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X is for xenotransplant

November 29, 2012

It’s kind of ironic that the post on writer’s block would have to come before the post where I had to come up with a word that starts with x. When I started this, I publicly proclaimed that I wouldn’t cheat by using something easy and obvious like x-ray or X-tra large. I briefly considered something with XXX, but this is a general-access blog, so that wouldn’t work. Besides, is there really anything XXX to add on the Internet?

Actually, the concept of something new or different to add is central to this post. according to (where I get all my word definitions), xenotransplant is “a surgical procedure in which tissue or whole organs are transfered from one species to another species.” In other words, it’s the process God used to create the platypus.

It’s also a concept that can be used in writing. In my limited view of all the books written, the most obvious example of literary xenotransplant is Glen Cook’s Garrett, PI series, in which a hard-boiled private investigator is a part of a typical fantasy story. Seriously, the guy’s a PI and he even wears a trench coat, has a bad-ass friend to help him out from time, ducks the police, and has dalliances with the ladies. All while dealing with orcs, giants, trolls, and all matter of other fantasy life forms.

The example need not be as blatant, however. You could perform your own kind of xenotransplant. A romantic sports story. It worked for Jerry McGuire. Or maybe you should consider a western set in space (Star Wars, with Darth Vader as the evil rancher looking to take over the town). Or perhaps a Samurai story with strong themes of honor, but set in the Old West (The Magnificent Seven). Or an ethnic comedy set in the Old West (Blazing Saddles).

I bring these examples up not to show that all the good hybrids are taken, but to show that the idea works. In fact, the concept could help you to pitch your book. You could say, “It’s kind of like a harder version of a classic who-done it, but it’s set in the future with a serial killer. Except rather than a mansion in a storm, everyone is on a transport ship hurtling toward the sun.”

It could work.

One Comment
  1. November 30, 2012 2:17 pm

    I love this post! And it makes me want to read Garrett, PI.

    In a more limited sense, I guess, a xenotransplant is like a mashup. Put what makes the opportunity for more humor would be the “fish out of water” aspect of one character from one genre entering an entire world from another.

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