The Thrill of Exploration by Chris Stout
First and foremost, many thanks to Alexa and all of you for allowing a thriller writer to bomb in on this blog. I'll try not to break too much stuff while I'm here.
I'm a big believer in trying new things. I haven't always been this way, of course. It's hard to break out of the mindset of "do one thing, and do it really well." The drawback to that, however, is the possibility of missing out on all sorts of cool opportunities and experiences. For a writer, there are further dangers: burn-out, stagnation, boredom, feeling like you've said all you can. All of these can bring production to a screaming halt. Perhaps more importantly, the very act of creativity itself requires bringing something new to the table. Every artist strives to grow and evolve. Sometimes that means branching out onto a new path.
To illustrate: I refer to myself a thriller writer. My master's thesis was a thriller. If you ask me what kind of books I like to read, I'll recite authors like MacLean, Morrell, Child and Eisler. Same with the movies: if it has stuff that blows up, I'll probably want to watch it. I always figured that if I ever were to make a living as a writer, it would be by writing thrillers. I still hold onto that goal, but I've found that some of the stories I have to tell don't fit neatly into the realm of action and adventure. So what I am supposed to do with those?
The short answer, of course, is: write them. Believe it or not, I kicked against this notion for years, simple though it seems. I was convinced that writing time spent on something other than my genre was time that was wasted. It took earning an MA from Seton Hill University's Writing Popular Fiction program to break me out of that mindset, and working towards my MFA has served as a reminder. There is a whole world of fiction to explore and be a part of. Refusing to write (or read) a story because it's "different" is purely self-defeating. In fact, my first two publications were outside of the thriller genre. One was horror, the other was fantasy. Those opportunities would have passed me by if I'd limited myself to my stated genre.
Now, meandering through different genres is not without its drawbacks. These days, the publishing world is all about establishing the author as a "brand." With this branding is the expectation of consistency. If you are a writer following the traditional route towards publication, you will probably need to adopt different aliases for different genres, assuming you want to publish those side-projects. That can create its own set of headaches, and lead one to conclude that all this talk of exploration is a waste of time after all. However, even if you never publish or even write a complete work in a different genre, it can still be worth exploring. You can take notes on your travels, and adapt the techniques you discover to suit your own purposes. The tension between the lead characters in a romance, for example, can help inform the relationship you create between your thriller hero and his nemesis. The rich world building found in fantasies could help a romance writer bring the setting of her seaside town to vivid life. The heart-stopping action sequences in a thriller can help turn the sweeping battles of an epic fantasy into a tense, personal battle for the heroes.
Knowledge and experience are powerful tools. They provide more than just a good feeling. As an author, you will be able to pay them forward to your readers. Take the chance and try something new once in a while. No matter what you consider to be your genre, you will enrich the stories you tell and thrill your readers with the fresh imagination that you provide. With that, everyone benefits.
Thanks again for the chance to guest post here. Happy reading and writing to you all, and don't be afraid to go exploring!
About the Author
Chris Stout is the author of the novel Days of Reckoning and several short stories. You can follow him on Twitter @ctstout, or follow his blog at ctstout.blogspot.com.
You can purchase his novel Days of Reckoning from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you'd like to read one of Chris Stout's short stories, you can get "Charmer" from Amazon and Barnes & Noble as well.
NEXT UP: The first guest blog post in a series from contributors to Many Genres, One Craft. Rachael Pruitt is the first up!