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Exploring other genres when you write
Ed Ireland
Posted: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 11:26 AM
Joined: 11/10/2012
Posts: 11

I happen to be of the opinion that no matter what genre your work is in, elements of every genre exist. Romance, mystery, thriller...all find ways to creep into every story.
I sometimes veer away from my prefered genre Fantasy and attempt to write a mystery or drama. I try my hand at poetry and satire as well and even a shot at magazine-type news event reviews.Wondering what everybody's opinion is on this topic. Do you do this too? Do you think it's a waste of time? Do you think branching out makes your main work stronger?
Looking forward to the great replies from you all.

Herb Mallette
Posted: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 11:08 PM
Joined: 6/28/2011
Posts: 188

I guess it depends on how loosely you define "elements of every genre." Most genres are amalgams of general fiction elements, tropes that are emphasized more heavily in that genre than in general fiction, and characteristics that are unique to that genre. The handsome, noble leading man is a general fiction element. If he is a passionate, dark-eyed stranger with a mysterious past, he is still a general fiction element, but within a romance story he is now a recognizable trope. If the heroine burns with fiery emotion whenever she is within his presence, but cannot bring herself to say anything because his implied backstory fills her with surging recollections of heartache she experienced at the hands of a different man, then he is more or less unique to romance as a genre.

Similarly, a novel scientific invention is a general fiction element. When the science behind the invention helps to drive the plot, it is a trope most commonly found in science fiction. When the story has as a major theme the exploration of societal change wrought by the logical repercussions of such an invention becoming available, then it is being used in a uniquely science-fictional way.

I write fantasy almost exclusively (with occasional diversions in my journal). But because I'm a science-minded person, science fictional tropes do occasionally creep in. There's a lot of astronomy in one of my early books, for instance, and the science impacts the society in certain ways more typical of s.f. than fantasy. And another of my books does have a dark-haired, somewhat mysterious leading man from whom the heroine holds herself aloof for reasons of tragic prior experience.

So I don't know. Is the presence of a love story a "romance element?" I would say no. Is the presence of an unsolved murder a "mystery element?" In and of itself, I don't think so. I think the degree of crossover is dependent on how extensively the element mirrors its typical use within the genre where it constitutes a regular trope.
Timothy Maguire
Posted: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 6:52 PM
Joined: 8/13/2011
Posts: 272

In general, I always treat SF&F as a setting for a story, so it's always going to be a romance/ thriller/ comedy/ mystery as a result. Being very mono-genre is a bit of a trap, because you can either find yourself writing something very stereotypical in a different genre or not realising when you're heading towards something very interesting in a different genre.
Kevin Haggerty
Posted: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 9:02 PM
Joined: 3/17/2011
Posts: 90

If there is something you are inspired to write--by all means, WRITE IT!

I dunno, Ed, I come from the world of art--painting, theatre, sculpting, what have you. And as an artist, you do what you are inspired to do. Period. One never questions one's muse or one's muse may decide to wander off in search of an artist who actually wants to work.

But somehow writers seem to get this idea that even if they don't have a hugely financially rewarding contract to write SF novels for Publisher X, they're supposed to act as if they do and only write "in their genre." Seriously, that sounds plain screwy to me. Write what you are inspired to write. Don't limit yourself unless someone is paying you to do so.

Alexander Hollins
Posted: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 4:15 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 416

I think it was harlann Ellison that said there is no such thing as a thriller story, or an sf story, there are STORIES, they just use different furniture. 
C Ragon
Posted: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 11:51 AM
Joined: 5/24/2013
Posts: 1

I personally find genres to be limiting to a degree.  I understand their purpose, but don't like to limit myself by saying, I am writing a romance, or a fantasy or any other genre and need to avoid elements of other genres.  Our society loves labels, which is fine as they all serve some purpose. However, when it comes to writing whether you are writing a fantasy or mystery or a romance, the story you are telling should transcend genre.  

I am in the process of writing a "science fiction" novel, but the nature of story-telling makes it so my story will include elements of mystery, suspense, politics, and countless other "genre" labels.  The important part to me is that I tell the story that I want to tell.  If it gets labeled a specific genre, then so be it.  The best stories include characters that the reader care about and evoke some sort of emotion.   
Toni Smalley
Posted: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 4:06 AM
I enjoy reading different genres, and I've dabbled within all of them as well, but I don't think it's wise to try and master the storytelling techniques of all of them. I personally believe in honing your abilities to be able to tell great stories with a select few.

I think all genres will have the same human experiences and emotions embedded within them, which can translate across different genres, but the degree in which they are expressed may vary.
Posted: Friday, January 3, 2014 3:17 PM
Joined: 1/3/2014
Posts: 3

I read fantasy and sci-fi in about equal amounts, and I occasionally like me some historical fiction (which I found via Alternate History.) The elements I love - world-building, dynamic characters, action, suspense - exist in all three of those places.


As for romance, humor, mystery - I think any good story has elements of those. And poetry is super useful in fantasy. Having someone sing a ballad about the war that was fought a hundred years ago is way more fun than droning on like a history textbook.

Elizabeth Moon
Posted: Sunday, June 22, 2014 2:10 AM
Joined: 6/14/2012
Posts: 195

When I was younger, I wrote everything (badly, mostly, but I wrote it!)   Poetry, drama, fiction, nonfiction--and in fiction, every kind of fiction I was reading.   I still write verse (almost no serious poetry anymore--I wasn't that good at it) and haven't written a play in years.  I still write nonfiction, SF, fantasy, and occasional weird stuff that's hard to classify.  I sold a mystery story once.


I think the writing--all of it--contributed to my toolkit, gave me specific skills I still find useful in what I write the most.   So did the broad reading, which I started early and have continued...I never read just one kind of thing.  (Well, that's not entirely true.  As a young reader, say ages 6-8, I read mostly horse and dog books.  But I started reading other things at about age 8, and that increased with the years.)