The Loose Cannon Struggle

I make bad decisions. It’s like my thing. One of my most dangerous habits is impulsively making major writing commitments with very little prompting.

A couple years ago my brother offhandedly mentioned that it was rare for a fantasy novel to take place in a monotheistic world. Since I was working on a swords and sorcery trilogy at the time, I recklessly decided on the spot to make it monotheistic. It was a split second decision, but it had serious implications for the world and themes of the story.

Recently, during some of the dialogue that inevitably rose with total strangers in the wake of this controversial video that I probably shouldn’t have made, there was a lot of talk of gravity, and how easily the people in the Evagardian universe seem to have mastered it. Those strangers are absolutely right; it’s rare for science fiction authors to give gravity the respect it deserves. So I’m already adapting my non-Evagardian space stuff to fit a universe where artificial gravity doesn’t grow on trees.

I never gave it much thought, but the way I latch onto these things is actually a pretty disturbing pattern in my behavior. I’m especially vulnerable to this when people phrase things as challenges.

Them: “Are you a bad enough dude to write a horror novel where the [insert unreasonable trope reversal that makes it prohibitively hard to write the story]?”
Me: “Obviously.”
Them: “And make it suitable for a YA audience? Like no blood or fatalities. But still REALLY scary. I mean, it’s okay if you can’t…”
Me: “I can. No problem.”
Them: “And make it super diverse, but not in a way that’ll turn off publishers? I know that can be tricky…”
Me: (Sweating) “Sure. Easy.”

People say it, and I just do it. Especially when it looks difficult. There’s one literary agent’s manuscript wish list that I’m basically following like an instruction manual at this point; I’m out of control. But I have writing habits and tendencies, and irresponsibly accepting every challenge is a great way to go places I wouldn’t normally go, explore new ideas, and get outside my comfort zone. It doesn’t make my life any easier, and it certainly doesn’t always work out, but at the end of the day I think it’s for the best.

The enduring complaints with the entertainment industry often relate to tropes and convention. To counteract that, readers speaking up and writers trying new things is where it’s at. Thanks to the miracle of social media, it’s never been easier to get heard, and I know I’m not the only writer listening.

I try to change things up because I’m a hotheaded renegade and I play by my own rules, but whatever the motivations may be, anything that makes stories less conventional can’t be all bad.

Purely by coincidence, another great way to break from the mainstream and be edgy is to buy Admiral.