by Cate Russell-Cole
I love to see writers wearing their genre with pride and not writing in line with the latest fad, but I have this itch to challenge them to try something new. I want to ask, why does that area mean so much to you? Look at what you can gain by trying something completely different. You just don’t know what unexpected treasures you may discover!”
There are all kinds of benefits to writing in more than one genre. For a start, you don’t pigeonhole yourself, become stale or get as bored. The other great gain, is you do learn that you can achieve more than you thought.
I came across an infographic on Pinterest which is an excellent illustration of what additional writing skills you can acquire by breaking out of your box.
Paraphrased and shortened it read like this:
- The historical genre teaches you about atmosphere, weaving in details and avoiding anachronisms.
- Science fiction gives you a hand getting to grips with back story, particularly in regards to pacing how you present it.
- If your protagonists are lacking in color, read or write horror to gain an insight into evil, motivation and work on the suspension of disbelief.
- Thrillers are another outstanding example of learning pacing! When it comes to plot formation in regards to escalation, tension and cliffhangers, it is a great place to start exploring.
- To understand character emotion, go for romance.
I would add, if you want to understand characterization, plot and behavior traits in-depth, look at the real-world examples around you via memoir / life story writing.
It takes a surge of courage and commitment to step outside your comfort zone and get your boots muddy on new soil, but as I said above, the rewards are there. You may discover an approach that makes you feel more confident as a writer, sells better or is more satisfying for you to craft.
In experimenting with another story form, you can set yourself free of the confines you may have imposed around yourself for security. Are you trying to be like your favorite authors, rather than being yourself? Experiment and see.
If you find taking on say, science fiction or horror when you are a romance writer way too much, start with memoir first. You can’t go wrong. You are the expert on you. Use your life and the people you have interacted with to craft a new form of story and inspire you when you’re blocked.
Although each genre below is different, the goal is most often the same: Evoke a strong emotion in your reader.
For an example, here are the opening lines of several stories:
“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”
~ Literary: Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson
“I was standing at the entrance to the London Inn, looking towards the inner harbor. It was growing dark, a warm velvety darkness tumbling from a cloudless sky…”
~ Thriller: Lallaloosa, Rags Daniels
“1801 – I have just returned from a visit to my landlord – the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with.”
~ Romance: Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
“At night I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of my bedroom wall and flew circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high-pitched zzzzzz that hummed along my skin.”
~ Womens Fiction: The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd
“Someone was looking at me, a disturbing sensation if you’re dead.”
~ Y/A Horror: A Certain Slant of Light, Laura Whitcomb
Below are the first lines of some popular memoirs:
“As a boy, I never knew where my mother was from–where she was born, who her parents were.”
~ The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother, James McBride
“We went there for everything we needed. [We went there when thirsty, of course, and when hungry, and when dead tired. We went there when happy, to celebrate, and when sad, to sulk.]”
~ The Tender Bar, J. R. Moehringer
“The year I turned forty-three was the year I realized I should have never taken my Mennonite genes for granted.”
~ Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, Rhoda Janzen
From these examples, you can see there are very few differences between the manner in which the genres are written. The asset you gain by writing in more than one genre is the extra strength you can bring into your favoured story form.
Last of all, if you need a helping hand to get started with memoir, the CommuniCATE Resources for Writers blog posts every week on life story writing, to help you write about what you know.
Please visit: https://cateartios.wordpress.com
Or click here http://cateartios.wordpress.com/category/the-memoir-project/
to access to archive of memoir posts.
Are you attached to your genre, or do you experiment among many? What other skills do you want to gain that you think you’d learn from another genre? Do you have a favorite first line example you’d like to share?
Cate Russell-Cole, is an experienced creativity teacher and author. She has been published in many local and Internet e-zines, magazines and newspapers; and has researched, written and taught her own courses since 1990. Her most successful course to date is “Write Your Life Story.” She is also Founder of the “Write Your Life Story Memoir Project” online.
You can find out about Cate’s books and other activities on her web site at http://www.virtual-desk.com.au/artios.html
“Write Your Life Story” Memoir Project Links:
Google Plus: http://plus.google.com/communities/112990534902148227158