What makes my written work stand out from others in the genre?
Ha ha! That implies that I’ve actually read books in my genre…or that I know what genre I’m writing in…
But seriously, my latest work (Transmutation of Shadow) is an action-packed secret agent mystery…sort of in the vein of Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity…or the movie The Matrix (no, really, a beta reader said it reminded him of The Matrix…yas!)
And yet it’s different. How is it different? How have I made this genre my own? If you love running-and-gunning spies, but also want to train your palate with clean, uplifting books, read on:
Action and Adventure
Books in this genre are usually full of fight scenes and dramatic chases…and Shadow is no exception!
A quick pace follows our hero through the pages, as he hides under the radar, running from people he used to call friends. I’m no Tom Clancy, but I managed to slip in some cool spy maneuvers (like switching clothes and cars repeatedly!).
How is my writing different?
Mr. Ludlum’s fight scenes can be a little…bone-jarring. While I don’t try to gloss over the bloody realism of combat, I also don’t dwell on it. My story doesn’t need it. In the words of one critiquer, I handle everything from death to violence with “grace and elegance”.
Let’s face it: my main character is an assassin. His government pays him to “eliminate” undesirable elements…AKA to murder people.
I think this is one of the things that made my parents leery when I first started writing it – but they both agree that I’ve dealt with the subject with maturity (but not gratuity) and cheerfulness (but not glorification).
Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, Alistair MacLean, and others in their genre are prone to “spicy words.” Let’s face it: in the world of soldiers and spies, terrorists and mafia dons, you won’t catch many people saying, “Good golly, Miss Molly!” when they stub their toe.
I’m from a different culture.
To be specific, the homeschooling, church-y culture where “Jeez” is too strong, and “Good grief gravy!” is for when you’re really, truly frustrated.
I gotta snicker a little here, because this is an area where my first line of beta readers really raked me over the coals.
“He can’t say ‘shucks’! He’s in the Army Special Forces, for crying out loud. If the guys in boot camp caught him saying ‘shucks’ they would beat him up!”
So…I took advantage of the glorious tool of obfuscation, and peppered the manuscript with “I swore” or “I muttered a curse.”
Realism + opaque writing = something you can give your teen without blushing!
Robert Ludlum is especially bad this way, but Tom Clancy also doesn’t shy from a sex scene or two.
What about the Kimia Wood books?
Hmm, yeah, there is none.
My character doesn’t even have a girlfriend. And if he did, I have a moral compunction against including any illicit material. Just check out my full-fledged rant against romance fiction. After frothing at the mouth about characters sniffing each other like wild dogs, the last thing I’m going to do is give my book a steamy scene.
While I tend to associate the tag “clean” with sickly sweet little Amish romances or quirky romantic mysteries with brightly-colored covers, I can’t deny the strict reading of the label applies to my own work. If you’re not “dirty,” you’re probably “clean.”
Alistair MacLean’s work are tense, but largely upbeat and empowering adventures. Tom Clancy’s are highly technical, with tension slowly and deliberately constructed from all sides.
Robert Ludlum stares deep into the abyss, and his work is accordingly heavy on the gritty realism of his topic. And Larry Correia, while he sprinkles humor and cool world-building throughout his books, knows how to ratchet the tension up to eleven and just keep cranking.
How am I the same but different?
My book has been compared to The Matrix and Equilibrium. While I’m thrilled that my fight scenes evoked these same emotions, the tone of these movies is not what I was going for…nor (I think) what I achieved.
Both these movies have greyscale palates, with lots of dark costumes, rainy sets, and oppressive atmospheres.
While my protagonist is in a lot of danger (and goes through some pretty rough experiences) I wanted to stay upbeat and hopeful (with, dare I say, touches of humor?).
This isn’t your fluffy-creampuffs read…but it isn’t a GRIMDARK where you’ll leave the story feeling dirty and depressed. We put the “fun” in “run for your life”!
The best books show an honest picture of human nature, perhaps draw images from it to help us understand ourselves…and perhaps even say something profound about the universe.
Some authors (like Ian Fleming) simply provide some wish-fulfillment and let the audience have an exciting adventure. Others (like Robert Ludlum) paint vivid, honest pictures of humanity and the societies we build.
How do my works compare?
Transmutation of Shadow is fun, sure. A romp that lets us run for our lives, hide in plain sight, and experience the thrill of daring escapes all from the comfort of our reading chair.
But I tried to go deeper. As I’ve gotten older, and my writing has grown, I’ve decided “I don’t want to be room noise” – I want to say something worth saying.
As I let my conscientious Christian worldview inform my story-craft, I can deliver a story that’s about much more than a psionic assassin solving the mystery about himself…I tell a story about a killer forced to confront his own actions, to stop passing the buck, forced to find redemption.
Which only comes from Jesus.
As impressive as Clancy, Ludlum, and MacLean are, that’s a story I’ve never seen them tell.
Decide for Yourself!
Transmutation of Shadow is currently out with critique readers, but I plan to publish it some time this year. Stand by, and you can read this exciting science fiction/spy thriller with a humble yet determined protagonist for yourself!
Kimia Wood currently lives with her family somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.
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