Challenging your genre

I’m still trying to think of a good story about Zombies.

I’ve never particularly understood the recent fascination with the undead and brain-seeking. Vampires have a personality and a rich history (sometimes replete with gypsy curses) but Zombies are moving lumps. Sure they’ve been used for social commentary of all kinds, but with the possible exception of Warm Bodies, zombies don’t think, don’t feel, don’t even articulate words.

But I’m still working on a story idea nonetheless.

It’s not about bandwagon jumping. Even with such instantaneous outlets as self-publishing and the blog, it’s never a good idea to chase writing trends. You tend to show up late to the party.

Rather it’s about trying to stretch my own limits, to get outside my comfort zone. I like writing sci fi and mystery, but what about romance? or horror?

Monday night I watched the regrettable Under The Dome adaption based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name (which he adapted from The Simpsons Movie 🙂 ). The book begins with something like 50-75 pages of amputations, beavers being sliced in half, planes crashing into invisible barriers, etc. Now horror, even of a more sci fi variety is not my usual cup of tea, and not something I tend to write. But after watching the show last night I began toying around with my own Stephen King like scenario, which has quickly escalated into another potential novella stored up in my head.

I think it’s important to take these steps outside genre for a couple of reasons. Writing horror when you write mystery, or romance when you write sci-fi can get your brain out of a rut. It forces you to think differently about a scene, not only what needs to happen but how you will tell it. Secondly, any good piece of writing is actually a mix of genres. A sci-fi novel can still have romance, mystery, suspense, and horror. Even when we are writing to a single genre, we shouldn’t be writing all one note.

One of my favorite authors, Isaac Asimov, had no genre. He wrote in everything. Even Stephen King stretches his limits from time to time. Or maybe they are their own genre. Asimov, King, Grisham, Heinlein, Vonnegut all wrote with unique voices. It’s probably not something you can consciously create, but I am working on putting the “Ben Trube” touch on anything I approach.

So here’s my challenge: Pick a genre you don’t typically write, maybe one you don’t even like, and try to write a story in that style. If you put it up on your blog shoot me a link. I’d love to read it. Or if you don’t have a blog of your own I’m always happy to have guest bloggers. Good luck and have fun!

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3 Comments

Filed under Writing, Writing Goals

3 responses to “Challenging your genre

  1. Chuck

    I think, when writing about zombies, you must first define “the question” your story will address. Zombies are the mindless horde, the unfeeling machine. They are an archetype that show society moving over and past the individual. Example questions could be: “Does it pay to conform?” – or – “What does it mean to be normal?” – or – “What does it feel like to be powerless?”

    I think that most zombie stories/movies address some base level personal fear. But at the same time, these same stories can be used to show the valiant human fighting against an unstoppable force, against incalculable odds. Bravery at its best.

    And if nothing else – we can always use another cameo from Bill Murray.

  2. The point of the zombie story (in my not opinion) is to simplify the equation, in a regular story everyone needs a motive, in a zombie story the bad guys are the zombies and their motivation is they’re zombies. It makes it so you can focus on well rounded protagonists leading to interesting stories, zombies shouldn’t be the focus of the story rather the cause of the story, that is how you make a good zombie story.

  3. I’ve actually read quite a few good zombie books recently. The Revivalist series by Rachel Caine (the protag is a science-created zombie), City of the Lost by Stephen Blackmore (the protag is a magic-created zombie), and Dead Mann Walking by Stefan Petrucha(the protag is a death and science-created zombie). So if you actually want to branch out and read some zombie fiction there’s some more ideas.

    Oh, and I listed them in order of gore-factor. Racehl Caine’s books are heavier on the romance and mystery than the gore, whereas Stefan Petrucha’s series is… yeah, you may not want to read it if you’re squeamish.

    I like the idea of writing outside of genre, too. I try to do it often with my short fiction. And I also read outside my genre for the same reason. Gotta keep those storytelling muscles honed. 😉

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