Monday, July 15, 2019

VSCO Fiction

My daughter will turn 13 in about a month. Yikes. Pardon me a moment while I go chug a bottle of wine.

OK, I’m back.

One of the items on her birthday wish list is a newly decorated room. She said she wanted one that was more like a teenager’s room rather than a little girl’s room. The hubs and I understood her request and agreed that we’d start the process of changing up her room. She’s already picked the paint color (gray) and has sent me countless pictures on things she wants to incorporate into her new room (fairy lights, hanging chair, photo walls, etc.). Then last week I overheard the following conversation between her and her friend:

My kid: I’m getting a VSCO room!
Friend: No way! I’m so jealous!

I’m standing on the sidelines going, “What the hell is a VSCO room??” 

After a bit of research (including my favorite resource site - I’ve been able to determine that while VSCO is an app, it is also used to describe things that basically equate to perfection in a 13-year-old girl’s mind. It’s following a formula. And as a few of the Urban Dictionary posts pointed out, it’s essentially everything that’s basic. It’s like stripping away all your own individuality to copy thousands of others by hopping on some sort of trend - from how you decorate your room to how you dress. Now I understand some of her recent fashion requests and her sudden need for an expensive Hydro Flask water bottle . . . I suppose I can relate on some level - after all, I was all about the Swatch watch craze back in the day.

Anyway, this got me thinking about trends and formulas in fiction. Trends such as when 90% of mainstream books had to have ‘girl’ in the title after GONE GIRL was such a huge hit. As for formulas, they range from plots to characters to story lines. The formulas may vary by genre, but they exist in abundance. Why? 

Because it sells. 

It really is that simple. Many readers aren’t ready for an open reading lifestyle and prefer to stay in their comfortable and predicable reading boxes.So, yeah, I get it.

While I understand the need for some trends and formulas in fiction, I actually kind of hate them. As a reader, I get bored reading the same thing over and over again. And I really do hate predictability in books. There are times when an attempt is made to replicate a successful concept rather than copy it outright, but many times it doesn’t work for me. It feels forced and rushed (which makes sense, because if you’re going to jump on a trend bandwagon then you need to do so quickly before the wind shifts to something new). I did discover it wasn’t so bad when I started reading across genres. And I’ll be honest - there are the occasional times when I crave a sappy YA romance, so predictability helps when that urge arises. But I do enjoy it more when the author makes even minor detours from the standard formulas. 

As a writer, I don’t want to follow trends or formulas. I kinda wanna do what I want. Thankfully, being an Indie writer allows me to do just that. Although, I don’t hate on those who prefer to follow trends/formulas. Just don’t hate on me if I don’t read your stuff as a result. Oh, and if you’re determined to stick to writing with the trends, then make sure you’re up to speed on all things VSCO. The Urban Dictionary description of a VSCO boyfriend sounds like it was ripped straight from the pages of a contemporary YA romance novel, so you’re probably good there. However, your girl might need an upgrade with some Vans, scrunchies, and a Hydro Flask. 

What about you - are you into trends and formulas (either in reading or writing) or do you exist outside the boxes?

~ Carrie


Karissa Laurel said...

I didn't know about the VSCO trend, even with a teenager of my own, but I totally get the concept behind that label. I was guilty of it too as a teen. We just wanted to fit in. As a writer, I was having a conversation yesterday with another writer about resisting the urge to just slap some formulaic crap on a page just to get a book finished in a hurry. Thanks for giving me a name for that tendency. ;)

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