Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Do You Genre Jump?

Me: I'm not comfortable doing it.
Old boss: That's exactly why you should do it.
-How I ended up doing a presentation in front of a room full of people at an old job (Also a philosophy I've adopted for my personal life - sometimes the things that scare us the most are the things we most need to do)

I didn't read the latest Round story chapter until last night (there's one goal missed), but when I did, I noticed something fun. In Fred's writing thus far, we've seen sci-fi with a fairly serious tone. The Round story, thanks to Oliver's tone-setting 1st chapter, is neither of those. In fact, it reminds me quite a lot of Oscar Wilde's work in its wit and love of absurdity. Now, one of the rules for the Round story is that everyone, regardless of comfort zone, has to do their best to match what's come before. Thus, Fred had to write like Oliver.

I have to say, the result is quite fun. This writing has a much freer feeling than anything else I've seen of Fred's and he writes it very well. In fact, I want to encourage Fred to do more of this tone. I've done some genre jumping before, and I've seen others do it, and the results are often the same. When we go outside of our comfort zone and write something in a genre, style, and/or setting that's totally alien, our writing tends to improve. Weird, right? After all, our comfort zone is the genre/style we have the most practice writing, so it seems really counter-intuitive. But, if you look at it another way, it makes perfect sense. When we write in a way that's completely strange to us two things happen:

1. Since this isn't our "thing" we're less married to it and less worried about it not working out. After all, it's just an experiment, right?

2. To write in an alien genre/style, we pay closer attention to what we're doing. In short, we get more focused on making it work as an imitation of Joyce, which means we examine how Joyce did what he did. This means getting out of the ruts we may have made in our regular writing.

The story I'm going to submit to the group this month is one of those stories. When I found it in my notebook, where it had been quietly sitting for a few years, I read it thinking "Okay, I know I wrote this, but it's nothing like me." This story does things that I'm normally too afraid to do. I like to make my stories tight, where everything has its place and a specific reason. This one is much looser and doesn't all fit snugly together. For these same reasons, I really like it as a piece of my work. It proves I can go beyond my comfort zones.

What about you? Have you ever tried writing outside your comfort zone? Have you ever seen someone else do it? What happened?

A new topic for the blog: Challenges. I hereby challenge you to go outside your comfort zone. Write in a genre or style you've never written in before. First, find a sample of your target writing. Second, read it and analyze it. How does it work? Lastly, get out your pen, crayon, computer, or stylus and go for it. You've never written a poem? Well, what are you waiting for?


Whittaker Luckless said...

Whoa. This situation sounds something familiar...

Now, I'm not entirely sure as I know these cads in question--although at least one of them sounds like a terribly good looking fellow--but here's what I've got to say:

I love jumping outside my comfort zone. I'm comfortable with meandering humor, quips, the word "quip", just general fall-dee-rall--copyright right now to Whit Luckless and affiliates. However, I try and write serious stuff. Try with all my might to keep the humor down, or entirely outside.

Now I think on it, I don't know why I like to write serious stuff. It isn't comfortable for me. Not easy, not quick. It's tolerable agonizing at times to write an edgy, serious, dark and shady paragraph, let alone an entire story. To say "here is what is. No nice confectioners sugar to look through. I personally am terrified." Not only difficult and sometimes time consuming, but there have been occasions when I've written something which creeped me out so much, that I had to stand up from it and speculate about how cotton candy really looks as if it appears from nothing. Why I should be so fascinated with pursuing such devious activities is beyond my kith.... Now excuse me, I think I've just had an apostrophe...and I have to look up kith. I think it's related to "kin" and not to "kin."

Debbie said...

Ah, Whit. A hard act to follow.

I have jumped genres. And I did have the feeling that if it wasn't good, it would be okay. Because I don't write fantasy. I read some, but never thought I'd write it. And I got a rather serviceable mermaid story. Needs some work, but doesn't everything?

I do think this challenge thing is going to your head, Ali. I only send monthly challenges. But I have to admit, you've got some good ones here.

Ali said...

Hey Whit, glad you stopped by. I'm curious, though, how does one have an apostrophe? Is it anything like having kittens? I've heard of that one.

Ali said...

Getting carried away with challenges? Me? I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about. :) Don't worry, though, I promise I'll slow down.

Whittaker Luckless said...

Having an apostrophe is the same as having an epiphany. I quiet tip of the hat to Rob Hoskins and his performance as Smee in Hook. "What if Peter Pan grew up?"