Sunday, September 6, 2009

Plot Demons and Delights

At RWA in DC this year, many free books were given away at the luncheons and at publisher sponsored book giveaways. Now, not all of these titles tripped my trigger, or set my world on fire. What's nice is at the publishers' signings you can browse the books (provided you aren't toppled over by the crush of bodies) and decide which ones call to you and the ones that really don't so much.

Well, I've been in a historical mood lately and wanted something from either the Regency or Victorian period to sate my hunger. I pulled out a book I had picked up at one of the giveaways and was immediately intriged by the premise for the series. It's a battle of the sexes style book that takes place in a small village in Regency England. This spinning history on its head while maintaining the authenticty of the times is quite the trick. I am thoroughly enjoying this premise and have actually just purchased the next two books in the seris from But I digress.

Reading this book made me think of all the books out there that have cliched or tired plots and what it takes to twist one little factoid and get an entirely new spin on a genre.

It seems that once an idea becomes popular with NY (and small pubs for that matter) the market becomes flooded with "knock-offs" of the same plot, soon wearing out the entire concept until one more title and you want to just throw up on the new stacks at your local library. (All right, maybe nothing quite that drastic.)

So, how do you take a plot line and send it in the right direction rather than down the road to Clicheville? Beats the hell out of me. - No, really...I'll use my novel The Host: Shadows for an example.

On the surface, The Host: Shadows is a vampire novel, but dig a little deeper and my vamps are like nothing you've ever seen before. I really didn't want the same tired old, bitten in the neck, blood-sucking, night-dwelling, half-dead hero. Instead, I married my love of vampire lore with alchemy and sci-fi. My vamps are not made...they are merged. It takes an alchemical rite with blood and fire to pull a being through a dimensional divide what creates a symobiotic relationship with the host's soul. It's more possession than infection. It is the symboit that craves blood to survive, not the host. The host merely learns to live with it.

But wait...there's more....

Having this happen to my hero during the Age of Enlightenment wasn't enough for me. No, way Jose. I had to put a chip on his shoulder a mile wide and a soul-searing need to protect the innocent. What better way to earn a living and exorcise the demons of his past than by making him a hit man? One who only accepts contracts on the very scum that preys on innocent. He sees himself as a protector. Tristain St. Blaise is a very complex man.

But see what I'm gettin at? He's not your typical vamp...and the premise of his world and the plot is not typical for a vampire novel either, because of this twisting of the lore I did.

Same could be said for my book Dragon Tamer. When Samhain had their call for submissions for the I Dream of Dragons antho, I knew I wanted to write a story for it. Wanted it so bad, I could taste it. But I didn't want the medieval theme as most dragons, nor did I want an urban fantasy/shifter story. No, I went the other way...pulling once again from my love of sci-fi and my healthcare background, I placed my characters on a world where hi-tech and dragons collide. A critique partner said it was like CSI meet The DRagonriders of Pern. I thought that was a viable description.

In the story, a contagion is killing off the dragons on Cambria. Now, I wanted the heroine to be the tough guy in this book. Once again, turning things up on their ears. So, I made her a federal agent, and he hero the director of the hatching ground where the dragons reside. He's the tender one, she's the tough one. (Though, don't mistake his tenderness for wussiness. He's very alpha and very hot!)

In both these with the historcial I'm reading...there is something differnt offered to show that it's the small tweaking or fine-tuning of a plot that can sometimes have the biggest impact.

Try it. You won't be disappointed.

Wait until you see what I do with steampunk!!



Sierra Wolfe said...

Excellent advice, Kat! I do believe you have to make your story different somehow, to set it apart from all the rest. Sounds like you've done a fantastic job of that! And your books sound very interesting!

Alisha Paige said...

Sounds like you are good at tweaking and twisting. Both books have me salivating for more!

It is tough to come up with a new spin but that's the fun part to our jobs, isn't it?

Gracen Miller said...

Wow, Kat, you got me looking at my books and thinking how LAME they are! :D In Elfin Blood my vampire was once a royal elf, turned vampire (now a Crimson Elf) by the demon Chaos just because he wanted to create a little bit of havoc in the elf kingdom. Not much originality there.

Your books have me intrigued, very intrigued! I'll have to use a little bit more originality or try in my next books!

Great blog, btw!

Mark Alders said...

Awesomeness! What a great post!



Tierney O'Malley said...

Clicheville. *snort* I just finished reading another historical. Same. Don't know how many books out there with the heroine pretending to be a footman or a man. I finished the book but skipped a few pages.
You are so talented, Kat. REading your post, you made me check my paranormal story.

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