What do I write? (or A little bit about my style of story)
In this blog post I’ll talk about what I write and how I write it. I’m hoping to give you a bit of an idea what to expect from my stories both in terms of the content of the stories and how there structured. By the end we’ll have covered: -Genre (what sort of story do I write? Can I package it up into a conventional genre?) -Tone (are we going for super serious and ‘grimdark’, something whimsical and unreal or something else entirely) -Structure (a short discussion on chapter structure and my thoughts) -Character Driven or Plot Driven (do we have to chose?) -And the TLDR where we’ll bring it all together!
Genre or What On Earth Do You Write?
Fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, horror, historical fantasy, thriller, murder-mystery, the list of genres in writing is extensive and varied! As such it makes sense for the question “What genre of story do you write?” to be one of the first questions I get asked and here I’m going to attempt to give you a bit of an answer.
As Lifelong Scribe I’d describe my genre as being something between Fantasy and Science Fantasy. (It’s a little different with Scribe & Dagger but you can read about that here.) Why the mixture? Firstly because my stories are not Fantasy as you’d often expect to find it. I don’t write High Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, or even Urban Fantasy. Secondly while it is more grounded in a ‘real’ world than some fantasy stories not everything is explainable by our scientific laws or even supposed to be viewed as anything other than Magic. However there are elements of scientific explanations or technology behind certain things or themes, without this ever straying into hard sci-fi. As such I think it falls somewhere in between Fantasy and Science Fantasy.
I write this sort of story because I’m writing from instinct, picking up themes, characters, story elements and events that resonate with me (and hopefully with my readers) rather than researching the tropes of a genre and sticking to that. I’ll admit this can have it’s drawbacks, primarily trying to explain what I’m doing but also I can foresee trouble trying to ‘sell’ my ideas to publishers (who I’ve been told time and time again are conservative and ‘play it safe’ in the extreme). But honestly I don’t really see another way of writing. I’m writing what I feel drawn to write, putting pen to paper to try to bring to life scenes and characters that mean something to me irrespective of if they fit neatly into a predefined genre, trope or archetype.
I’m not trying to sound haughty in any of this, as if writing in a genre is somehow less good, not at all! Genres are good! They let you know where you stand and what to expect (though hopefully the writer disguises it just well enough that you’re not too aware of the structure and tropes!). I just haven’t found a term I think really defines mine and I’m happy spending more time just writing the story than worrying about the genre anyway.
Writing like this has enabled me to discover and to write stories and worlds where you’ll find technology and magic in almost equal measure. Stories where you’ll encounter serpentine shape-shifters and Angels brushing shoulders with human scientists or vagabonds. In some tales you stand just as much chance of following explorers as they battle their way across treacherous mountain ranges and snowy ravines as witnessing a magical battle that could tear reality apart. In other stories you’ll follow strange people into towering cities that have stood for centuries untold or gallop across barren windswept plains with criminals trying to outrun the armies of cruel kings!
In these stories, written like this, I’m able to have guns, swords, magic and willpower all be pitted against one another at different times and to different degrees! And I’m able to introduce you to many varied and interesting races (Humans are far from the only race in these worlds!) all with their own cultures, powers, beliefs and goals.
Tone or Striking a Balance
I think stories have got grimmer and grimmer. There! I’ve said it. (I’ve probably started a fight in the comments or become someone’s most hated person for that but there you go…) It’s true though! Where once I might have been a bit frustrated with ‘goody two shoes’, ‘knight in shining armour’ heroes who, apparently never did anything wrong ever and even if they did they got away with it because they were the hero and hero’s only do good (twisted logic), I now find myself equally frustrated with this ‘nobody is a good person really, everyone’s just a selfish psycho deep down’ mentality that seems to be in a lot of media.
Stories don’t feel uplifting, inspiring or fun anymore. They feel dark, depressing and designed to grind you down. Needless to say this is not what I write!
That’s not to say I write some sort of Unicorn-Funtime-Happyland stories either! (shudder) Oh Hell no!
But I honestly think there’s a balance between the two.
I’ll tell you now I’m not afraid of writing stories where there are darker moments or themes (things that happen in the background or just for a moment that are unpleasant), but these are used for a reason and are not designed to be gratuitous or horrifying. Equally I’m happy to have people who are basically good (even if they sometimes make mistakes, either out of genuine ignorance, fear, or some other such reason) fighting against people who are basically bad!
I’m just as likely to have a villain redeem themselves as double down depending on what fits the story or the character. Just as I’m quite happy to have a good person succeed in their goal or fail in it, either out of their own strengths/ shortcomings or other events going on around them. I want to create worlds that feels alive with a multitude of different people Good, Bad and in between, without making it all a muddy grey that just feels grim. I want to show a world that feels like it lives and breathes! Not one where everyone is a caricature of one extreme or the other (a cackling lunatic or a saint too good to set their feet upon this sullied earth) but rather a person with their own motivations, strengths, flaws and limits.
We need to reclaim the term ‘realistic’ and revalue when we use it. Realistic does not mean grim, horrible and depressing. The ‘real world’ is not like that either. And if it’s becoming like that it’s because people are reading (or watching) too much dark, miserable shit to think there’s any possibility of creating something better. Realistic is a mixture of good and bad things, people and places. Surely in that nuance, in that melting pot, more interesting stories lie?
As such (and you have now been warned) there will be a mixture in my stories. There will be conflict and friendship, death and life, grim bits and happy bits, lovely people and utter bastards. If you think that could be fun then you’re in the right place.
Above all I want to write the stories that are in my head, the ones that I feel I have to write and I’m hoping that these stories will entertain people, help them escape, make them think and give them characters to connect to!
Structure or Why I Kinda Hate Chapters
I’m writing the stories that come into my head, the characters compelling me to write their stories, but I’m also well aware that I’m writing in a format that is probably somewhat unique due to who I am. I’m going to try and explain this to you now.
I’ve always struggled with the traditional chapter format.
At best it does exactly what you’d expect it to do, it pulls you along with it and you devour a large chunk all in one go, but then you hit the end of the chapter and you are suddenly cut off! It has always felt jarring to me. A sudden break! A stop. And sometimes that’s it for that character or characters for a good two or three chapters! Now this is supposed to build suspense but I always got frustrated. I’d feel I was being messed around with, I’d be resentful towards the new characters I was following for a good part of their chapter and often would end up disliking them because I ‘blamed’ them for dragging me away from something important so abruptly. That’s honestly not a good thing. I’ve once or twice even put a book down because I’d gone through a few compelling chapters with a character only to have them snatched away and get lumped with someone I don’t care about, starting from the beginning getting to know them, slowing the pace down and… and then I’d just decide there were other things I could be doing. Especially if this happened more than once.
But what about the opposite? What about when chapters that drew me in, kept me engaged and kept me reading? Well I’d read all the way through it in one go and get to the end of that chapter and, if I can see the next bit is going to carry on from where we left off and I’m interested already, then I’d just keep reading. I’m sure you’ve had the same experience. Nothing wrong with that! I hear you say. And I agree, mostly. I’ve loved that feeling. It’s great! As a writer you want people to keep reading, after all you want them to finish your book don’t you? And as a reader it can be lots of fun and a rewarding experience to just devour a book. However sometimes life gets in the way. Chapters can be quite big, time can get away from you and before you know it you’ve forgotten to do a myriad of things you were supposed to and instead you’ve read the day away (one of my favourite pastimes growing up). While pleasant at the time this isn’t always good for getting things done. Now I’m a ‘grown up’ (apparently, I mean I have the paperwork to prove it) I find that the opposite problem can occur: I don’t ‘have the time’ to read. I probably do, but when you’re tired and you want to read a bit before bed and you pull out that book and see a massive chapter ahead of you do you honestly say to yourself “I’ll just read a bit” and risk losing the rhythm of the story, or do you decide you’ll read the whole chapter another night but never find the right evening to do so? I’m sure we both know the answer there (at least, for the vast majority of people).
So what do I do? For me I want chapters that feel rewarding, where the length is appropriate to what’s happening. As such I’ve ended up writing in a slightly strange format. I write short ‘chapters’. They’re not numbered, they have a sort of sub-heading instead. They can vary in length from about a paragraph to 6-12 (A4) pages. They encompass scenes and finish either when the event is wrapped up or, like in a film, when we need to cut to another scene to show what is happening elsewhere, or to raise the tension, or, if I’m being honest, when it just feels natural for me to stop writing. Now much like a chapter this can (and hopefully will) leave you wanting to read more but because they’re not so long you can read as much or as little as you want at any given time. On the bus? Lucky you this chapter’s short. At home and bored? Just keep going, there’s that cool bit you want to find out about. And if I need to introduce new characters you’re not ‘stuck’ with them for long periods of time, just as long as is needed to introduce them then we move on.
Those are the reasons I write in this way which relate to you, the future potential reader, but there’s also another reason I write like this and that’s because I have ADHD. This structure keeps me engaged as a writer and I’m hoping it’ll do likewise for other people with ADHD. As a Neurodivergent person I’m aware my writing will be affected by this and I’ve written a separate post on it here (link) if you’re interested in reading more.
Character vs Plot
I’d say my stories lean towards the Character Driven rather than the Plot Driven.
My preference is for character arcs that happen in, around or because of big moments, wars, action, adventure. They shape and are shaped by these overarching events, but the focus is on the characters themselves. I like trying to work out how my characters think, fell and respond to the things they see. I like watching them try to work all this out as well. There are lots of big changes that happen in my fantasy worlds but they’re often the catalyst for a character or the result of said character’s choices. Whether it’s being blamed for a crime they didn’t commit, trying to escape the law or bringing about the apocalypse all these big events are viewed through the characters affected by them rather than from an overarching view.
All together now!
So that might all sound a bit long-winded so the Too Long, Didn’t Read version would be this: I write Fantasy/ Science Fantasy stories to entertain and to create, my style might be a little different than normal but it’s primarily character focused with deep impacts nonetheless felt in the world around as events unfold. These stories come from things I’ve experienced, from the cultures I’ve grown up in, from the way my brain works and from the characters themselves who won’t shut up until I write their stories for them! I hope they’ll be fun and exiting, interesting and unusual and I hope you’ll join me for this adventure!
Hopefully this answered some questions you might have had about what sort of stories I’m writing, how I write them (structurally), and what to expect from them. If you have more questions I’ll be happy to answer them as long as they’re not “What’s the plot?”, “Does X or Y survive?” or other such ‘spoiler’ questions!
If you’re interested in more from me I’m creating videos on Youtube, posting updates on Instagram (photos, artwork, and word counts) and of course you can find lots more on this blog as times goes on.
See you soon,
P.s. If you want to follow me on my other social media you can find me here or on: