Aiming your story
This week I'm taking a short break from the type of prods I usually post. I'm going to talk a bit about how to aim your story.
This might be a new term for you. Okay, it probably is a new term for you because I just made it up. I think most writing "how-to" books call it "targeting". Targeting, though, implies your story is so precisely defined that it can hit dead-center bullseye in the interests of your readers.
In real life, I don't think things are that neat and well-defined. I think most writers get the idea for the story first, then decide to which audience it would appeal.
I'm going to suggest doing things a little different. I'm going to suggest aiming your story.
Aiming implies that you know the general direction you'll shoot at. It implies you have a target. It just doesn't imply that you have your sights zeroed in and locked down on the exact spot you intend to hit. I think that's more like a story or novel in progress.
I coined the term based on a website: Aim A Book. I found the site useful to narrow down subgenres for a story I'm considering.
Here was my thought process:
I had a general idea for a character-driven story. As of yet, I didn't (I still don't) have the characters fleshed out, but I knew, vaguely, how I wanted the characters to interact. The interesting thing, to me, was the idea of exploring this interaction in a genre where I thought I could bring out the interaction the most.
Once I decided on the genre, I decided to explore sub-genres. This story wasn't suitable for all subgenres of the genre I chose, so I wanted to narrow down the possibilities.
This probably all sounds a little amorphous (if the story goes any where I'll be more specific later), and more than a little backwards (most writing books, from what I recall, don't suggest targeting your story this early in the process. Some that I have read don't suggest targeting until you write a query letter!). Writing isn't like engineering - the process is much less defined and the order in which you take the steps required isn't important.
In my opinion, approaching your story by aiming it can help you break through some blocks. If you have problems getting the story out, maybe you don't have a firm grasp of who your audience is. Or maybe at some point you've decided to tell a different story than the one you began with, but you haven't yet realized it.
Or for a different tack, try this prod:
Take a scene from whatever story you're currently working on. Rewrite the scene, but place it in a different genre, or subgenre. How has the story changed? This may give you ideas on different directions you can take your story.
More ideas on genre:
Genre Descriptions from Agent Query
Answers.com on fiction genres You can click on links to different divisions such as mystery and sci fi, and from there, click on subgenres for a description.
Wikipedias list of literary genres You can click on each to find a description, and from there, subgenres.
Writing Prompts Fiction Fiction Writing Writing Publishing Writers Short-Stories Storyblogging Genres