Monday, August 17, 2015

Writing for Geeks (At Least for Me)

“Geeky people often have. . . . a mind with its own heartbeat.”
-Garret Freymenn-Weyr

Once upon a time, two years ago, a girl picked up Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and loved it. The characters were real. The story was complex. The zeal for the virtual world that had become Earth’s place of choice reminded her of a time when she, too, wished to live in a virtual world and her eventual decision to leave it behind in favor of reality.

Once upon a time, later, this same girl discovered Ernest Cline was writing another book. She bounced in her chair with excitement and waited with eager breath for the release of this new book. A year later, Mr. Cline released Armada. The girl got it on release day and read.

And read.

And wondered.


I write for geeks. When the idea of Critical Hit-On first came to me, I thought “I want to write a romance novel for gamers. I want to write a romance for girls like me—ones who consider themselves geeky and fear that being geeky will keep them from finding someone. I want to write a romance novel for girls who love to reference LOTR and Star Wars and all that stuff as much as their male counter parts.”

So I did.

And then I changed it.

It took a long time, but I finally realized somewhere in the process of writing Critical Hit-On that there was such a thing as too many geek references. Not only does it get tiresome, it alienates an entire portion of the population that could become fans. So I cut back on the references and expanded the book. My new goal was to write romance novels that could be appreciated by geeks but that weren’t necessarily for geeks. I feel I succeeded, but I’ll leave that up to the readers.

I finished reading Armada last week. Upon completion of this long-awaited book, I stared at the final page and thought “that’s it?” At the risk of sounding too geeky here, you know that part of the movie where the hero realizes the grizzled old mentor isn’t perfect?

Yeah, that’s what happened.

As a reader, I hold a certain place of esteem for authors who pen novels that make me feel. Ernest Cline made me feel with Ready Player One. I so wanted the same experience with Armada, and I simply did not get it.

Why not? Well, it’s simple, really. There was too much geek. The references started on page one and didn’t let up until the end—literally. Some I got. Some I didn’t. Perhaps the worst part was that I knew I wasn’t getting a lot of the references. I felt excluded from the story because I didn’t know every tiny reference to the most obscure geek culture. It’s not a good feeling.

I had the idea to not use too many references long before Armada. Still, I didn’t know what that really meant. Where was the harm? Well, the harm is here. Geeks are geeks. Any geek who’s asked will automatically admit it. Most will also admit to other interests that aren’t traditionally considered “geek,” too. Like anything else, there are degrees. Armada seems to be written for the all-knowing kind from the 80’s who want the glory days back. If you aren’t in the club, either join or find another club. I’m not in the club, and honestly, I don’t feel it’s worth the work to join when I am happy where I am.

Critical Hit-On and One Fling to Rule Them All are geek romance. There’s no way around it. My characters play RPGs (role playing games), video games, trading card games, most other kinds of games one can think of. They quote books and movies from pop culture, but that’s not all they do. There is more to the books than a love of geek culture. There’s heart and relationships and friendship and family and people with real goals—like wanting to counsel parents with wayward teens or start a small business through which a career in music can be built. Man does not live on pop culture references alone. A good story needs something at its center, something all readers (geek, self-proclaimed or otherwise, or not) can identify with. With Critical Hit-On and One Fling, my aim was to provide a celebration of pop culture while focusing on some real life issues of people who just happen to be gamers. I can only hope I succeeded.

-Twitter @DDGeekWriter

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