Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Explaining world building to those who don't build worlds.

Explaining your story can get complicated. I’m talking golden-brown-marshmallows-over-a-fire-pit-because-you’re-the-only-one-who-doesn’t-like-them-burnt kind of complicated.

The horror writer. For those who write about serial killers, you don’t want to be viewed as the newest office stalker. Or, now that they know you how to murder someone without leaving evidence they tip toe around your cubicle, leaving you to be the one who feels uneasy.

The romance author. You want to promote your book but the office is filled with males and they think all already do is day dream about love and roses. They also think you’ll expect a man to sweep you off your feet and they’re not willing to take you out base on that fact alone… having to work from something.

The YA author. You write for kids therefore you use tiny words and still live in high school (which is probably half true).

I’m writing a dystopian YA and with that came this conversation.

“You world build?” Co-worker asked.

“Yup, it’s so much fun,” I said (with excitement).

“Well what world are you building?”

“It’s kind of hard to explain… but, there’s this world where there are three divisions, normals, recreated, and the elite. This girl uses her recreated leg to get her on a certain bus that rides into this place that has her sister.”

“Is this like Harry Potter?” <-- Everyone relates YA to Harry Potter.

“Not really.”

“But you said it was for kids.”

“Yeah, and I didn’t mention magic.”

“Magic might make it cooler,” they had to point out (clearly they know nothing).

*stares at co-worker with disgust*

“What, it would.”

“I’m just not explaining it well. It’s complicated and awesome, but you don’t have to read it.” <-- Unless I become famous of course, then you’ll want to know me and I’ll be like Ellen and NOT thank you when I win the People’s Choice Award.

*we stare at our respective computers and stay silent for the remainder of the day*

So yeah, I should probably get better at pitching. Or maybe stop telling people who don’t read. I choose the latter… for now. Any of your own encounters?


Louise Bates said...

"Are you writing anything right now?" people usually ask when they hear I'm a writer.

"Um, yes." (me thinking, DUH)

"What's it about?"

This is when I used to try to sum it up. Now? I just smile and say,

"Young Adult Fantasy, very complex and very fun. Involves alternate realities and lots of historical study and Latin."

This usually shuts them up, for fear I'm going to launch into a scholarly dissertation on whatever time period I'm researching. Admittedly, that's the sort of thing I would do, but now I encourage that just to keep people from pestering me with questions. It took me ages to build this world, you think I can sum it up well in the thirty seconds I have your half-attention?

Anne Gallagher said...

Depending on who I'm talking to, if they know I write romance, I'll tell them. If they don't know, I'll usually say I'm writing a historical dissertaion on the era surrounding Prince George and the Regency. That shuts them up.

Laura Pauling said...

Until I have my one line pitch down, if people ask, I just say, it's too early to talk about it, I'm still working out the details. Very hard to explain something that is half formed. Ends up sounds like gibberish.

Janet Johnson said...

Too funny! I use my one-line pitch, like Laura said. Mine is contemporary though, so the conversations veer quickly to when it will be published. *sigh*

Laurel Garver said...

I've learned the hard way to follow Laura's plan. Be vague until you have a good logline. But once you do, it can be fun to test out your idea on people to see if they think it's as awesome as you do.

Rebecca Kiel said...

I agree with Laurel. It is fun to try out your logline.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Lately, I just say that I'm trying to get as much writing done before the baby comes so the conversation shifts to the baby.

Meredith said...

I'm so bad at pitching my book to random people! I say I write YA books, and I usually get blank stares. And questions about vampires. :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I think people ask to be polite but they don't want to listen to a real answer.
My students ask me if I'll put them in my next book. I always tell them I killed them off in the last one.

K. Turley (Clutzattack) said...

I find it easiest to tell people that I'm writing a fantasy story that has: (list three nouns) in it.

EX: pilots, air craft carriers, and a doomsday weapon.

It's vague enough that if they want to ask more questions they can, and if that satisfies their curiosity, they don't.

April Plummer said...

I hate it when men ask me what types of books I write because most men would have no interest in what I write, and I feel silly. I usually wave it off and say..."Kind of women's fiction, but some of it can be young adult too."

Women are a bit easier since I think they'd be more interested in my stories.

But I still stumble over words. Even when I've practically memorized my blurb. I wonder why that is.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Try explaining to someone who doesn't understand that science fiction isn't all high tech. They don't get it.

J. A. Bennett said...

I with you on the avoidance part. A lot of people just don't get it!

Jessica Salyer said...

I tried explaining some of my book ideas to a coworker the other day. Yeah, she just stared at me like I grew two heads.

Ann said...

The only question I get asked when I mention I write is "Have I read anything you have written?" When I nod with a big red face in the negative they usually turn away to talk with someone more interesting!

Donelle Lacy said...

Yep. I learned that even though I'm excited about my particular project, doesn't mean others will be. At all.
(try explaining YA fantasy with creepy elements to an older lady at your church.)

I have to censor myself when discussing my writing, unless the person is familiar with what I write. I reveal only what I feel they can handle. (for instance, I told the lady it's a 'fairy tale', which isn't too far off.)

Patti said...

My daughter's teacher put me on the spot in her class to explain what my MG fantasy was about to a bunch of grade 3 students. Talk about pressure.

Matthew MacNish said...

I never talk about my writing. People just don't get it.

Sarah Ahiers said...

I usually only run into the problem with my parents, who generally want to know what my novels are about. Because of them, i always make sure i have a one sentence pitch prepared for each novel. It makes things so much easier

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I need to work on my pitching as well. People ask what my book is about and I'm like... "Um... there's this girl, and she's going insane. And magic. Horses. Swords. Yeah..."

Carolyn V said...

lol! I've learned to keep the description of my writing short. They will either want more, or just look at me like I'm crazy. ;p

cleemckenzie said...

I love it when people ask, "How can you write for teens when you're not anywhere near being a teenager?" Hmmm. Well, I was one. And I know some. And I'm not exactly stupid. I listen. I read, I even talk to teenagers.

I hopped over from the Celery Tree to say hi!

Elana Johnson said...

This is so funny, because it's SO TRUE. Oh, you write books? Are they good?

That's my favorite question of all. I wanted to say, "Actually, it sucks. Don't read it."

I mean, what do you say to that?

I love the comparison to Harry Potter, because everyone DOES compare YA to that. Or TWILIGHT.

Carrie Butler said...

YES! Especially the part about the romance writers. When I tell people I write ParaRom, they immediately start drilling me about Twilight. I explain (multiple times) that I don't even have vampires in my book, but they never seem to get it. *Sigh*

Laura Josephsen said...

It can be so hard to explain world-building! "It's complicated" is a line I'm very familiar saying. ;)

Mimi said...

I can empathise (as a non-writer!) with those co-workers. I would be unnerved if I meta crime/thriller writer in person!
I suppose it boils down to a lack of understanding of the writing process.

Morgan said...

LOL! That conversation cracked me up!!!! :D Oh, the life of a writer... ;)

Lindsay N. Currie said...

Hehe, I stopped telling anyone I write at all. They really just don't understand and it was giving me rage issues LOL:)

Jennifer Hillier said...

It's so true, a lot of people do relate YA to Harry Potter or to Twilight! I love telling people I write serial killer stories. Their eyes widen and they always back away from me slightly. Never gets old! :D

Jolene Perry said...

This is HILarious.

Answering that question without sounding rehearsed is SO SO hard.

My husband is always introducing me as - my author wife.
And the first question is always - what is your book about?

WHY OH WHY is this the hardest question to answer??

Leslie Rose said...

Pitching gives me palpatations, and not in a good way. Why can't a pitch just be, "Read this please."