Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Trends

Romantic suspense, chick-lit, and vampire fiction all have one thing in common: they're powerful trends that changed the course of many a career. Predicting trends in the industry is like playing a stock market on Thorazine; you have to think two years ahead before you invest.

Take the micro-trends in various types of historical fiction over the last couple of years. I think they're tremors, gradually building up to something bigger. I also think the reason that they haven't yet is because most historical fiction is not written to appeal to the mass market, or be accessible to the average reader. There are also some story elements missing. Think of how well Dan Brown has done simply by following the basic story line of Raiders of the Lost Ark in The Da Vinci Code (not that I'm accusing him of plagiarism. I know I'd have to stand in line.)

I don't think a writer should write for a trend, but they bear watching in the event you have something that will fit into a trend. It's also fun to try to predict what readers will want down the road (because you know if I'm right about historical fiction, I'm going to rub it in big time.)

What do you guys see as the potential trend-makers in the next couple of years?

26 comments:

  1. I love this topic. Interesting question, what the next trend will be. Agents are saying that young adult is very hot right now. I don't know what the next trend will be, but I know that the epubs love sci-fi.

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  2. This intrigues me, PBW, especially as a writer of historical fiction. How is HF not accessible to the average reader, and how can we make it more accessible? I've always considered the best of the genre to be accessible but often overlooked due to the vagaries of personal taste -- some people will not read history, no matter how it's packaged; the worst is little better than a bland history book with dialogue (often bad dialogue). Maybe these tremors will lead to wildly-accessible* HF ;)



    *This is going to be my word for today . . .

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  3. Based on children's play sets, plus the way LOTR was filmed, and the mining out of the youth of low station defeats the dark lord trope, I predict (and am banking on)a boom in Military Sword and Sorcery - call it "Sharpe's Ringwar".

    For further justification, see here: http://zornhau.livejournal.com/54053.html

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  4. I haven't a clue, really. I'm serious. I don't have the faintest idea what will be hot, or what might even potentially be hot.

    Personally, I'm banking that psuedo historical fantasy will be around for a while, but that's based purely on what I'm writing. :)

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  5. Trace wrote: Agents are saying that young adult is very hot right now. I don't know what the next trend will be, but I know that the epubs love sci-fi.

    Thank God someone does, lol. I've been hearing some interesting things about YA, too, especially with Harry Potter about to wind down.

    Scott Oden wrote: How is HF not accessible to the average reader, and how can we make it more accessible?

    The bulk of HF is written in historically-accurate chronicle form, which is great for history lovers like us but as you pointed out, sometimes reads like a prettied-up textbook to the average reader. Also as a genre it has an intellectual rep, which can also be off-putting.

    To snag the casual reader, you have to give them more than that. Scott, you know what a diamond mine history is for cool stuff that hardly anyone but dedicated historians know. If we take HF, simplify it (and I don't mean dumb it down, but avoid smothering the reader with every-other-page infodumps), and emphasize the more exciting elements, we might grab more of those readers.

    Look at the HF stories that are most popular in the movies: they all have story elements such as huge whopping secrets and scandals we never knew about ancient civilizations, time-lost treasures of wealth and power, and the different types of quests for both.

    And for anyone who disagrees, remember that if you'd suggested back in 1980 that the story of an archaeologist digging up religious artifacts in Egypt would end up becoming one of the most popular films of all time, people would have laughed at you.

    I've always considered the best of the genre to be accessible but often overlooked due to the vagaries of personal taste -- some people will not read history, no matter how it's packaged; the worst is little better than a bland history book with dialogue (often bad dialogue). Maybe these tremors will lead to wildly-accessible* HF ;)

    As a species we have so much affection and many strong ties to our world's history; it will always fascinate us. The trick is to catch the eye of the reader who wants to be fascinated.

    Zornhau wrote: Based on children's play sets, plus the way LOTR was filmed, and the mining out of the youth of low station defeats the dark lord trope, I predict (and am banking on)a boom in Military Sword and Sorcery - call it "Sharpe's Ringwar".

    Now there's a neat thought.

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  6. Maybe a form of new and improved westerns (mixed genre). Sorta like chic-lit meats western or sci-fi western (ala Firefly the series)?

    Obviously, I don't have a clue. Just a writer and reader throwing some ideas out there.

    But I do know my own reading tastes have changed as of late. I'd love a *light* reading with some drama. Any recommendations?

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  7. I've noticed a few Da Vinci Code-inspired books lately, and I expect there will be more. Something interesting - a month or so ago, I read a book which I described as "Alias meets The Da Vinco Code." The other day, I was browsing the blog of a completely different author, and she was talking about one of her new novels, which she described as "Alias meets The Da Vinci Code."

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  8. Garnigal12:29 PM

    I'm wondering if there will be a swing back to spy thrillers. Terrorism is on everyone's mind, but it's more abstract than it was in the year following 9/11.

    It might be a case of reading what scares to you try and be unscared.

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  9. Like the other poster suggested, I think cross-genre or genre-bending will come up a lot more.

    Also, for the HF - I've read a couple of books that I enjoyed in this area - a book called Rubicon, which was sent in Caesar's rome. The background was Caesar's defeat of Pompei, but the real story was about a man's quest to protect his adult son. It was a crime novel set in Rome.

    I also enjoyed Bernard Cornwall's King Arthur book (Winter King maybe? the first one). It again, focused on a relative nobody, but the book really brought you back to that time period.

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  10. S-F seems to be due a renaissance now that fantasy is suddenly the bees knees. I remember a complete inversion* of that situation when I was a teenager, and fantasy was just beginning its burgeoning.

    What I wonder is how long the sudden resurgence in vampire/goth will support itself.


    * This is MY word of the day.

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  11. I gotta go with many others here and say that it will be "fusion" genres.

    It's even happening in music. For instance look how well rap and heavy metal go together. (Think I'm kiddiing? Check out JayZ and Linkin Park. I'm digging it!)

    As far as book trends, fantasy fused with romance like Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughn. (Sorry I don't know how to link here!) That was a great read!

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  12. In Germany, historical fiction is considered as genre fiction not any different from Fantasy which it's busy outranking in popularity the last years. It has not that intellectual touch of "difficult reading".

    I should write for the German market, lol, but then you'd never get a chance to read anything because it won't be translated. The other way round may work, though. If I get my books published and sell a few, chance is that there will be a German translation. *grin*

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  13. Midgets! Midgets are hot. Midget romances. Midget thrillers. Midget historical fiction. Midget vampires.

    Run along now and begin rewriting to catch this hot new trend.

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  14. Action-adventure thrillers written for women.

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  15. I predict SF featuring talking birds and romance lit-loving giant spiders will be THE big hit of the decade.

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  16. And talking frogs, too. (Hey, I'm already thinking about my sequel.)

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  17. I agree with the other posters re the fusion genres, but I also think the huge wave of more erotic fiction will keep gaining steam (no pun intended). There's been a lot of sales in that area over the last year, and from what I've seen, there's every indication the trend is continuing to strengthen.

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  18. For what it's worth, two crossover historical authors who achieved huge success were John Jakes and Jean Auel (or were they popular fiction authors who happened to write a great historical series?).

    Trends? I'd like to see a trend toward anthropomorphism, but that's just the polar bear in me talking.

    The other thing I'd like to see is fiction tackling tough life issues that don't have easy answers.

    That covers two areas where I'm writing. As for what the market will bear, I suspect it will involve an evolution of what we're seeing today. The hottest items will fade due to saturation and a tangential focus will emerge.

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  19. I think we'll see more memoir/fiction dilemmas. I was thinking the other day how much I'd like to write the memoir of a fictional character. (fictoir?)

    I predict we'll be seeing more of this truth vs. subjective memory business.

    A. M. Burns
    http://amburns.blogspot.com
    The Conceit

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  20. I think political thrillers are hot right now, and having just ventured into the genre and completed my first, I hope my hunch is correct! I think people are wide open when it comes to the realities, misconceptions and conspiracies surrounding politics. It certainly made for some interesting and eye-opening research.

    Jill Terry
    Author | Poet | Wordsmith Extraordinaire
    www.jillterry.com

    "Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt."
    -Shakespeare

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  21. PBW--what have you been hearing about YA that is so interestin? I'm dying to know, please save me.

    M

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  22. I meant interesting with a G!
    M

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  23. I don't know, to be honest, and I'm not really worried about it. I don't want to write because the story fits a trend, I want to write the story that wants to be. If it matches a trend, okay, but I don't want the market to dictate what I write. That's too much like school, where you're handed an assignment and graded. It would take all of the fun out of writing, for me.

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  24. DM, I work (occasionally) at a small indie SF/F bookstore, and one of the most common questions we get is "My son/daughter just finished the Harry Potter books. What can I give him/her now? I want him/her to keep reading!"

    We do read as many of the books as we can so we can give them an informed opinion, and there's a lot of really good YA coming out.

    Shannon Hale, for example, took us completely by surprise. I took "The Goose Girl" home thinking it was going to be another cute little retelling of a fairy-tale, and was blown away by a book that gave me the same feeling as the first time I read McKinley.

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  25. Demented M wrote: PBW--what have you been hearing about YA that is so interestin? I'm dying to know, please save me.

    With Harry Potter winding down, and Chris Paolini becoming the youngster's Tolkien, there is some growing interest in strong, serious paranormal YA series. Think stories that are geared to appeal to a wide age range. Other YA that may grow into future trends: inspirational, chick-lit, and mystery.

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  26. Rebecca4:10 PM

    Something interesting - a month or so ago, I read a book which I described as "Alias meets The Da Vinco Code.

    Please let that not be the future. Please!

    Action-adventure thrillers written for women.

    That definitely seems to be a trend in movies and TV, along with the decline in the romance genre.

    Think stories that are geared to appeal to a wide age range.

    And that, too. Family-appropriate books have enormous market potential, IMO.

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