What are genres? Genres are conventions that manage reader expectations. Choosing the right genre for your story – before writing it – is a crucial decision. When you think of genre, think RIO – Reader Interest Optimization.
Genre expectations have grown over a long time, hundreds of years. Each genre has its unique conventions and obligatory scenes. An action story needs to have fights or it isn’t action. A love story needs to have a kiss and a love confession scene or it isn’t a love story. Stories need to comply to the conventions of its genre or it won’t work.
While common genres are already carved in stone, Visionary Fiction has remained somewhat fluid. The first thing that comes to mind is that Visionary Fiction has an additional storyline beside the A-story and B-story, the plot and character development. This is the spiritual storyline, the S-story. Though interwoven with the B-story, illustrated by the Hero’s Journey, the S-story can and should stand on its own. “But other stories have a morale too,” you may want to object. True, but one can sum up a common story’s morale in one sentence, while an S-story claims a major part of the work and contains a few visionary or spiritual morales.
Balancing the A, B, and S-storyline is exactly that – a balancing act. How much should an author assign to each? Paolo Coelho’s books seem to have a 80/20 ratio, 80% A and B-story, and 20% S-story. The book The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari is the opposite – 20/80, whereby the A- and B-story serve as catalysts for the spiritual body of thought revealed.
Many Visionary Fiction stories have a journey in common, like The Alchemist or The Celestine Prophecies. But this seems a popular setting or theme rather than a convention. This reminds of science fiction, which is not really a genre, but rather a setting for various genres, like action, horror, or thriller. From a strict editorial point of view, Visionary Fiction isn’t a genre either. We can write a Visionary Fiction action story, a Visionary Fiction love story, and a Visionary Fiction thriller. But unlike Science Fiction, Visionary Fiction defines an inner setting or theme.
Each genre has its specific global story values around which its scenes oscillate. For example, the values of love stories are love and hate, the values of action stories are life and death.
What is the global story value of Visionary Fiction? How about common sense and enlightenment? Or relative knowledge and universal wisdom? All Visionary Fiction stories require that the protagonists moves from common sense and sensuality to enlightenment. Is this the core convention of Visionary Fiction – showing readers a way to spiritual awakening and enlightenment?
What are the obligatory scenes of Visionary Fiction? This is where the S-story comes in. Obligatory Visionary Fiction scenes convey spiritual principles and wisdom to the reader. Are there essential spiritual truths that needs to be in every S-story?
Here is a list of basic spiritual principles which lend themselves to Visionary Fiction:
Spiritual awakening: A glimpse at the higher self and the world’s miraculosity
The great work: A phase of meditation, learning, and spiritual practices
Access to other realities – through visions and/or astral projections.
Illumination: A spiritual regeneration that comes with a full realization of the higher self
The acquisition of spiritual powers
Visionary Fiction member Robin Gregory suggested a scene that glorifies the power of the heart. We don’t live with the left and right side of the brain alone. The heart is the place where our higher self thrives and spiritual awakening takes place.
Rea Nolan recommends a scene where the hero/ine confronts the choice to enter a mystical realm or not, to obtain what s/he needs. There are other realities out there and people need to know about them. This appears particularly important for a scientific oriented society.
Jenna Newell Hiott thinks that Visionary Fiction requires a scene wherein the main character(s) experiences an expansion of consciousness. Here, the difference between the B-story and C-story becomes obvious. While characters can always hone their intelligence through experience, spiritual growth requires initiation. Without meeting the goddess we can’t experience spiritual awakening.
William Moore suggests a scene where the hero/ine figuratively breaks out of the chrysalis and becomes that beautiful butterfly by rising up higher. It isn’t enough to see the light, we have to escape from the gravitational pull of the collective subconsciousness. No transformation – no spiritual evolution. And transformation always comes with a sacrifice – the old for the new or lesser for the greater.
Don’t think of conventions as restrictions. They form the framework in which you fabricate your stories. No net and no lines – no tennis. You need to be both – an artist and crafts(wo)man to produce stories that work. Take the reader for a breathtaking journey, but don’t forget the compass.
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