Can you keep a secret? I’m not sure what kind of writer I want to be. I’ve recently put out a Sci Fi novel and I have a suspense book in my creative pipeline, meanwhile, I’m also editing a comedy, but I’m feeling like I have to declare myself! Frankly, I’m a little put out with having to make the choice, you know? Current wisdom is, you have to find a niche, pick a genre and then define yourself within it, “Oh yeah, he’s the guy that writes the Zombie/Vampire love stories, but not the one with time travel, the other one.” It seems a bit ridiculous. Here, I’ll show you what I mean.
This is my latest fiction endeavor, and readers are loving it! I'm having fun and I hope it's financially successful and the story gets told in a million different ways, but I'm not sure if I would be happy just finding new stories to tell in that same genre.
I spent almost twenty years as a theatrical director and once I had directed a couple of successful shows, no one would have ever said, “Yeah, but that’s a comedy, are you sure, I mean, all he’s directed so far have been suspense.” I know how to work with actors to tell a story for a live audience, in fact, I’m damn good at it.
Or, how about this. I was also a carpenter on the side through all of those years and after, no one ever said, “Well, I see you can build a fireplace mantel, but a fence? I’m not buying it.” It is presumed, as is the case in most professions, that if you are a competent doctor, attorney, accountant, plumber or delivery driver, that slightly changing the parameters of a single project would not be enough to turn you into a bumbling idiot, but not so with artists.
This is also somewhat true for actors and musicians, but with writers it’s hard to convince an audience to give you a chance. After all, picking your next book is a fairly intimate commitment. It’s not like watching a movie on Netflix, or even at the cinema. It’s more personal, it’s inside the mind and if you are going to let my characters in there to romp around, you want to make sure they are going to respect your space, I get it.
But, here’s the problem, I’m not, strictly speaking a “sci fi fan” and by that I don’t mean I don’t like it, I do! I love a good Sci Fi movie and the occasional novel. I especially like speculative fiction that asks big philosophical questions, but I’m not a fan of this genre to the exclusion of others. I am just as likely to follow up my next sci fi experience with some slapstick comedy, or a suspense story. I love things that make me laugh, or question myself, or feel deeply and I don’t give a damn what kind of costumes the characters are wearing or what the scenery looks like (they have to be good and appropriate, don’t get me wrong, I mentioned I’m a theater guy, right?) I just want you to tell me a good story.
So, to that end, I’m trying to decide, do I fall into peer pressure and try to establish an audience for a specific type of book, or, like a professional chef running a dinner club, do I challenge readers, “Trust me, you’ll love it, have a seat we’re going to give you an evening to remember.”
Being the Libertarian type, I’m inclined to try the latter and see how it goes. That being said, I have three novellas built into a novel, and two more sets of those coming in the same series that are already mapped out and ready to be finished, so, I’m in Sci-Fi mode for the foreseeable future. So, what do you think? Are you a genre specific fan, or do you fall in love with story? Is it the setting and the gadgets and the rhythm of your favorite brand of fiction, or the characters and situations? Tell me, what do you think I should do?