Monday, August 15, 2011

My Narrative "Kinks"

Happy Monday, all! I feel great today. It's amazing what a relaxing weekend (and a lot of sleep) will do for your mental health. And it's a beautiful day! I want go out and get a few minutes of fresh air, but since I'm literally the only assistant at my desk right now, I should probably stick around in case something catches on fire.

I feel like talking about things I love today, so I'm going to discuss my narrative kinks! And no, not those kinds of kinks. A narrative kink, by my definition, is a group of tropes and themes that, when I see them in a story, I will immediately fall for them. If they're done well enough, I will even excuse a lot of weaker points in the story. These are elements that separate like from love: I can objectively recognize a well-crafted story without any of these elements, but I am less likely to fall rabidly in love with it. (Unless, of course, that story gives me something new to obsess over.)

In any case, here are some favorites:

Atmospheric settings: Especially small towns surrounded by mountains, eerie snow-covered landscapes, the Deep South in summertime, Wonderland-esque upside-down worlds, and sprawling cities with a touch of the surreal. And if there's a ghost town or haunted house, I'm there.

Ordinary but otherworldly places: When seemingly ordinary locations are a connection to the fantastical - or maybe even a portal to the fantastical.

Fun with traditional gender roles: This is a big one for me, since I really enjoy writing it, too. I love when authors take expected gender roles and assign them to characters of the opposite sex. There are so many different, interesting ways to take this, but I'm a particular fan of girls who want to be detectives, princes, or knights in shining armor.

Loyalty: Of the undying variety. I'm interested in the darker sides of it as well, so long as the author doesn't pretend it's completely healthy.

Unusual surrogate family dynamics: I'm a sucker for a great group dynamic in general, but especially if they fill this role.

Parallelism and the past's influence on the present: It's so interesting to me how people and events can echo long after they're gone. I especially love a moment or line of dialogue that repeats itself, but changes the meaning ever so slightly in the process.

Themes of power, control, and self-confidence: Why hello there, everything I've ever written. I'm a big fan of power imbalances, battles of wills, and characters whose internal conflicts are mirrored by their external ones.

The point of no return: If there's a place the main character is never supposed to go, I want to go there. I especially love when authors take time to build these places up, so that when the main character finally ventures there, I'm holding my breath waiting to see what happens.

Supernatural mysteries: Especially if the supernatural elements are always a little in doubt, and especially if one of the atmospheric settings above is applied. The creepier the better.

Extremely capable main characters who are, nonetheless, awkward dorks: Bonus points for a lame pun or two.

Original mythology: A new take on a Greek myth or Japanese folklore would not go amiss, either.

Strong same-sex friendships that aren't torn apart by a love triangle at the midpoint of the story: It's sort of sad that I have to specify this. 

And many more I'm sure I'll think of later!

How about you? What are some of your narrative kinks?


  1. I definitely like all of those that you pointed out, especially the last one. In real life, my friends and I don't go for the same guys in general, and we support each other when it comes to our 'crushes' :P I love including these best friends in my books.

    I love protective big brothers. You don't see this nearly as often as I'd like. In my family, I'm the oldest, and I always wanted a big brother to 'watch out' for me. In Harry Potter when Ron is concerned about Ginny, I feel so happy inside :) Or even protective little brothers--I have one of those :D

  2. Awww, yes! I love writing protective big brothers. I have an older brother of my own, but he is not terribly overprotective. (Just as well - it might drive me up the wall in real life)

  3. Becky, this is such an insightful post! I'm catching up on the things I've missed and I'm glad I didn't miss this!

    I love that first one. Ironically, I suck at writing description, at least compared to some of my CPs who are freaking Libba Brays. But I swoon over settings that are richly detailed and just a touch exotic. This includes homey places like stone cabins and antique bookstores that are rare in real life. Setting can hook me to a story just as easily as strong characterization and a unique supernatural element.

    Tiff, I LOVE the protective little brother idea. A writer could have a lot of fun with that kind of power imbalance/loyalty 'kink.'

  4. Hi! Just started reading your blog and I wanted to say this is a wonderful entry! A love a lot of the ones that you pointed out.

    I think my favorite among the the ones you listed is The Point of No Return. I am a fan of reading, and writing, that point where the character gets pushed into a decision or action that they cannot come back from, or that they may not live through.