1. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,218
    Likes Received:
    4,226
    Location:
    Alabama, USA

    Style Writing in a genre you don't read much of. Acceptable?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Link the Writer, May 18, 2014.

    Something just occurred to me. I have loads of stories that fit within genres I don't read a whole lot of.

    Take, for instance, my sci-fi and fantasy stories. The only reason I even wanted to write sci-fi and fantasy was because I've played loads of fantasy and sci-fi videogames; yet the only fantasy books I've read were Harry Potter and The Inheritance Cycle. Sci-fi? Nope, I've never read a single sci-fi novel unless you consider Frankenstein and I Am Legend as sci-fi. My Western stories have the same problem. I played Red Dead Redemption and boom, I had a Western idea in my head. This is a little different as I'm slowly teaching myself o get into Western by reading books set in the Wild West. Same with the supernatural horror stories.

    Is it weird, do you think, that I want to write a sci-fi or a fantasy when I don't even read them? I'm not sure playing fantasy videogames count, so I'm not going to bother using that as an excuse. The reason I ask is because I've always heard that you have to read the material in order to write about it. If I'm not into fantasy and sci-fi books, then why do I want to write them? Should I write them?

    I know it looks like I'm asking for validation, but I'm not. :D I'm just asking what your opinion is on writing in a genre you don't read much of/aren't into that much.
     
  2. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    I wouldn't write in a genre I haven't read much of. Literature is different from film and video games, and if you don't know how certain things are done/handled in the genre you're writing in (call it "literary tradition" if you want), your piece might turn out to be plain awful. This, of course, is just my opinion.
     
    Link the Writer likes this.
  3. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Well, or the fact that you don't really read the genre could mean you end up being more original than other writers of the genre, simply because you haven't been exposed to all the cliches and common-used devices.

    I don't think it's that weird really. I don't really read fantasy and yet I write it. I often find adult fantasy books hard to get into - I'm not into the whole world building and history stuff.
     
  4. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,807
    Likes Received:
    7,322
    Location:
    Scotland
    It sounds to me as if you're interested in your stories, and also that they may not be out-and-out genre pieces. I'd say you won't know if you've succeeded until a publisher takes you on.

    The one cautionary piece of advice is about LIKING a genre. Basically, don't try to write in a genre you dislike. This piece of advice came from an editor cautioning people not to write things like Harlequin Romances if you don't like them or read them. These are seen to be 'easy money,' but she said these insincere, churned-out efforts stick out a mile.

    However, what you're doing sounds as if you're having fun and are genuninely inspired to write your stories. I'd say go for it, and see what you come up with. Worry about classifying them later, when you go to market them—if you haven't already.
     
    TDFuhringer, Link the Writer and Mckk like this.
  5. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,218
    Likes Received:
    4,226
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    Thanks everyone. I guess it isn't that weird after all. :D I'll get to writing them. I had discovered, through writing my sci-fi, that I don't really like to write sci-fi to begin with, so the more you know. Though I agree with @thirdwind it's helpful to know what has been done to death or not as you read more in what you're writing about.
     
  6. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,529
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    A major criteria for writing a novel is storytelling ability. The background for this skill often comes from reading. Videogames and television and movies each have their aspect of storytelling, but it's not quite the same as a novel (or even a short story). The structure and pacing, use of dialogue and description, methods of characterization and foreshadowing, are far different. And translating video and/or movies to words is a tricky thing, being somewhat varied mediums, even though the genre might be the same.

    If you don't read in the genres you hope to write, what genres or type of works do you read?

    I would recommend against very narrow subgenres related to fantasy/SF such as steam punk. The general readership of that subgenre, for example, can be quite particular in their selective taste. Putting goggles and some steam driven contraptions in an otherwise different type of story won't win over many readers--maybe other readers, but not those that would logically be 'marketed to'.

    I hope that makes sense, and good luck as you move forward.
     
    Mckk, Link the Writer and jannert like this.
  7. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,829
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    I like to write fantasy but I don't read a lot of new fantasy or new sci-fi - I actually like some of the old offbeat things like The Golden Key by George MacDonald or Harlan Ellison, or Samuel R Delany or Charles Platt. Fairy-taleish, the 70's idea of the future, Harlan's excellent prose, odd plots.

    I think it all depends on what you want to be - a writer like Cormac McCarthy - or a writer/brand name like Debbie Macomber ( sorry Debbie! ) or Stephen King. I think Cormac reads what he likes and a variety -That way he can write a dystopian one minute and a western another minute but neither can be labeled exclusively as either. He's focused more on the telling of the story than being caught under the label & formula ( reader's expectations ) of a story. Debbie probably focuses more on reading romances and keeping her eye on current trends ( reader's expectations ). Neither writer is wrong but each has different goals.
     
    jannert and Link the Writer like this.
  8. HelloThere
    Offline

    HelloThere Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2014
    Messages:
    295
    Likes Received:
    240
    A decent story transcends genre. At the end of the day you've got a character who goes through hardships and tries to solve their problems. There's a lot of writers who don't read at all because they're scared that other authors' styles will rub off on them.
     
  9. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,218
    Likes Received:
    4,226
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    I agree, video games will teach you what makes a good game work, not the innermost working of what makes a written novel work.

    So far, the genres I'm reading are historical fiction mysteries and supernatural horror. The latter being the sort of 'getting inside your head and won't leave for a few days' horror.

    I wasn't aware that there were sub-genres within the main genre. I knew of steampunk, but that was it.

    Coupling this with TWErvin2's last point, I think I might be the sort of writer who doesn't want to conform to some formula, I'm more of a 'tell the story regardless of current trend. Which is why I'm not writing about zombies despite that being a big thing nowadays. :p

    I guess my point is that I don't like to read fantasy/sci-fi, they just don't appeal to me, yet I have a fantasy and a sci-fi story that are begging me to write them.

    Are you serious? Doesn't that defeat the whole purpose of writing if they don't read fiction? What of Stephen King's quote of 'If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time nor the tools to write'? Plus, wouldn't that lose them a lot of respect from other authors and readers? As in, 'Well, if you couldn't be bothered to read someone else's work, then how dare you ask us to be bothered to read yours?'
     
    Mckk likes this.
  10. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    @Link the Writer - but if fantasy doesn't appeal to you, then how would you write it? As Janet said, you kinda do have to LIKE the genre, even if you don't read it. What about fantasy and sci-fi don't appeal to you, out of interest?

    Maybe you should write horror instead - it can have the same supernatural or fantastical elements as fantasy and sci-fi, but for a different purpose. This might be where your interests overlap?

    For myself, I usually read general fiction and crime novels, I do enjoy YA fantasy because it's got the interesting magic bits without the bulky world-building. I do like dystopian novels in general I think - I count them as soft sci-fi, like Hunger Games.
     
    peachalulu and Link the Writer like this.
  11. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,218
    Likes Received:
    4,226
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    I think the reason is because there's too much of the same thing for both sides. In fantasy you've got a bunch of people who are fighting to overthrow an evil king/emperor/monster that wants to take over the world. In sci-fi, it's all about academies, Republics, military-style spaceship fights, etc. I liked Harry Potter pre-fifth book because it wasn't a 'save the world' plot. It was more of a 'explore the world and maybe stop an evil wizard serial killer.' Once Voldemort started acting like Wizard Hitler and there was the prophecy, I put the book down and never went back for the other two.

    Yes, there are a lot of sci-fi and fantasy that don't involve military space battles or fantasy creatures fighting to save their world, but from what little I've heard in that genre, they're the big popular things right now. The Walking Dead, I classify as survival horror, which is another subgenre of the horror genre that I can see myself getting into. :D
     
  12. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    @Link the Writer - Wizard Hitler :D lol I like that. You might like Brandon Sanderson's stuff - in Rithmatist it's true there's a war going on in the background but the focus is actually a mysterious series of deaths on a school campus. In his debut Elantris, which I loved, it's really more about how people cope with this curse that's limited to this one country, and again there's eventually a war thing going on but it's more political - a war between countries - and not about saving the world.

    Hunger Games was awesome too - although with the third book focused on the revolution, I dunno if you'd count that as trying to save the world? Most of it is really focused more on how reality TV and media are used as propaganda and how ridiculous some of it is.

    I confess that even my own fantasy has the "let's save the world" theme :D
     
    Link the Writer likes this.
  13. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,218
    Likes Received:
    4,226
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    I also confess that the reason I like the fantasy genre is because it lets me go absolutely nuts. There's no 'rule' like there is in sci-fi or historic fiction. I can do whatever the hell I want so long as I can explain it and it fits into the world. I don't have to know the inner workings of a space ship, or be limited to the culture and tools of a society in history (ie, want to have Jane in 1880s Arizona contact her friend in Virginia? Too bad! Unless she can steal a horse and buggy and make the trek herself, 'cause there were no cellphones in the 1880s.)

    To me, the fantasy genre is quite literally an open sandbox where nothing is impossible.

    Ironically, the fantasy story I have does include the typical 'overthrow the evil overlord' deal, 'cept throw in multiple factions and a quasi-WWII scenario. :whistle: So yeah, I'm not immune to it either. :D

    ...I should probably stop typing and get to writing, no?
     
    peachalulu and Mckk like this.
  14. TDFuhringer
    Offline

    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    589
    Likes Received:
    262
    Location:
    Somewhere South of Midnight
    I write Fantasy and Supernatural Suspense.

    But the vast majority of my library is Thrillers, Mystery/Suspense, and Historical fiction. I've read a lot of science fiction and horror, but when it comes to fantasy, it's the genre I've read least.

    But to be clear, saying that Fantasy is the genre I've read the least, doesn't mean I've only read a handful of books. I've read somewhere over a hundred fantasy novels.

    My point is, I think it's no problem at all to write in a genre you don't read much of, as long as you read a lot.

    P.S. One of my major influences for writing Fantasy is the fact that too few writers are telling the kind of fantasy stories I want to read. I'm hoping to change that.
     
    peachalulu likes this.
  15. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,807
    Likes Received:
    7,322
    Location:
    Scotland
    You might really enjoy Kage Baker's In the Garden of Iden. Cracking and very original sci-fi story which is difficult to categorise—some elements of historical fiction, some fantasy included as well. Lots of greed in the background, but no Evil Empire to defeat. Oh, and it's got humour, too.
     
  16. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Go where your heart takes you.

    I got nothing else.
     
    peachalulu and Mans like this.
  17. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,244
    Likes Received:
    1,810
    Location:
    Australia
    That's a load of crap. I'm not going to list all the reasons why because I've debated this enough. But it's a load of crap. And so is King's quote.

    And people should only read something if they want to, not because they are 'bothering' to.

    For the record, I don't read much fiction. I don't like reading much fiction. It bores the crap out of me. I read selected bits from books and rarely finish them. I've finished a few, but on average less than one a year. Am I a shit writer? Probably, but so far so good...
     
  18. DeathandGrim
    Offline

    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2012
    Messages:
    540
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    Virginia Beach
    You can't make a pizza if you've never eaten one before, it just feels wrong.

    Sure you may get it down aesthetically and even taste wise but without your own experience in tasting pizza it won't have the flavor YOU desire because you've never eaten a pizza. You'll just have a bland, generic pizza devoid of personality and unique flavor.

    For all you know you might be writing steampunk believing it to be Sci-fi. Just do yourself a favor and dabble even a little into the genre, even if it's fan fiction.
     
  19. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,244
    Likes Received:
    1,810
    Location:
    Australia
    It's a load of crap statement because it's generally made by people who don't understand those who can do it and try to draw a logical argument using similes.

    Here's a simile. (generally, there may be one or two exceptions) No rocket scientist has ever been in space and no astronaut built a rocket. Using your argument, how do you know what an astronaut needs if you've never been in space?

    It's a bullshit argument which I will now conclude to avoid silliness.
     
  20. DeathandGrim
    Offline

    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2012
    Messages:
    540
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    Virginia Beach
    Sheesh that was aggressive.
    But your use of my argument is off.
     
  21. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,244
    Likes Received:
    1,810
    Location:
    Australia
    I genuinely apologize for that. I didn't mean it to come across as so rude. But it did. I've just walked this path too many times.

    Anyway, the load of crap statement is that people who don't read for pleasure can't possibly write well.
     
  22. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    Even though I've had this argument several times, here's my take on it. A good writer must love reading and must read as much as possible. In fact, I think all published writers who are at least somewhat good will say that reading is essential. Never have I heard a published writer say, "Don't worry about reading. Just write, and you'll eventually become a great writer."

    To tie this back to the OP, anyone wanting to write in a particular genre/form should first read in that genre/form. I don't expect anyone to write good poetry without having read some first.
     
    peachalulu likes this.
  23. HelloThere
    Offline

    HelloThere Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2014
    Messages:
    295
    Likes Received:
    240
    I saw this quote recently and it's possible I saw it on here actually.

    "Many writers don't read, in fact, usually because of time constraints and the fear of absorbing influences subconsciously, but they learn not to say so because of the illogical fury this seems to provoke in some readers and colleagues. But me, I've got a big mouth. I don't care if my non-reading pisses anyone off."

    That was Karen Traviss, I hadn't heard of her, she's written a lot of novels based around existing work such as star wars, gears of war and Halo, but she's came up with her own stuff as well. I don't know how credible her claim is but she does say that her inspiration comes from watching movies more than anything - It sounds like you get a lot of inspiration from games, so if she can do it I'm sure you can.

    Here's Traviss' full answer to the question "is it true that you don't read fiction?"

    http://www.karentraviss.com/page10/files/Is_it_true_you_dont_read_fictio.html
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2014
    jannert likes this.
  24. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,244
    Likes Received:
    1,810
    Location:
    Australia
    The simple fact is your truth (the royal 'you') is not the universal truth. If you can't do something that doesn't mean that others can't. And that goes the other way around.

    Yes, you can write sci-fi if you never read it, as long as you understand what sci-fi is. So do some research into the elements of sci-fi, or western, or whatever. And screw the critics. Nobody remembers those who didn't try.
     
  25. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,807
    Likes Received:
    7,322
    Location:
    Scotland
    I did have to laugh at this one quote from her article:
    Ermm ...I've always said that most women's 'fashion' is so uncomfortable and silly that if the creators actually had to wear the stuff themselves they would probably change their minds about what looks good. And what fits, what is non-crippling to wear, and what makes sense.

    I also remember Jamie Oliver saying to a classful of young wannabe chefs who were wrinkling up their noses at tasting things like fish, certain vegetables, etc ...'How do you expect to be a chef if you won't taste what you're giving other people to eat?'

    I would not say never or always, but I'm of the school that thinks reading does improve a writer's sense of what works and what doesn't. It also gives insight into reader expectation. What do you want to happen when you sit down to read a book? What engages your attention and what bores you? What elements seem essential? What makes you walk away from a partly-read book, or decide after finishing that you won't read or recommend that particular author again? And what will make you go back, time and again, to that particular author's work?

    Reading for pleasure is not essential to good writing, but I believe it helps. (And PLENTY of other writers agree.)
     

Share This Page