Niche/Weird Writers Unite!

To a certain extent, for now at least, all serialists are niche writers. Some of us however are even more painfully niche, perhaps you write your stuff in a particular narrative style, or an unholy mashup of genres is your lot. Maybe you write short stories or flash fiction, perhaps your main character is completely inhuman maybe you just have really weird content.


For one reason or another you are writing something that, as far as you know, there isn't many examples of. The issue isn't usually that nobody has done what you are doing, but that there is proportionally far less reference points.


Whatever it is that you write, when you write in such niche directions, there is very particular challenges to doing the writing. This Thread is a callout to those of you who are writing niche or weird stuff. Share your difficulties how you overcame them, or perhaps you haven't overcome them, share them anyway and your fellow authors might even help.


It may even turn out that your problem was actually really simple and loads of people have dealt with it before. Don't worry, the shame you might feel from that should be outweighed by the relief at not being quite as restricted in your writing.


I shall start things off with a rather basic issue really, which I dealt with a basic solution. Really this is actually a terrible example but it is what I come up with as an example half an hour away from midnight. Remember kids, never post moments before going to bed.


In my stuff some of the beings can't be described with a simple elf or dwarf or a description of a human with a funny forehead, this leads to issues with introducing large numbers of characters in a short amount of time (a general issue authors have to deal with).


Like most things, I deal with it by cheating. I basically make some of the characters animals or animate objects.


Animals and animate objects are my version of slapping a rubber forehead on someone and calling them an alien...


I think I'm going to stare blankly out a window now.


Curveball is written in third person present.


This isn't exactly niche -- present tense is actually more common in some genres (such as YA) but I honestly don't see it a lot in superhero fiction and I specifically don't see a lot of third person present tense -- most of the examples I see are in first person. I started doing it because I thought it was a great way to adopt the narrative style of comic books (narration boxes are almost always in present tense, either first or third). Over time I really got to like doing it -- though I keep slipping into third.


Maybe this is a stylistic niche? I dunno. Like I said, it's a lot more common in some genres than in others.


The Solstice War is a WW2 military fiction in an original world, that is told from multiple perspectives. As far as web fiction is concerned, most of the military fiction I've seen is sci-fi. My tech is early 40s. Furthermore, military fiction is a tiny niche compared to supers. The military fiction that does exist tends to have a very focused scope: a few important characters in one unit, for example.


I wanted to do something bigger in scope, with more characters, lots of viewpoints, and large, multi-unit engagements.


My main difficulty was mostly finding confidence in how to write large, prolonged military engagements in a way that was satisfying to me. A lot of times military fiction or media will summarize or "cut away" from the fighting. I wanted to show the action, to linger on it, to make it interesting, appealing, and important, and to give the reader enough understanding for why the battles played out like they did. While at the same time writing military scenarios that engage me as a war nerd, but that also compliment character stories.


One thing that helped me was reading the Imperial Armoury books for Warhammer 40,000. Those were basically nothing but huge, indulgent campaign writeups, and they helped me start to develop my own style for lingering on long military events. I took a few cues from mecha war anime like Mobile Suit Gundam too. In the end I've gone through a few big battles and I'm happy with how I did it.


The Solstice War also has a lot of LGBTQ themes, which casts it into even deeper niches, but that part I mostly didn't worry about. I just write that to my own experiences and feelings, as sensitively and honestly as I can be. So far a lot of gay folks seem to like it, so I'm ok with it.


Two words: Personified Mathematics.


So yes, ALL my characters were inhuman. Instead of "Mary opened a window", you got "The quadratic function opened a window", or more likely "Para opened a window". Gender was actually pretty easy to deal with, all relations were female, and their inverse relations were male. (For self inverses, I made a decision, though I wonder now if gender neutral would have been a better option.) Not knowing enough about races, I went with white to start, figuring it was one branch of a larger canvas. And the writing itself wasn't actually an issue.


Hell of a niche though. Even with "Hetalia" out there, there was no audience for this. People who didn't know math wouldn't find me, but most people who knew math either didn't have time or didn't see the point. (I got VERY few educators, even though that's where I was marketing.) When I tried to branch out into fractals, and possibly other types of functions and races, asking for thoughts, there was nothing. What finally KILLED it was the fact that my non-fiction posts (about plots or character design) consistently got over DOUBLE the hits compared to the fiction writing updates. Meaning people knew about me, but found the actual story less than desirable. With other ideas poking at me, I decided to move on.


I've recently considered reviving it. Partly because in the 10 months since abandoning it, the Facebook page has actually inched up to 20 likes despite me not doing anything, partly because now that I'm putting my time travel work online, I'm not writing so much as editing/illustrating. Time, the great equalizer. All the best with your own descriptions!


... mathans, I think you're gonna win this one.


I'm not saying it's a competition. I'm just saying you're gonna win. :D


I think I can explain the difference in numbers. As you said, the story itself is... well... its only funny if you already get it. whereas the non fiction posts, especially where you EXPLAIN the joke, were more the kind of thing you could send to a friend and say, THERE, this, read this, this is that thing I was trying to explain to you last week, done much better. (I know I shared a few things for that reason when I was reading it. )


I love niche writing. The weirder the better for me, so if you have a story that is a little weird that isn't getting many reviews, let me know, and I'll totally read and review it. :)


I'm also a little in the niche area with my story since it's being told in second person, I'm telling two stories simultaneously, and half of the story involves non-traditional narrative forms (academic journal articles, diary entries, internal memos, etc.). At least my story isn't messing with genre too much since it's science fiction for the most part.


I'm having a lot of fun writing it, but I imagine it's much less fun to read.


I'm not sure how weird my story is but I always appreciate reads and reviews.


I love sprinkling of alternative narratives in stories. I've been writing some side-stories involving letters (and government paramilitary surveillance documents). I feel like I can turn out more content if some of it is non-traditional. I invest a lot into prose, whereas writing a letter or a blackshirt memo or a newspaper clipping feels a lot easier. So it's good for sidestories, doesn't take as much time away from main stuff.


I don't think that'd make it difficult to read, if anything I appreciate writers shaking things up and giving some variety.


Wildbow already turned the superhero genre upside down, but I think I'm going one step further by eliminating secret identities. Oh, and villain prisons. I got rid of those as well, villains just get killed. As do the heroes, if they're unlucky. Healing powers are next to nonexistant. One POV character limps around on a crutch for several chapters.


The 3 alternate and initially completely separate POVs (that change only after a complete arc) are also very... experimental, to say the least! I hope my readers enjoy it all.


One of my work in plotting involves supers that hide the fact that supers even exist and wage a shadow war for control of humanity. no heroes and villians, and a few rules,including the attempt to use any kind of "name" ike wonder kid or the raven queen or superman would result in all the other supers in your area hunting you down and making you "vanish".


Dennis - I'm glad that you don't think the shifting narrative forms are too jarring for the reader. This is a part of my story I've been a little worried about. And I'll definitely give your story a look! I'm at the insane part of my semester right now, so I'll probably start reading the first week of May or so. :)


@ubersoft: Heh. It's been said that if you try to write for the union of two genres, you will end up only getting the intersection. Seriously though, personification is on the rise, and I don't think the underlying problem is that unique (maybe only the choice of math).


@AlexH: Interesting point, thanks for that. I've also been told by some people/friends that they're more interested in my life than my writing (and it's not like I'm seeing additional interest now that I've switched genres), so there's that.


@E_Foster: Second person, that's interesting! I recall writing a post that way. My main issue was since "you" referred to the main character, I had to be careful how I was applying it elsewhere. I also understand semester insanity. >.<


I feel kinda niche-y nowadays. With everyone wanting to go dark and apocalyptic, I'm the guy with superhero Elvis impersonators, a pirate captain with flaming sails and a beard on fire, and a talking gorilla with a jetpack. Plus it's got gross humor, cussing, and 100% more references to Raggedy Ann and Andy than pretty much any combination of any 10 serials on this site. Everybody else has Endbringers of some form or another; I have Gecko fighting a yonic Lovecraftian toilet monster.


Also, it's first-person and supposed to be like a blog. Except it's only updated twice weekly, like something not a blog. Because it's transmitted from another dimension.


This is why I love web fiction. All that lovely niche fiction gets to shine and sparkle.


media in general is like that online. music, art, stories, the whole nine yards.


@Alexander.Hollins - The problems only start when the new niche is being niche. That's how all the biggest problems in the world start: World War II, hipsters, Hot Topic...


Well, I kind of brought this on myself. Now I have even more things I have to read. I'm actually going to communicate with everyone for once. Woo for sometimes coming out of my e-cave.


@Mathtans

The bitter thing is that it'd be so so so much easier to do what you are doing in a visual medium.


Some days I almost feel like resenting visual media, there is so many things that become so simple to do. I suppose part of the thing that feeds that envy is that I'm having to translate 'visions' into text.


@E_Foster

I don't say no to gift horses. Though I should probably review more of the things that I've actually read. Give back to the community and all that. As for the subject of fun, there is certainly some famous and 'daring' authors that did... things to english and writing. The issue isn't so much whether you do something or not, but how you do it. It seems unlikely that a second person story can't be fun. I'd look at it this way, at least you are having fun. Also, as much as I am really into the concept of stuff being fun, it isn't as if everything has to be fun. Apart from that, some stories are just going to be a bit harder to read regardless. Compare how easy it is to digest the average light novel compared to a regular novel. It isn't just about length.


@Dennis

I shall have to read your serial, and steal... I mean be inspired by your depiction of tactics. Actually a field that interests me is writing that is heavy in 'non-vital' description. I mean sure a lot of the point of the story is following along the plot and characters, but smelling the metaphorical roses or in your case ravaged corpses of soldiers is something that can be in greater or lesser amounts. One story could focus on its battles, another might not. Both can be more than legitimate I feel.


@Chrysalis

Mucking about with multiple povs can be fun, been dipping my feet in those waters more often lately.


@Psycho Gecko

I still find it quite amusing that your serial is actually about a murderous villian but is far more into the delicious camp than many other stories that star heroes, but are all grim and dismal. Not that PG isn't kind of dark, but he has such fun when committing villainy.


Anyway I'm well pleased that I've encountered a few more irregular serials. I'm going to rob... I mean enjoy them a lot.


Chrysalis "This is why I love web fiction. All that lovely niche fiction gets to shine and sparkle."


Most serials seem to be something that would never get traditionally published, and in part that is why I like them. There may be some ways to write that'll make for bad reading, but there is just so many different ways to tell a tale. The regular stuff is enjoyable too, but someone has to write the other stuff.


It'd be a sad day if we'd wake up without someone trying to do a story about personified math.


@SnowyMystic and @Mathtans - Actually, personified math does lend itself to visual art a lot more than straight text. The functions can be sort of obscure topics, and if - as Mathtans said - you're trying to tap into educators' markets, something easy to digest (like Cosine wearing a Cosine symbol on her shirt) and reinforce who everyone is compared to each other would make it a lot more teachable.


This is also my anime phase bias coming out: you've got o lot of adorable, female characters, and that just screams, "Put me in a manga!" Especially because you've already got character art, maybe that can be used to your advantage. If you're planning on restarting it someday, this could be one of your new directions to consider: if not a webcomic, at least more visuals to support your writing.


agreed with tartra there! taylors would be a good manga.


@SnowyMystic


Yeah, I've noticed that too. Always thought it was funny in comparison to something like Worm. Reminds me of the old City of Heroes/Villains Mac commercials. "Come to the dark side. We have free doughnuts. Some of them have sprinkles!"


I think I was also one of the few with the super villain tag when it was still around.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yp_uaVW2se8