June 16, 2015

The Spice of Life

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

This weekend, a friend shared his childhood memories of the "family movie night" that was a weekly ritual in his home.  Each member of the family got to take turns picking the flick of the week at Blockbuster.  As you can predict, the kids always picked out movies geared toward children, while the adults chose more sufferable fare.

For every Ninja Turtles movie they watched, my friend's dad had them sit down to a classic like On the Waterfront. Or A Streetcar Named Desire. One week it was even Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. (Don't worry, grade school exposure to these mature themes didn't scar the young boy for life; in fact, he went on to become a youth pastor).

It harkened me back to thoughts of my youth, which included a lavish movie house with a balcony, curtains that opened and closed, and where you could buy expensive souvenir programs for the epics being shown. I think even more than the movies themselves, my parents enjoyed introducing their children to edifying entertainment.  So I too grew up on a well-balanced diet of comedies, dramas, romances, musicals, as well a couple of movies my parents made us walk out on.

Looking back, I'm especially grateful for this early education, which gives me a pretty good understanding today of the elements that go into a comedy, a drama, a romance, a musical, not to mention movies my parents would still walk out on. And no doubt you can say the same. While we may have a favorite genre of movielet's say spy thrillerthat doesn't keep us from attending the occasional romantic comedy that catches our interest.

Which brings me to this question: Do you read more than one genre?

Variety is a good thing, for storytelling and for painting
Do you always read the same genre, or do you mix that up too? Granted, committing to an entire novel requires a greater time investment than a two-hour movie (unless you're Susan Reichert, who can read a book a night).

Just as we moviegoers have cut our storytelling teeth by watching a variety of film genres, veering from our usual reading course and picking up an author who writes the kind of tale we're unfamiliar with could introduce us to other ways of telling a story. The intricacies specific to another genre could be eye-opening.  They could help add a new dimension to the genre we normally write in.

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Mary Schmich said, "Good art is art that allows you to enter it from a variety of angles and to emerge with a variety of views."  I look forward to adding a little more variety to my library, and I hope new ideas will emerge for you too.

For now, I can't let a mention of Mary Schmich go by without sharing one of her greatest achievements, a laundry list of advice that director Baz Luhrmann turned into a music video.  It could change your life.  I at least guarantee it will change the next five minutes of your life.

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