Thursday, August 22, 2019

STRETCHING—WRITING OUTSIDE YOUR GENRE



By Vicki H. Moss, Contributing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine


I’d always wanted to read a Ted Dekker novel. So imagine my surprise when I was on holiday and the house where I stayed had several of his tomes. There was a book series along with a single novel. I had visions of me plowing through the series before tackling the lone novel. 

Yeah, right. I had to be experiencing journey proud grand delusions. However, I immediately turned to the first chapter of the first book. 

The first book of the series was so strange, and weird, and contained so much symbolism, it took me almost all week to read it. The genre could be called Speculative Fiction. Very interesting, but not a light read. I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish the other two books in the series so chose to read the stand alone novel next. I plowed through it in a day—a much easier book to read, and I really enjoyed it because I didn’t have to think so hard as in—okay, what’s Ted talking about here?

But why did I enjoy the second book so much more than his other book? Perhaps because I’m not that big a fan of science fiction, mysterious worlds and such—meaning, creepy things that go bump in the night. But that first read did make me think; just what exactly is the definition of speculative fiction?

In 1941 Robert Heinlein came up with the term “speculative fiction” to collectively describe works in the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. It can also include other genres like Historical Fiction, Alternate Histories, and Mysteries with some Romance thrown in. I was surprised to discover Tarzan fit into this genre. As well as The Twilight Zone and stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Edgar Allen Poe tales also fit because they were stories on the fringe. Speculative fiction can put your everyday ordinary people into out-of-this-world extraordinary circumstances. The genre can take you to far out places while you’re still sitting on the front piazza swing, swilling sweet tea, while listening to mourning doves cry.  

After a week of binging on a couple of Ted Dekker books, what did I learn from the exercise of reading the works of a new (for me) writer? I discovered that I might like to one day venture out and write a speculative fiction novel myself. Yes, really. No horror, but maybe some “on the fringe” story with a Twilight Zone verve to it—something I never dreamed I might like to do.

One thing I absolutely did learn was this: reading outside the genres I normally read stimulated my muse. And, the old adage is true that writers should read vociferously, fiction as well as nonfiction. Never know what new ideas might come forth. There might just be a speculative fiction novel in your head that’s waiting to be written.                 
          

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