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Reading Other Genres

Below is only one opinion... so feel free to write a rebuttal.

Most authors will tell you the art of being good at writing requires a serious obsession with reading. At least the good ones will. After all, how can a person discover new ideas or new words without exposure to new stories? Bad writers are probably hopelessly linked to bad reading habits.

But learning to be a better writer is not just about reading, it's also about the things you read. It's common to get caught up in one genre and read only those books. Although it's rather like being trapped in one part of the bookstore. To pen a good story though requires a full set of tools. Reading and writing in one genre, is like a plumber with only a single wrench. To tell the best stories, an exceptional writer needs to submerge themselves in multiple genres, not just your favorite one. Romance stories can be used to improve Horror. Westerns can be used to improve Science Fiction (Some of the most popular Science Fiction is based on Western drama… almost to the point of plagiarism.) Fantasy can be used to improve Romance. The list goes on and on.

For any writer or storyteller, even the most experienced, it's particularly important for you to be conversant across more than one genre.

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Limiting yourself to one literary genre as a writer can limit your skills, dampen your vocabulary, and keep you from picking up new ideas. If you have both a passion to read and a passion to write you can end up absorbing talents from multiple different places. Reading from various literary genres allows you to grow and expand as a writer… even if you only write in only one genre. Reading in multiple genres can open whole new worlds.

Mystery is not usually my thing. I don't dislike it, it's just not my favorite. Recently, I picked up a copy of The Chinese Maze Murders. I not only get to pick up different aspects of telling a story, but I also got to look at stories told by a different culture and dialog like I've never read before. Talk about killing two birds with one stone.

If you get stuck reading only one genre, you may find yourself reading and then writing the same old tropes. Sooner or later, you'll find you've not only read them… but you've written them all. After a while, you'll become so conversant with the standard conventions in these story types even your readers will be able to predict the beginning, middle, and end of each of your stories. The result will be the slow and steady decline of your customer base. And if you constantly read the same stories, you'll eventually lose your ability to come up with new plots. You can enter a state of permanent writer's block. Yet reading in a genre you've never read before allows you to examine the structures those writers use to form their stories. As writers, we can often be more analytical with less favored genres than we can be with our preferred story types.

As a result, I argue you should read stories in a different genre. Exposing yourself to new realms of story types will feed the flames of your creativity. Inspiration, it is often said, comes not from the familiar, but the unfamiliar.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to see what makes up the successful elements of any given genre. This is a trap one can fall into when they only devour works written in a single book category. Yet, when you step outside these worlds and start reading completely different styles of storytelling, you can gain a new outlook on the genre you like to write. Even when you pick up a book you don't like, it'll allow you to examine why that style doesn't work for you. But something else may happen. You may be able to pick up a phrase you never thought to use. You might read a dialog style giving you ideas about how to make each one of your characters sound unique. By becoming exposed to a new genre, you may find a story that works better in your preferred story type. In the same way, you wouldn't limit your market to only one state, you don't want to limit your reading to only one genre.

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Good writing comes from reading good authors… regardless of genre. Just because you like Detective Stories, doesn't mean there is not good writing in other categories. Just like when we are driving down the street, we don't put blinders on, we shouldn't be myopic about the stories we read. Sometimes, the only way to discover new things is to wander off the beaten path. After all, Lewis and Clark wouldn't have discovered anything new traveling to Boston.

As I mentioned before, reading in unfamiliar genres allows you to focus in on the important elements of a writer's technique such as character, conflict, theme, setting, dialog styles, and plot. Not to mention it can help your critiquing style enormously. And noting how an author from a different genre creates a story can help you to examine your writing skills. How does a writer in a fantasy world use description to enhance the reader's experience? You can use the same techniques to enhance your next mystery novel, where even the placement of the furniture in a crime scene can be a clue. You can come across different facial expressions you'll want characters in your stories to use. It might also help you strengthen up your weak areas.

After reading other genres, it can give you a whole new outlook on your own stories. You may begin writing character nuances that you never considered before. You may even find brand new ways to tell stories you've told before. Breathing new life into tropes you thought were washed up. You may even find using a new theme from a different genre freshens up your particular storytelling skills. Even in science, it's rare to come up with something totally out of the blue. Scientific discoveries are often the result of combining ideas or results in different fields to achieve an unimagined breakthrough.

Reading new releases in other genres can also give you a leg up to explore the latest trends in your genre. Instead of being a follower, you can become a leader. In the end, better writing can come from wider reading.

 

 

 

 

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