My genre is horror. I cut my teeth on Lovecraft, Poe, Matheson, Barker, Blackwood, and King. I obsessively devour books by Braunbeck and Waggoner and adore anything that goes bump in the night. But that's not all I read. Reading only those things in my genre, believe it or not, stagnate the writer in my opinion. Think about this: Your life doesn't just hit one note, does it? In any given day, you have moments of horror, comedy, history, passion, even sci-fi and fantasy. So why should you limit yourself to just one genre? Sure, you may treasure the moments of passion most in your day (or not… I don't really know you…), but if there is nothing but that, it soon becomes boring, doesn't it? Variety is the spice of life, and of reading.
|Pictured: My reading shelf. Also, epic sneeze in 3…2…1...|
So here's my challenge to you. Take a good long look at whatever your genre is. Horror? Sci-Fi? Whatever. Just take a look at it, then head over to your local mom-and-pop bookseller and pick up two novels that are not in that genre. It helps if at least one of them is what you consider to be the polar opposite of your genre. For example, if you prefer horror, pick up something in the YA field. If you prefer Sci-Fi, pick up something of the old west or alt history. If you write nothing but bunnies and rainbows, pick up something pretty gruesome and try to fight your way through it.
Why would I make that suggestion? Because it will make you a better writer. Everything you read influences you in some way, right? You take pieces from everything around you and create your fantasy worlds from those patches of your experience. Just like your life, just like every other thing in the world, nothing hits one note forever. We are not a single ringing chord, but a symphony of experience. We are a pentatonic scale of notes that crescendos and wanes. And unless we want our sonata to be a symphony of one note, we must embrace the other instruments at our disposal. To that end, below, I'm listing a few of my favorite novels that are not horror. Leave a comment with some of your favorites below!
- The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams (Sci-Fi, Comedy)
- Storm Front: Book One of the Dresden Files - Jim Butcher (Dark Urban Fantasy)
- Dune - Frank Herbert (Sci-Fi)
- The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien (Fantasy)
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl (Childrens)
- Rot and Ruin - Jonathan Mayberry (YA Horror)
- Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich - Adam Rex (Childrens)
- Dragonflight - Anne McCaffery (Fantasy)
- Harpo Speaks - Harpo Marx (Biography)
And yes, I've read all of these. That's the point. You can't go through your writing career reading just one thing over and over. I mean, you can, but it doesn't allow for much growth. Different genres are there to tantalize you. Don't pigeon-hole yourself. Write your story and let it find its own audience. Why limit yourself to just one genre, when there are whole worlds out there for you to discover?