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Writing in someone else’s backyard… September 12, 2011

Posted by shannonmuir in Books, fiction, publishing, short story, Writing.
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In addition to the projects of mine that I’ve been juggling, and looking for full time work as well (having been laid off in mid-July), I took up offers to work on two distinctly different shared world anthologies.  It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, not only for the expanded challenges for myself but to discipline myself again to work under others’ expectations.  I haven’t written for someone else’s world since the ARIA KALSAN MYSTERIES OF THE FUTURE anthology I was part of (I did not go on to be involved in any subsequent projects).  Writing in someone else’s shared world is very tricky because you need to preserve the essence of the thoughts and ideals of that person (or company’s) larger vision while making the story you do uniquely your own.  That was why, back when I did “Cover Story” for the ARIA KALSAN anthology, I chose to look at it from the perspective of an independent news reporter who literally finds herself a slave to a mega news corporation.  It fit in with the larger goals of the project while capitalizing on background I knew well as someone who studied TV and film.

This year, I’ve found myself writing about super heroes and detectives.  Now you might say looking at my background that the first isn’t such a big deal.  After all, I’ve been co-writing FLYING GLORY AND THE HOUNDS OF GLORY with Kevin Paul Shaw Broden for ten years. However, this did pose several new challenges.  The first is that it is my first solo writing credit in this area, people haven’t seen what I can do with super powered citizens on my own.  Secondly, unlike the FLYING GLORY universe where Kevin and I can change and tweak wherever we like, here I was handed a bio on a new character which unintentionally doesn’t have a lot of background and told this is all I have to work from.  Without giving a lot away, let’s just say there wasn’t much to start from so I had to probe as best I could with at least a couple of general questions.  No matter what I write topic-wise, I always try to understand through character so I needed just enough to latch on to in order to understand perspective. With cooperative dialogue with my editor, I got it, and I believe I turned in a story that really works and still does the strong character evaluation I’m noted for – though in this case, some of that came through the other characters the lead interacted with while keeping it the lead character’s story.

This has led me to my current challenge, the detective story – in specific, a detective story with a pulp fiction feel. Based on what I’ve been reading and evaluating to try and match the tone of detective pulp of the period I’m being asked to focus on (1930s), the style tended to be lots of colorful visuals and fast action with very little room or work for character.  In the lesser end of pulp, logic seems to play a secondary role at times.  There’s also an added twist to this story (which I don’t want to publicly give away yet) which is a further homage to the 1930s.  For me it’s been a fine balancing act to make all these work in a way that I hope will ultimately allow the story to be accepted.  It’s a shared world after all and despite all my best efforts it still might not fit.

I’ll keep you posted on both projects as I am able.  Now back to solving the mystery of how to make this mystery happen…

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