What kind of stories do you write?

There are questions that every author dreads to hear. Usually it’s something along the lines of “Where do you get your ideas?”, which I don’t actually mind. Mine is “What kind of stories do you write?”

It’s a fair question I ask. I often glare jealously at my friends as they whip out answers to this at dinner conversations while dreading the moment all eyes fall upon me and I say, “Uhm, well, I don’t usually write hard Science Fiction, or anything with space ships or aliens. Unless it’s satire. My fantasy tends to be sort of in-between reality and the bizarre. Oh, and I like dwarves.”

Except none of that describes what I write. Not really. One of the things that drew me to being a writer was that I like being a jack of all trades. I like knowing a little bit about lots of things. I have too many hobbies. I’m rarely bored. I could watch the news all day long. I people watch. There’s nothing I don’t want to know how to do or learn how it works. It’s how I’m wired.

A lot of the books I read growing up were entertaining and escapist but the ones that really captured my imagination were the ones that I reread over and over and found new meaning in. From some of Heinlein’s work that explored moral, social, religious, and political issues, like Time Enough for Love and Asimov’s Robots, Empire and Foundation series’ to Frank Herbert’s Dune, I found myself engrossed in thematic complexities that were often (but not always) carefully handled.

I’ve heard differing opinions on writing with theme in mind. I don’t always consider it when I’m writing a first draft but by the time that’s done there’s usually an underlying theme emerging that I’ll tease out of the dark in subsequent drafts like a shy kitten. Others ignore theme completely and let the reader make their own interpretation. There is no wrong way, just your way.

Most of what I write, on either side of the genre, might best be classified as social. I wrote about a garbage men put out of work by garbage disposal/recycling technology. A blind man who’s sight is restored with augmented reality and he realizes that he was happier before he could see because of how it changed his relationships with the world. The crippled woman who volunteers to transfer her consciousness into a space ship so she can be with her wife again. All stories that depend on Science Fiction to work, but the focus is on the people and their struggles, not the technology or science.

Even while I’m plotting out my novel chock full of Kiwi dwarves, sparkpunk, and airships in an alternate New Zealand, which should be a good adventure romp, I’m considering issues of class, racism, economics, and colonialism. Themes emerge and can’t be ignored.

So when the question of what I write comes up, I’m not sure how to answer without sounding like I have a pencil crammed up my tailpipe. Saying sociological fantasy is too complicated for casual conversation. Plus, it’s too easy to mumble and say scatological and that’s a reputation you’ll never get back. Social Science Fiction just sounds pretentious. Sorry, it does.

Part of a writer’s identity if figuring out why they write and what they write about. Why I write short stories is that I can’t sit still. Or because I like to look in the windows to lots of characters lives. What you write is going to change over the course of your lifetime, but, like a story, a theme will emerge.

I write about interesting people in difficult situations, usually on the best or worst day(s) of their lives. What do you write about?

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  • Erika Holt

    Love that you consider issues such as class, racism, economics, and colonialism, in all of your writing–even the adventure romps. I aim to do the same.

    As for what I write, hm. Agnst-ridden fantasy; sometimes dark, sometimes funny? Oh, dear, that sounds a bit pretentious, too. Maybe I’ll just say: bored witches, conflicted mages, one-eyed girls, and creepy critters. Oh, and ghostly, serial killer, gravediggers. 🙂

  • I am totally with you here: “Why I write short stories is that I can’t sit still. Or because I like to look in the windows to lots of characters lives.”
    I’d never really articulated it quite that way, but it resonates strongly with me.

    What do i write? Mostly fantasy and horror. I like to explore the in-between places and characters. Rogues, outcasts. And I have a fondness for the post-apocalyptic, too. Sometimes I find a little humor creeping into those stories, too.

    Good post Adam!

  • Ace

    Good post, sir.

    What do I write? I write SF/Fantasy pulp adventure. Total escapist fare. Brain candy. Do I want to leave a mark and provide insight on social issues through spec fic? Well…If I *do* leave a mark, I hadn’t planned on it.

    But if I entertained you for half an hour, an hour, or longer, and you enjoyed the ride, then I did my job.

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  • Jaym Gates

    Excellent post on an issue I struggle with, too.

    I usually just break it down to: Myth and Mortality. There’s so much more than that, but that’s the easiest way for me. Yeah, so I’m a cop-out.

  • Great post, Adam.

    When it comes to my novels, I’ve started saying I write “urban fantasy, but with no vampires or werewolves.” It’s usually met with blank stares, so I then follow up with “contemporary settings with weird stuff going on.” That seems to sum it up. LOL.

    I’d like to say I tackle serious issues, but I’ll confess I don’t, not conciously. I write to entertain and I will leave the important reflections on society to those much wiser than me. (I’m pointing at all my fellow inkpunks here!!) Being in such great company does make me think about said issues and perhaps one day you’ll see it sneak into my writing-a transference of genius- rubbed off on me via proximity to such great minds. 😉

  • G

    Adam, I LIKE you.
    And I get this a lot. I HATE being asked what I do as an artist; it’s not easily summed up. (“I do zombie erotica” has been an interesting line that I have used to mixed results).
    I much prefer to get others talking about what THEY do. 🙂

  • hellenmasido

    its a question i have been askin myself cuz somehow, the shirt stories in my head grow and grow until i cant decide whther its a novel or a short story! i like long stories- they give me something to get lost into for a long long time. i am yet to figure out exactly what stories i want t write. ts all a matter of discovery with time i guess

  • & & & :Oguy dragin his…lawl!

    Hmmm 4 years ago… 2 years ago… 😀 oh yeah…

  • & & & :Oguy dragin his…lawl!

    Yo adam! You from israel 😐