Categorizing Yourself

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

82. Why you write in your category or genre.

A long time ago I read a bit of advice that has been repeated many, many times: write what you know. While that’s a bit of an oversimplification, it is still pretty good advice. Why write what you don’t know? If I were to write a mystery, for example, it would be truly awful because I don’t know mysteries. I don’t read them, I’ve watched very few movies or shows on the topic, and while my brain has occasionally aided me in solving an average mystery or two, it is ill equipped for constructing them.

I try to write what I know, which is closely related to what I enjoy. A few years back my husband began to introduce me to classic zombie cinema. Before I knew it I was hooked. I wanted to watch all of the zombie movies, began playing zombie-based video games, and (of course) read some excellent zombie literature. It was after reading several of these zombie novels (most notably The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks) that I began to think, “You know what? I can totally do this.” That year for NaNoWriMo a brand new zombie novel was born, and someday I hope for it to reach adulthood, leave the nest, and support me in my old age.

Ha!

It’s the same with fantasy. I write fantasy because I read fantasy, I enjoy fantasy, and I feel that I know enough about the fantasy genre to write it without sounding like I’m forcing it. I am able to produce something that, at the very least, has the proper basics. Conversely, when I try to write romances I find I come off sounding a bit like a pent-up teenager. I just don’t have the background in romance to lean on when I write, so it’s like I’m a grade school student writing their first original story and I have no idea what it should sound like.

“Write what you know” is also the reason I enjoy writing fanfiction. The world and the characters are already created for you and as long as you know enough about them to write without destroying the pre-established conventions, you can create a fun and enjoyable story with relative ease. It makes sense, doesn’t it? The more you know about something, the easier and/or more enjoyable it will be to write.

So the short answer is that I write in the genres I chose because they are genres that I enjoy and that I know enough about to write with a decent level of intelligence.

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