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Sunday, 8 October 2017

Using a Genre; Straight, Satire, or Deconstruction - Introduction

Hi there, I'm back with a very long post that needs several parts to say what I want to say. This time, as I've started work on a satire of the fantasy genre, I think I'd like to examine the three major ways people use genres in general; playing them straight, satirising them, and deconstructing them. Each has merits, and none are set in stone. That's what lovely about them!

The first part, playing it straight, is just that. Treating the genre's typical tropes, expectations and quirks as part of the standard ebb and flow of writing. In doing this, you can still do humor or going into the darker parts of the narrative, but you do so while still keeping within the bounds of a straight-laced tale in whatever genre you've chosen. You may slip into parody or satire, but in an approach like this you may end up doing so unconsciously.

Satire is one of the oldest arts in storytelling. The word itself comes from Latin, but satire goes back to Classical Greece and Ancient Egypt. For those a little fuzzy on what it is, satire is a means by which something the creator feels needs ridicule is... well, ridiculed. Be it social norms of the time, the political situation, or the particular foibles of a literary genre, satire holds them up and points them out for how ridiculous they are or can be. Satire can be dark and biting, but it also features parody, wit, and numerous other elements. Parody itself could be taken as its own standalone thing, but for the purposes of this blog post series, I'll be incorporating it as part of the body of satire.

Deconstruction is the most difficult to define, as it's the most easily abused. The term has been most recently associated with anime, and as this video ably demonstrates, it's often stuck on as a bling word rather than being a genuine description of something. To put it at its simplest, deconstruction is about taking a genre and examining its most common tropes and cliches from a real-world perspective, with the very act of deconstruction serving as a commentary on the genre. Deconstruction, when applied correctly, is most often used for more fantastic genres such as science fiction and fantasy, but can apply to action-adventure, romance, and other elements.

Now, as with anything, there is no simple line dividing these three, and there will be elements of satire or deconstruction in an otherwise serious or straightforward work, or there might be comedic elements without going into satire, or it might take the darkest or oddest approach to a story without actually deconstructing its tropes and cliches. In any case, I look forward to going through these different approaches with you over the next few weeks. Enjoy!

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