Sunday, December 8, 2013

Idea Garage Sale: Secrets of the Subculture

Psst...want to write in your favorite genre?

Step 1: Spend a few months reading the genre and nothing else.
Step 2: When not reading, go about your normal life.
Step 3: See the genre overlay on your life! Particularly on the parts of your life that create subcultures.

We all belong to multiple subcultures, beginning with our families. Your work circle and your leisure circle are probably not the same and don't function under the same social rules. You probably have friends from both circles who find each other mutually incomprehensible, which will help you find the line of demarcation. The craft shows you attend (as a crafter, as your crafter mom's assistant, as a buyer) on the weekends combine into their own little world with politics, scandals, romance, and tragedy; as does the law office where you make your living. Whenever I go to the farmer's market I get a brief little glimpse of a vast network of hardworking and surprisingly diverse people, who appear to be in direct competition (selling exactly the same things) and yet are also mutually supportive - trading among themselves, fetching each other coffee, making change for each other.

If you read enough romance novels, with the idea in the back of your mind that you will and can write one, you'll begin to see how romance could bloom at the farmer's market between the daughter struggling to keep her family farm viable and the naive organic-horticulture newbie.

If you read enough science fiction, you'll start thinking of ways that nanorobotics will change the working conditions in your real estate office, or imagining the particular challenges of peddling real estate on the moon.

If you read enough mysteries, you'll imagine what it would mean for everybody on the RenFaire circuit (where you go every year to help out your Rennie aunt) if a serial killer starts leaving garbed bodies on the jousting field, and invent ingenious ways to kill and be killed with turkey legs, corset laces, and blunt souvenir swords.

Trust me. You too will soon have more ideas than you know what to do with. The problem will be to pick one. You'll have the best results with subcultures in which you participate as an insider, not as audience; but if an idea knocks hard enough, it's worth going out of your way to become an insider.

I promise.

1 comment:

  1. Well, if your normal life - like your day job - consists of reading and writing lots of academic articles, then Step 1 and Step 2 would just contradict each other, assuming that you LOVE reading scholarly articles and assuming that your normal life is what you do on a daily basis. Step 3 is what happens when you apply your scholarly knowledge to practical use. Basically, Step 1, 2, and 3 just summarize the age-old writing advice: write what you know, and write whatever you are passionate about.

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