Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What We're Given to Write

I heard an anecdote some years back that someone once approached Stephen King and asked him, with a sneer of contempt, why he wrote horror. Stephen King's answer was, "What makes you think I have a choice?"

And I agree. I don't know that I set out to write stories about the paranormal, particularly ghosts and ESP-type phenomena, but I do know that even when I try to write something that is mainstream, down-to-earth, and, well, normal, it isn't very long before a ghost pops up or a character develops psychic abilities that I had never planned.

I remember being in a workshop with a very nice young man who was trying to write a best seller. The workshop was called "How to Get Your Romance Novel Published." I don't write romance, either, it was the "Published" part of the workshop that brought me to it. But this particular student told the group that he was working on a romance, really slaving away at it, and on page 40, "the terrorists broke in." The instructors smiled at him and told that perhaps romance was not really his natural genre.

Does this always happen? Is Danielle Steele forever slated to write romance, and Jerry Spinelli books for the young? Can Neil Gaimann abandon his fantastic and shimmering worlds for a novel that doesn't involve gods, magic, or disembodied entities? I wonder.

I know that successful authors have found ways to buck their own trends. Judy Blume went on to write adult books, although I never met anyone who read any of them. I know one horror writer who occasionally writes YA books but I've never seen any of those, either.

Maybe we really are slated to express the stories and the magic that we have within us in a particular way. Dan Fogelberg, one of my favorite Illinois songwriters/musicians, always wanted to do heavy metal. The thought of that is nearly too strange to wrap my head around. When he made music things like "Part of the Plan" and "Longer" were what came out. His tunes didn't invite head-banging so much as soul-searching and he accepted that, although he still yearned for a screaming guitar.

I'd love to write an adult murder mystery and have been playing with something along those lines. Of course, when I gave my hero a love interest, she turned out to be psychic.

I guess paranormal is wired somewhere into my writing DNA and that's just how I define my writing world. And maybe that's just part of the magic that I call writing.


  1. I totally agree. I can't seem to get away from the genres I write in. But then, I'm not sure I want to. They're the genres I read, the ones I know best, the ones that draw me. I would expect that to be true for my writing as well. And I wouldn't want to write something I don't like reading. If I started a romance, yeah, the demons would burst in, or the evil's just my nature. So be it :). Much more fun that way...hehe....

  2. I'm the same way. I can't seem to stop writing urban fantasy, male protagonist, third person. And I don't want to - it is too much fun!

  3. I have tons of stories in me. I wrote a paranormal story based on some things close to me. My multicultural fantasy came from my own search for my Mexican raices. A fun, lighter YA romance/fantasy after getting way too many rejections.

    My current WIP is based on my culture again and wanting a Latina heroine who just happens to be one tough cookie in the future.

    I still want to write a historical romance. And I also need to finish my very edgy contemp story based very loosely on my own teen years living with my bipolar father.

  4. Thanks for the comments, gang! I guess that maybe genre-specific orientation is like writers' groups orientation: one either is or isn't.