Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Stranger in a strange land: Crossing over the genre line

When I first started writing, I wrote only horror stories. Horror is my passion. I'm a horror junkie. Whether it be movies, television, or books, I prefer horror. I love all the old slasher films. I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer and now I am a huge fan of the show Supernatural. I read mainly Stephen King for scares. Yes, I pigeon-holed myself as a horror writer because it's what I love to read, so naturally it's what I chose to write.

My best friend and writer, Mark, is quite the opposite. He is a sci-fi author. Which stands to reason since he is as passionate about science fiction and space as I am with the dark and my monsters. I do not want to be labeled as only a horror writer, however. When you stand back and look, you'll see that Stephen King, although called the King of Horror, does not write only horror stories. He has written science fiction (the first one to come to mind is a short story called The Jaunt), fantasy (the whole Dark Tower series) and other works of fiction, although I'm not sure quite how I would label them (The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile).

Although I love horror and want to dethrone my idol, Stephen King, I don't want to simply be complacent in the horror genre. I want to spread my wings, flex my creative mind and reach out to other realms of writing. It's definitely a great way to excercise your creativity. I decided to try my hand at science fiction because fantasy and other genres, mystery, romance, etc. do not appeal to me. I will say, however, that they may appeal to me one day, just not right now. Science fiction never appealed to me before, with a couple of exceptions: Stephen King's The Jaunt and Ray Bradbury's awesome story, Mars Is Heaven. I have always loved that story because it broke the stereotypical mold I had of the genre being dominated by pasty nerds in glasses swooning over space stories such as Star Trek and Star Wars. (Note: I enjoy watching Star Trek and loved Star Wars as a child, but Star Wars has somehow lost its luster to me as an adult.) What appealed to me about Bradbury's story was how it did not take place in a space craft among the stars (granted, there is a space ship, but the setting is more like that of Earth). The twist ending was the thing I loved most. I am a huge fan of Twilight Zone-Rod Serling-ish endings. That's what turns my dials up to ten. Another thing that turned me off from the science fiction genre was the notion that the field has been too heavily mined, much like Vampire stories in the horror genre, there just wasn't much unexplored territory.

That last notion is somewhat of a misconception, in my opinion. Sure, the genre has been heavily mined but so has the horror genre, that's why a creative mind is so vitalas well as reading broadly. Stephen King once said that writing is like being ushered into a vast building with more doors than one can open in a lifetime, and as a writer, you're given leave to open as many as you like. It's definitely true with all writing, no matter the genre. I recently read a sci-fi story called Blood Child, which blew me away. Again, it did not take place aboard a space craft, which intrigued me because of my stereotypical view of the genre. It now ranks top in my mind, next Bradbury's story, sitting aloft that pedestal with Mars Is Heaven. I decided to try my hand at writing some sci-fi. I explored the farthest recesses of my mind for a good story angle. I came up with a black hole scenario (again, mined to death). I kicked it around, looking for some new spin on it, but no matter what I dreamed up, it seemed too cliche. After letting the idea ferment for about a week, something came to me. I had the perfect twist ending. I sat down and pounded the story out and began editing it. I had written my first science fiction piece! One that I am quite proud of.

Bitten with the bug, I decided to see if lightning would strike twice. I racked my brain for different scenarios, but my lack of science fiction exposure hindered me. After all, I do not read much science fiction, so I was niave about what had been overdone and what was on the fringes of the genre. For me, it was unmapped territory. I began reading science fiction stories to test the boundaries and get a feel for the style of some notable authors. Finally, another idea came to me. I wrote it down in my Ideas file for later. While I thought I was stuck for ideas days ago, another story emerged from the abyss, bubbling up like Texas-T for old Jedd Clampett. I watched a television show that mentioned The Lost Colony of Roanoke, a subject that has always intrigued me. I turned the mystery around in my mind and got a great idea for a science fiction yarn. A story that I'm currently editing. Since then, I've had some other ideas for sci-fi stories. I've even written my first poem!

My point is this: don't try to pigeon-hole yourself because other genres don't appeal to you. If you give them a try, reading several different stories by several different authors, you may find that you like some of the works in a particular genre and that can open up a new area for you to excercise your writing abilities. This is why I said earlier that while I don't like romance and mystery, it's not to say that I never will. To subscribe to that theory would make me closed minded, and close mindedness (to me, at least) is an author's poison. So spread your creative wings and fly!

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