to varying degrees, my definition is broader. For the sake of argument, I’ll use the horror genre to explain.

Consider a novel where evil and blood drip off of every page. Where is the love story? Well, in my broad definition, the love story may be found in the protagonist’s actions. Let’s presume for a moment that the protagonist is a Jack the Ripper style killer. He is in love with… inflicting pain, watching others suffer, and most likely, the color red. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “What sort of love story is that?” Well, remember, I’m stretching the definition here.

“Okay,” you argue, “but what if he has no concept of love? What if he’s truly crazy?” Then let’s back up and look at the people trying to stop him. What drives their actions? Is it purely a sense of justice? Or are their actions ultimately driven by the love of life? If so, there’s your love story.

Seth made an excellent point about characters writing themselves. Let me take a moment to agree with Seth’s argument here: Always write, just write. Let the characters tell the story truthfully, according to how they’ve defined themselves.

Now, could some characters write themselves in such a way that they are devoid of love, devoid of any sort of redemption? Absolutely. And that means it is entirely possible you could end up with a loveless story filled entirely with loveless characters as written by a writer who is compelled by something other than love (obsession, maybe?) to put the words on the page. And if this is possible, then my claim is false. (Seth’s a lawyer. I could be 99 percent correct in my assumption, but I’m sure he’d be quick to tell me the claim as written is entirely false even if there’s only a 1 percent chance I’m wrong.)

If such a story exists (or even theoretically could exist), then I’d have to modify my statement to read: Most novels are essentially love stories.

Hmm…I like the way that reads better. I sure don’t want to be someone who denies characters their right to be loveless. Truth is fiction’s greatest ally, after all. So…yes, I think I will change my statement. Good discussions often lead to enlightenment, right? And I have no problem being wrong – especially when I learn something in the process.

However, let me add that, in practice, I can’t recall reading a novel that didn’t include some element of a “love story” either directly described or implied. Granted, sometimes they’ve been messy love stories, or misguided ones, or selfish ones – but they’ve been in there somewhere, driving the characters’ actions, propelling the plot forward. Love matters to storytellers and their stories.

Now it’s your turn. What say you about all this? Have you read a story that is completely void of any love at all? If so, tell us about it.

Oh, before I call it a night, I did want to say something about VenetianBlond’s comment. She wrote:

Meryl Streep said something to the effect that every utterance of “I love you” is actually a question.

This makes me think: Is it possible that a novel devoid of love could actually be asking the question, “do you love me”?

Okay. Have fun with all this. I’ve got to work on my novel now. It’s a love story. Really, it is.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Since today’s post is so philosophical, tomorrow’s is going to be pure fun. I’ve just come back from the future and brought with me a list of 7 upcoming fiction trends. You’ll have just enough time to write your book before the trends hit full stride. Thank me tomorrow, then thank me again when your book has usurped the entire front display in Barnes & Noble. See you tomorrow.

All Novels Are Love Stories (But This Post Isn’t)

I think it’s Monday. Is it? I had these great plans to write a clever post about how every novel is essentially a love story in disguise, but those plans got derailed by Real Life. So instead, I’m just going to offer this bit of writing advice (I’ll get to the “love story” post another day): Sometimes you just don’t have anything to say.

I don’t mean “sometimes you don’t have anything of value to say.” I mean sometimes you just don’t have anything at all to say. When these times come, it’s not about writer’s block – it’s about being empty. There are lots of reasons for this, most of which are related to the Real Life we live apart from putting words on paper. Maybe your cousins showed up unexpectedly and in the midst of the noise and chaos your muse not only ran away with all those brilliant ideas, she took your laptop, too. Maybe you’re over-tired because your child has been sick or the dog keeps puking in the middle of the night or your spouse suddenly decided it was a good time to take up snoring. Maybe your One True Love left you, and while there are a thousand broken-heart stories lining up in the queue and preparing to spit and spill onto the page, in this moment you are simply stunned to silence.

Whatever the reason, you’ve just got nuthin’.

If you have a deadline and that deadline is today, you’ll have to find a way to put words on paper. Even if they suck. (Unless you can buy another day – but you know my feelings about deadlines, right?) What if you don’t have a deadline? Or if the deadline is self-imposed (like the one for this blog)? Then it’s perfectly okay to say nothing at all. Don’t beat yourself up for not meeting your word count.

It’s just a season.

Meanwhile, deal with the Real Life stuff in front of you. Catch fireflies with the cousins. Take a long nap. Or curl up in the fetal position and cry. Whatever the Real Life stuff calls for.

When the time comes, you’ll have plenty to say again. Probably more than ever before.

And remember: Just because you aren’t writing right now doesn’t mean you aren’t a writer.

You are.

And so am I. And maybe tomorrow I’ll write that post about Love Stories.

Or not.

Peace.

One Friday Thing

It’s been a long week. My brain is scrambled, my heart more than a little broken. But I didn’t want to leave this page blank, so here’s the “One Friday Thing” promised in the title:

All novels are love stories.

Discuss.

I’ll tell you why I think it’s true next week.

Thanks for stopping by. Now go tell your significant others “I love you” and have a good weekend.

More Good Words from Contest Entries

As promised, here are a few more entries and excerpts to illustrate just how talented all of you are. I had a great time hosting this contest and loved reading all of your entries. I am well aware you have a limited time to spend reading blogs and I’m grateful you have taken the time to read this one. Please let me know in comments or via email what I can to to improve the blog (I mean, apart from promising you first place in all subsequent writing contests).

Okay, now the good stuff.

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(Here’s one I really liked, but it’s almost double the word count so I didn’t feel comfortable bending the rules that much to include it in the top 10.)

“He’s doing it again,” she told me.

“Doing what?”

“It.”

I looked out the window of our bedroom.  Our neighbor was outside on his watch.  The light for our floor was directly above our window.  It was five in the morning, and our neighbor was up for his run.  He pressed the buttons setting the pedometer or stopwatch or whatever the hell else that thing did that made it beep so loudly.

“Tell him to stop,” she said.

The beeping persisted.

“You first,” I said.

We both lay there, the beeping continuing.

“Jesus,” she said after a while.  “I need higher standards in men.”

I took the pillow she’d stolen from me in the middle of the night (like she always did) and placed it under my head.  Turning in the bed, I heard our neighbor the runner stretch.  The silhoutte of him was was visible.  He had on a shirt, but straggling strands of hair jutted out from his shirt and shorts.

“Go away,” she shouted.

“I’m not going anywhere,” I said.  I’d fallen asleep for a moment, but now I was awake again and remembering she probably wasn’t shouting at me, unless I’d farted in the bed again.

“Go away,” she shouted again.

The man stood up.  For a moment, I thought he’d become aware after weeks of her intermittent commands at him to program his watch elsewhere.  Then he sent one leg back and stretched out in a lunge while the beeping started again.

“If he doesn’t have a heart condition and if that isn’t some kind of lifesaving monitor, so help me God,” she said.

“You’re as noisy as he is.”

“I live here.  I can be as noisy as I damn well please.”

I rolled over and felt the pillow sink away, my head plopping down onto the single, thin pillow left.  Sighing, I got up, pillow in hand, and went into the living room and lay down on the couch.  I drew the thin blanket lying on the couch over me.

“What are you doing?” she called from the bedroom.

“The Jitterbug.”

She was quiet a moment.  The runner was not.  It was so unreasonable an amount of beeps that the watchmaker seemed culpable.

[Brad]

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(This one is a clever short story with a cute twist.)

I hate the cold and dark. One or the other isn’t so bad, but both? Torture.

He’s forgotten me again…Oh, don’t worry, it happens.

Richard is getting older and, unfortunately, more forgetful. We’ve been together nearly 20 years now. I came along right after he retired. Even after all this time he still fondly calls me a “gift”. I suppose it’s just his way, Richard is a soft touch for anything even remotely sentimental I’m sure that’s why I’m still around.

Such a sweet man, it’s so sad his wife died suddenly like that, just days before he retired.  I know Richard is still missing her. Sometimes he talks out loud like she’s right there in the room with us. I try not to let it bother me, but it worries me sometimes.  I’m afraid one of his kids will walk in here without him knowing, hear him talking like that, find me in here next to the car keys and frozen peas then bustle him off to a home!

And then where would I be?

Why I’d most likely stolen by some disgruntled orderly or crazy lady with a penchant for wristwatches.

Now that would be a shame.

[Rachel]

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(Here’s another clever entry that works as a fun short story.)

I ran into the bedroom for another watch with a stopwatch function. I sat down, closed my eyes and hit “start”. Then I tried to distract myself with something that couldn’t help me keep track of the time by normal means. But what? I attempted to remember the presidents in order, but got stuck around Polk.

I lay back, frustrated. What could I say to Brigitte to make up for being late again? Or was getting to bean me with my own wristwatch enough? Good thing she’s so freakin’ cute, with those green eyes and the spiky red hair…

OK, that was probably enough. I hit the stop button and declared to the empty room, “Two minutes and 3 seconds,” opened my eyes and looked at the display: 00:02:03.000.

I felt the lump on my head again. Slightly raised, perfectly circular, about one inch in diameter. In the mirror, it looked bruised purple, but no open wound. The sick feeling intensified, and I barely made it to the bathroom before losing my lunch.

Okay, I thought. Okay, calm down. So this is either a very realistic hallucination, or I’m now the proud owner of the world’s most boring superpower.

[Andrea]

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(And here are some excerpts from a few of the other entries.)

He was sure his heart tocked to each tick of the beast on his wrist, and he wished he wouldn’t glance at it every few beats as he quick-walked through the summer heat of city sidewalks. But the incense of anticipation rocked him, and he inhaled it like oxygen. [Nicole]

***

My heart raced and I started to pace nervously as the noise became deafening. Music, laughter, splashing water – even girls screaming in delight couldn’t pry my mind off the thought of her being alone with such a Casanova. [Stefne]

***

I wasn’t entirely alone in the bedroom, though I’d wished to be.  Instead a constant pounding of Tom’s images flooded my mind, penetrating me with the rough-stubbles along his jaw-line, his course sandy tresses, and even the coldness of his gold-rimmed wrist watch. [Marcie]

***

Fascinated, the man reached out to nudge the object, half expecting it to be hot. He smiled as he held it in his hand, caressing its smooth cool surface, captivated by each intricate detail. He stepped closer to the fire when he noticed unfamiliar markings on the circular centerpiece. As he scrutinized it, he noticed movement within. He tapped it sharply to determine if it was alive. [Jana]

***

He had ceased to wear it as a timepiece, instead, it was a memorial. [Malia]

***

I had to squint in order to read the tiny numbers that were clearly meant to be legible only to children. And gnomes. How could I be so stupid? I scolded myself. It had happened to me once before, but twice? I closed my eyes and put my head down on the table.  It was going to be a long wait. [Holly]

***

With each painful, methodical step he obsessively checked his watch.  He had been walking for seven hours and twenty-one minutes.  He figured he had another hour of daylight.  The expanse of the lava field in front of him seemed endless but he had already come too far – going back was not an option. [Patricia]

***

“It’s a beautiful watch. I’ll give you $200,” she heard. The pawn shop owner’s voice interrupted her foggy stream of thoughts. “Done,” she replied without hesitation and picking up what was left of her pride, she left. [Tara]

***

Yes, of course, I have my fair share of sleepless nights where I’m tossing in a too-warm bed and flinging sloppy pillows back and forth — one side of my ribs to the other — all because the only thing worth doing more than sleeping is thinking about how much time I still have to fall asleep before the morning alarm. [Liz]

***

Anna wasn’t sure exactly when she realized the world was synchronized, but she was sure it had all started when her alarm went off.  The persistent machine woke her gradually, and above her head the upstairs neighbor seemed to be stomping in time to the rhythm of her alarm. [TTC]

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One final thing – If you would like me to offer a few editorial thoughts on your entry, email me and ask. And tell me if it’s okay to offer my thoughts on the blog or if you’d prefer them in a private response. Since it’s my busy season, it might take a while for me to respond, but I’ll make every effort to offer at least a couple of thoughts to help you on your way.