“When we reach our lowest point, we are open to the greatest change.”
The spirit of Aang speaks these words at the end of the first season of Legend of Korra. At the time, I remember thinking it was a nice quote, but perhaps not fully earned. Korra had suffered a defeat – losing her bending and her sense of identity. The loss, however, seemed very minor. I know weeks were supposed to have passed in the show but, from an audience standpoint – it had only been a couple minutes. We didn’t have time to see Korra’s suffering – to understand the pain she was going through. While Aang’s words were poetic, they would have had much more impact had they come at the end of season three or the beginning of season four.
Writing is an act of creation. When we put pen to the page (or fingers on keys), we created worlds of characters and give them a meaningful plot to propel their lives. They can fall in love, discover treasure, fight a mummy, fly to far off worlds, or all of the above. With writing, we’re really only ever limited by our imagination.
Then it’s time to publish.
I have said it before and I will say it again: publishing is a very different animal from writing. Whereas writing is a passion, publishing is a business. It operates on rules and logic. In a publisher’s eyes, the best writing is the world is worthless unless people read it. It is from this desire to connect writing to readers that we get genre.
Genre is essentially the characterization of narrative. It is the neat boxes that our wild writing is driven into. While this sounds restrictive, it is actually very helpful to the writer. Writing can be unwieldy. If we write with only passion then we will have stories that shoot wildly in many directions. Genre, and the logic behind it, helps focus our narratives on a desired goal. In writing a romance, the main drive of the plot has to be the protagonist’s relationship. In writing science-fiction, the writer must fully explore their idea of a non-existent technology and its impact on society.
The writer who tells you “I have a story for everyone” in fact has a tale for no one (at least that’s how agents and publishers see it). To date, not a single work has been written that has been liked by the entire population. As of 2014, The Holy Quran had sold over three billion copies but I’m willing to bet that we could find people who don’t like it (even if they’ve never read it). Every work of art has a finite audience and genre is an excellent tool in this regard.
That said, I would not get too caught up on genre while writing. For one thing, there are many layers. At the broadest is Fiction and Non-Fiction – simply put, is this a true story or not? Then there’s tone, romantic or realistic? Am I seeing any heroes this time around? Next is form – am I reading a novel or a short story, or is this a graphic novel? What age group is this for?
I asked all those questions without getting to “genre” as most people think of it. When writing, it is best to remain as out of your head as possible so these are not questions I would concern myself with too much. Most of them answer themselves as the process unfolds.
When I would think of genre, however, is when I encountered writer’s block. If my story was struggling and I didn’t know where to go next, then examining its main idea makes sense. If I’m writing a horror story but my last couple chapters have done nothing to build dread then I’ve gone off topic. A solution to my writer’s block may be to backtrack several chapters and rewrite in a new direction, one that keeps my hopeful genre in mind. Genre can be a guidance system that helps the writer see through their process.
This is the first of many blog posts that I’ll have on genre, in large part since it is my primary topic in this year’s South Shore Writing Initiative class schedule. I’ll be diving deeper into genre in future posts, looking at specific categories and their definitions. I will also provide the same writing exercises that I give my class.
Genre is a part of publication but it is still a writer’s friend. Being aware of genre can help a lot in regards to the writing process. Genre is a pathway to the audience. Use it to frame a narrative, play tricks with audience expectations, or help keep focus. It is far more a tool than a hindrance.
Recently, the first behind-the-scenes look was revealed on Kong: Skull Island, the upcoming reboot to the King Kong franchise. Have a look at it below: … actually, scratch that. It was uploaded by MTV and they don’t like making their videos accessible (that leads to a socialist internet). So here is the link to their site, and below I’ll just stick an IGN recap of what was said. Sound good?
Anyway, so this Kong is a bit different from the one that Peter Jackson brought to life back in 2005. Jackson’s Kong was a remake of the 1933 classic, plain and simple. It told the same story, albeit with minor alterations and updated effects. This new movie is going for something different.
Yet we all know that good cinematic crossovers need establishing films. When companies just throw a lot of properties into a film without first establishing while the audience should care… well, bad things happen. Kong: Skull Island is meant to establish King Kong in the same universe as Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla, and set the stage for future monster rumbles.
What does this mean for the movie itself… well, quite a bit. Don’t expect Kong to climb the Empire State Building this time out. Don’t expect Skull Island to be populated with dinosaurs. Don’t expect the relationship between Kong and Brie Larson (the female lead) to be the center of attention. In short: don’t expect a lot of things that you would expect in a King Kong movie. A lot of this has to do with size.
In order to battle the King of the Monsters, Kong needs to go through a growth spurt. Kong is typically 25 feet tall, whereas the newest Godzilla clocked in at about 360 feet tall. That would look like this:
So obviously, bring Kong up to size. They’ve done it before and they can do it again. Yet this creates problems for the typical King Kong mythos. Either Godzilla becomes very mundane or Skull Island cannot be full of super-sized dinosaurs. This means that Kong will either be alone on his island (like he was in the other King Kong film set in the 70s), or they will be other creatures. To spoil what was said in the MTV First Look: There will be other creatures.
Where will these creatures come from? Well, there’s an intriguing possibility here. Let’s look at the facts. Gareth Edwards has long put forth the idea that he would like to establish the concept of Monster Island in his Godzilla movies. For those who don’t know: Monster Island is an island that houses all the Earth’s monsters. Pretty self-explanatory. In the Toho universe, Monster Island is somewhere in the Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands. No location has been given yet for the Legendary universe but hmmm, wouldn’t Skull Island do nicely?
A movie, set on a tropical Monster Island, with giant monsters battling and a team of humans struggling to survive… sounds a lot like 1967’s Son of Godzilla. The movie, which follows a scientific team conducting a weather experiment, seems to line up a lot closer than the original King Kong likely will.
For one thing, Kong will most likely not be traveling to the mainland this time around – as the film is set in the 1970s. If Kong went mainland, and this film shares a universe with Godzilla 2014, how come the army seems unprepared to handle giant monsters forty years after one publicly appeared? It’s not likely. Edwards already tweaked the story of the 1954 Godzillato avoid a similar situation.
So Kong: Skull Island will likely take place entirely on the island, following a team that discovers, and likely then attempts to escape from, the creatures they encounter. There’s few films like that out there, and Son of Godzilla is one of the better ones. I would not be surprised if that film becomes a blueprint.