John "The Gneech" Robey (the_gneech) wrote,
John "The Gneech" Robey

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Clever Phrase: A Novel

Besides just being in the mood for something to read, one reason I picked up Blue Heaven was market research. A Brigid and Greg novel, if and when it materializes, will be right there in that same "contemporary American fiction" category and be sharing pretty much the exact same audience -- with the slight exception that B&G are not likely to be listed under "gay lit".

It's no secret that the novel market is in a weird place just now, at least in the USA. Women buy more books than men generally, and a lot more fiction than men. Thus the boom in "chick lit," to the point where even stuff that isn't really chick lit is being marketed as if it were. Looking around the "new fiction" tables at the bookstore, everything has the same title (Catchy Phrase: A Novel), most things have a devil tail and high heels on the cover somewhere, and every third book is about funny vampires.

The humor fiction that isn't riding Bridget Jones's coattails, seems to be floating somewhere between Wodehouse, Woody Allen, and Will and Grace except that it's also allowed to talk about ecstacy, cocaine, and marijuana. The main recurring theme seems to be "skewering New York city high society / art scene / both" over and over again, which probably has more to do with editorial preferences than what the reading public actually wants.

So what does this mean for Brigid and Greg? I don't know at the moment. It has certainly been instructive in what not to do, because in almost every contemporary humor novel I've found there have been one or two glaring things that really made me want to stop reading, if not throw the book across the room and shout at it.

A preponderance of the idiot ball is one; an annoying tendency to delve into the seedy is another; completely unsympathetic protagonists is the third. Blue Heaven had all of these problems, but fortunately in relatively small amounts and I was able to get through it. The idiot ball and the unsympathetic protagonists overlap somewhat -- it's hard to care about what happens to a character when you want to slap him for being such a yutz. But it's not entirely a 1:1 connection because it's possible to still have sympathy for an amiable buffoon -- see also "Bertie Wooster". When you have a petty, small-minded, bitchy buffoon as your hero, it becomes a lot harder to maintain interest.

On the other hand, the reason the idiot ball is such a common device, is that it's often hard to write farce without it. In real life, when confronted with a ridiculous situation, most of the people I have any sympathy for at least will do their best to flee at the earliest opportunity -- whereas in a book the characters have to get deeper and deeper into it. So to write a humor novel without resorting to idiot ball use, is going to be quite a challenge. But that's one of the goals I'm setting for myself.

Not delving into the seedy is easy. What seediness that does show up, if any, will primarily be there in order to be spurned like a rabid dog by B&G. So that's taken care of. That leaves making sure to have sympathetic protagonists, which I'd like to think I've achieved with my particular pair of eccentrics.

We'll see!

-The Gneech
Tags: brigid and greg, writing
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