Last week, I wrote a blog asking the question "should writers stick to a single genre?" I got a lot of thoughtful and thought-provoking reactions. The overwhelming response seems to be not just "no," but "definitely not." I am far from the only person urging writers to explore different genres, and try their hand at writing a variety of styles.
So this week, I want to suggest a writing exercise to help explore other genres on a small scale. This exercise can be expanded or kept quick, depending on how long you want to commit to it, and how deeply you want to delve into each genre.
What genre do you write in the most? Or, if you don't already have a genre you consider "yours," what do you feel like writing now, this very moment? Go ahead and dive right in — write a piece in that genre. Something simple, any length you like. I'd suggest starting with around 500 words, which is long enough to develop some interesting themes, but not so long that you'll end up spending a ridiculous amount of time on this one exercise.
Try to write something with at least two characters, and as much plot as you can reasonably be expected to fit into that short segment. For example, if you usually write fantasy, you might try writing a conversation between a king and his most trusted advisor... and at the end of the scene, the advisor betrays him to his enemy. If you write crime drama, try writing a scene where a body is discovered that finally connects the dots in the ongoing murder case your characters have been following. Basically, write a scene that has plot significance and character interaction.
That should've been pretty easy for you. It's "your genre," and you had complete freedom with it. But this is where it turns into an exercise: make a list of at least three other genres, and rewrite that 500 words (or whatever length you chose) in those other genres.
I suggest you pick genres that are very different from yours — so different that you're not entirely sure how your story could be adapted. That's what makes it challenging! Here are some suggestions:
- science fiction
- crime drama
- historical fiction
- literary fiction
Of course, the whole concept of genre can be extremely limiting, so don't be afraid to get flexible with this exercise. Do you think fantasy and science fiction aren't actually that different? That's fine. Do you want to add in something others might not strictly consider a genre? Go for it!
I think writing three other genres should be enough to stretch your brain. Make sure not to get lazy with it — think of ways you can adapt the same concepts to be read in a totally different way. Maybe your king being betrayed by his trusted advisor becomes a teenaged girl being gossiped about by her best friend. Don't be afraid to do something that seems crazy. This is just an exercise, and there are no limits! Go wild.
Also, don't stretch it out! Don't worry about things like editing, just try to get all four versions written as quickly as you can. You don't want this to become a massive project; you just want to stretch your genre muscles and taste some new dishes!
Did you try my exercise? I want to hear how it went! What genres did you write in? Let's discuss in the comments!