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Writing in Different Genres: Why, Why Not, and How To

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Presentation outlining some of the reasons why writers might try creating works in more than one genre, complete with definitions, guidance, and examples.

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Writing in Different Genres: Why, Why Not, and How To

  1. 1. Writing in Different Genres Vincent H. O’Neil www.vincenthoneil.com Mystery Horror Science Fiction
  2. 2. Presentation Outline • Definitions • Why write in different genres? • What’s the same? • What’s different? • Familiarize yourself with the genre—but not too much • Examples This slide presentation is available online at www.slideshare.net
  3. 3. Writing is a Personal Thing • What works for one writer might not work for another • This is a highly creative process, so do it your way • If you want to write in more than one genre, by all means do it • If you don’t want to write on more than one genre, by all means do that
  4. 4. What is a Genre? • A literary genre is a category of literary composition. Genres may be determined by technique, tone, content, or even length. • The distinctions between genres and categories are flexible and loosely defined, often with subgroups. • Many books contain elements from different genres.
  5. 5. Genre Classifications • Nonfiction. This is Informational text dealing with an actual, real-life subject. This genre of literature offers opinions or conjectures on facts and reality. This includes biographies, history, essays, speech, and narrative nonfiction. • The genre of Fiction can be defined as narrative literary works whose content is produced by the imagination and is not necessarily based on fact. In fiction something is feigned, invented, or imagined; a made-up story.
  6. 6. Examples of Nonfiction • Narrative Nonfiction is information based on fact that is presented in a format which tells a story. • Essays are a short literary composition that reflects the author’s outlook or point. • A Biography is a written account of another person’s life. • An Autobiography gives the history of a person’s life, written or told by that person.
  7. 7. Examples of Fiction • Fantasy is the forming of mental images with strange or otherworldly settings or characters; fiction which invites suspension of reality. • Humor is fiction full of fun, fancy, and excitement which is meant to entertain. This genre of literature can actually be seen and contained within all genres. • Science Fiction is a story based on impact of potential science, either actual or imagined.
  8. 8. Examples of Fiction • Short Story is fiction of such briefness that is not able to support any subplots. • Historical Fiction is a story with fictional characters and events in a historical setting. • Horror is fiction in which events evoke a feeling of dread in both the characters and the reader. • Mystery is a genre of fiction that deals with the solution of a crime or the unraveling of secrets.
  9. 9. Why write in different genres? • Because you want to • Because you enjoy reading different genres • To build different skills as a storyteller • Again: If you don’t want to do this, DON’T This presentation will be focused on fiction
  10. 10. What’s the Same? • You’re not a writer—you’re a storyteller • No matter what genre you write in, it’s important to tell a story that holds the reader’s attention • A compelling story filled with engaging characters that leaves the reader feeling that the time was well spent • Make the reader feel he or she is experiencing the same things as the characters • When all else fails, tell the story
  11. 11. What’s Different? • The characteristics of different genres will sometimes suggest elements that the story should contain • For example, a mystery usually deals with the solution of a crime or the unraveling of secrets while science fiction and fantasy often require the creation of settings, capabilities, or beings that do not exist • Some genres elicit a reaction from the reader, as in stories of horror and suspense
  12. 12. Familiarize yourself with the genre • Read books from that genre • Take note of elements that seem related to that genre • Research the genre • Get a feel for some of the things that might be considered “no-no’s” • Once you’re familiar with the genre, feel free to break any “rules” you’ve encountered
  13. 13. Example: Murder Mysteries • A mystery usually deals with the solution of a crime or the unraveling of secrets • Mysteries come in a LOT of different shapes and sizes (cozy, noir, hard-boiled, police procedural, etc.) • A “Whodunnit” challenges the reader to figure out what happened / who committed the crime, so: • Play fair with the reader • Provide sufficient clues • Avoid outright “red herrings” • Introduce the perpetrator before the end of the story
  14. 14. Murder in Exile • Written as an entry to the St. Martin’s Press “Malice Domestic” writing competition • The competition specified some loose guidelines that helped shape the plot: • Amateur sleuth with no police contacts • Very little violence • Re-read Fer De Lance by Rex Stout to get the tone • Re-read Thinner by Stephen King because that main character was an amateur put in the position of having to conduct his own investigation
  15. 15. Murder in Exile The Complete Idiot's Guide to Private Investigating by Steven Kerry Brown • Requirements for licensing as a PI meant my main character could not be a PI • Other jobs / roles in the investigations community suggested the main character could be a fact-checker or background-checker • The investigation suggested first person singular (who does the main character talk to?) Frank Cole, a bankrupted software designer, is a background checker for local insurance outfits and law offices near the town of Exile, Florida
  16. 16. Death Troupe • Inspired by a skit at a mystery writers’ convention • Required a lot of research, beginning with the basics • The Complete Idiot's Guide to Amateur Theatricals by John Kenrick • All the way up to the memoirs of major directors • Great value in learning how actors develop characters, how playwrights create plots, how directors shape story arcs, and how set and costume designers integrate colors, lighting, and imagery
  17. 17. Death Troupe • Brainstorming using different kinds of murder mystery theater • Techniques of audience involvement, including an option to choose a character to be the perpetrator (multiple endings) • Wanted this to be a book that explores the creative process In the snow-covered Adirondack town of Schuyler Mills, playwright Jack Glynn may be writing the script for his own murder
  18. 18. Example: Sci-Fi and Fantasy • Science Fiction is a story based on impact of potential science, either actual or imagined. • Fantasy is the forming of mental images with strange or otherworldly settings or characters; fiction which invites suspension of reality. • Science fiction and Fantasy often require the creation of settings, capabilities, or beings that do not exist
  19. 19. Glory Main • Always wanted to write a military science fiction story • Intrigued by the notion of being marooned with almost nothing—no water, no food, no weapons • Drew on personal experience of arduous walks with little sleep and very little food in the US Army’s Ranger School • Re-read Armor by John Steakley for combat sequences • Re-read Stephen King’s The Long Walk for descriptions of forced marches
  20. 20. Glory Main Space Travel: A Writer's Guide to the Science of Interplanetary and Interstellar Travel by Ben Bova • Excellent overview of the many considerations when writing science fiction • Lots of examples • Great advice such as making sure what you’re writing isn’t completely impossible (and even then it’s all in how you write it) Four strangers awake to find themselves marooned on an unidentified planet with no water, no food, no weapons—and plenty of enemies
  21. 21. Example: Horror and Suspense • Horror is fiction in which events evoke a feeling of dread in both the characters and the reader. • According to Alfred Hitchcock, suspense bears no relationship to fear. Instead, it is the state of waiting for something to happen. (The Talented Mr. Ripley) • In both horror and suspense, the story is meant to elicit a sensation from the reader.
  22. 22. Interlands • Stephen King’s The Shining inspired me to write • Raised in New England, roomed in supposedly haunted barracks at West Point, and living near Providence • Riding the train to Boston, noticed how much dense, overgrown territory surrounds the tracks • Re-read Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower to learn about different settlements that lived and died near Plymouth in early colonial times • Re-read The Best of HP Lovecraft for the feel of a main character who is intellectual and obsessed
  23. 23. Interlands Feeling of dread experienced by the main character and the reader: • Dangerous, spooky setting of the woods that border the train tracks • Search for a missing stone obelisk once worshiped by a colonial-era cult that perished at its feet • Competition from shady characters • Main character slowly being confronted by increasingly less deniable supernatural phenomena • Secrets regarding the obelisk and the cult slowly uncovered through research and investigation
  24. 24. Interlands New England setting • Story based in colonial history • Set in the Fall, approaching Halloween • Forests changing with the seasons • Haunted Hayride sequence • Providence Waterfire sequence • Providence colleges, libraries, and school of design Graduate student Angie Morse is searching the woods around Providence, Rhode Island for a lost stone obelisk once worshiped by a colonial-era cult that perished at its feet. Pray she doesn’t find it.
  25. 25. For Your Consideration • Writing in different genres can help you grow as a storyteller • Writing in different genres can open up new audiences to all of your work • Writing in different genres can be helpful if one of your genres temporarily loses popularity www.vincenthoneil.com

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