This is topic Stagnation? in forum Open Discussions About Writing at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by Foste (Member # 8892) on :
Lately, I've become a bit worried.

Although I write many different types of stories (ranging from sword and sorcery to space opera and whatnot) I find myself often returning to the gothic/victorian/supernatural horror story.

This, by itself, is fine, but...

I feel as if I am boxing myself in. I am really afraid of becoming the "gothic fantasy" guy. and mind you, this isn't about publishing, it's about where my writing is headed in general.

Of course, I enjoy writing these stories. and reading them. in fact, I read a Penguin books copy of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to the point of destruction. There's something unnerving about a dark and visceral force invading the uptight, prim and proper lives of the lords and ladies.

As much as I enjoy writing those yarns, I am terrified at the thought of becoming a one-trick-pony. Sure, i just finished 2 sword and sorcery stories and I have an urban fantasy on the back burner but the amount of ideas I get for Gothic/Victorian fantasy is just ridiculous.

A part of me knows that i am just being plain silly. I am only 21, I have so much room for growth, but even so...

So... Has anyone had similar experiences? I'd appreciate input.


Sorry if this sounded whiny.

[This message has been edited by Foste (edited December 23, 2010).]

[This message has been edited by Foste (edited December 23, 2010).]

Posted by MartinV (Member # 5512) on :
When I started, I thought science fiction is what I want. I couldn't stand fantasy. Now I find myself writing fantasy, pushing sci fi to the very brink of my writing. I will probably return there some day but it's difficult. I got used to it though so I don't feel bad about it.

One thing that does bug me is that whatever names I invent for my stories, they all sound fantasy, even if I want to put them into a sci fi story. The names simply don't feel sci fi.

Posted by History (Member # 9213) on :
When I was your age, I wrote anything that inspired or interested me (SF, epic fantasy, S&S, humorous sf and fantasy, even semi-bibliographical contemporary literature)--but my professors insisted every story need be character driven. If they, or my literary critic fellow classmates, could empathize with the characters (regardless of how many tentacles or muscled thews they possess); if they could identify with the characters' internal human conflicts (regardless of any alien armadas or lascivious demons), the stories were deemed "acceptable," and a few they actually liked! (This from a bunch who never read sf or fantasy, only Hemingway, Faulkner, and Salinger).

[e.g. see Larry Niven's classic Sword and Sorcery tale: Not Long Before the End ].

Thirty plus years later, finally again picking up the pen, I find I write the exact SAME type of stories, hopefully a bit better--though I find I am inserting my Yiddishkeit (Jewish elements) in all of them.
Only because this is where my muse leads.
And its fun.

Thus, I wouldn't worry about writing in one genre, if this is what you enjoy. When you are so inspired, you will write something else.
Just write.


[This message has been edited by History (edited December 23, 2010).]

Posted by MattLeo (Member # 9331) on :
Why worry about genre? A good story is a good story, and practice makes perfect.

If you were a cabinetmaker and you wanted to get really good at making chairs, you'd turn out lots and lots of chairs. You wouldn't worry that means you're a one trick pony. You're putting in the work to get really good at one facet of cabinetmaking. It wouldn't make you a master of tables, but chances are you'd get a tiny bit better at tables because of improvements in your basic skills.

If you can lay out a plot; if you can write a scene with good pacing; if you can describe characters and settings in a believable and compelling way.... that isn't *one* trick. That's an impressive *bag* of tricks you can take to any genre you take the trouble to understand.

Now sometimes literary writers might slum a bit in a genre like mystery or sci-fi. Sometimes the result is good sometimes terrible. What does this say about the transferability of basic skills? Nothing. I think the problem with the bad results is that they come from writers who are condescending to a genre's readers. They haven't really taken the time to understand how a genre's conventions work; they're just pandering to what they *think* a genre's readers want. Since their opinions of those readers isn't very flattering, the results aren't very good.

But a good writer who really brings his top creative game to a genre will probably do pretty well.

[This message has been edited by MattLeo (edited December 23, 2010).]

Posted by LDWriter2 (Member # 9148) on :
At the moment I seem to be stuck on Urban Fantasy. I've done classic fantasy, space opera, a lighter or classical SF, some very short stories that are neither or both, humorous fantasy and SF but the last six months or more my inner muse seems to mostly be working on UF. I don't think I've written any before this surge.

About three and a half months ago I said "no more UF it's time to get back to SF and the more classical fantasy", a day or three later I got hit by an idea I had to do then. 4,800 word story in three sittings. Guess which genre? Since than I've done two others and started my current three novels all UF. I do have a SF and a fantasy I've also written-maybe two SF, and a couple of ideas but as I said I seem to be stuck on UF.

I don't know how long that will last--I know part of it is what I am mostly reading now and part is what I like best right now but I'm not sure if that is the only reasons. I'm not sure if its good, bad or ugly...or all three or neither. I will go with the flow for a while but if it keeps up I will eventually try to go back to the other stuff again.

Posted by BenM (Member # 8329) on :
Write what you love, Foste. If you think you need variety, I'd suggest you can get that from reading - read widely, because elements of the best literary, mystery, scifi, fantasy and romance can only make your gothic fantasy superb.

I'm a scifi guy, I'm an engineer by day, I like gadgets and tinkering with things and writing SF excites me. But I've definitely seen my writing improve as I've strengthened my reading muscles.


Posted by Robert Nowall (Member # 2764) on :
I'm thinking I'm stuck writing science fiction when I have little desire these days to read any science fiction...or at least, what's contemporary.

If I could think of something else I wanted to write, I'd probably dive into that...but the last thing that did that for me was Internet Fan Fiction, and, besides, some of that was science fiction, too.

Posted by Foste (Member # 8892) on :
I am perfectly fine with writing fantasy. I love it. I have no desire to write in other genres other than those in the speculative field.

But i am afraid of my gothic streak going stale.

It's reassuring that you guys had the same experience.

Thanks for sharing!

[This message has been edited by Foste (edited December 24, 2010).]

Posted by PB&Jenny (Member # 9200) on :
A writing seminar by John Brown and Larry Correia (How to Write a Story that Rocks, parts 1 - 12) that I enjoyed viewing on the web suggested taking the story you have and switching the genre on it to see how well it would work in that way. Obvious minor adjustments would have to be made to make it work, but the exercise might be good for you to see how to break out of any 'one trick pony' events in your writings.

I hope it helps. Thanks John!!

Posted by LDWriter2 (Member # 9148) on :
Oh, yes I did go through a space opera stage. I'm surprise it didn't start sooner and last longer. Before I started writing seriously, I only wrote in my head, I did all types of space opera, and a few Star Trek which worked out sort of- but after I started actual writing there hasn't been that many SO stories, not counting that stage I referenced .

But it faded, and I expect this UF stage will fade also, even though not altogether.

But then again I've come up with two UF ideas since my original post.

Posted by coralm (Member # 9274) on :
I've been wrestling with this myself the last couple of weeks. Ever feel like you just keep writing the same scene over and over again? Even in two very different stories I somehow managed to do it. I guess it's my state of mind at the moment seeping into what I'm writing. I decided to take a couple of days off to do some crits and that's worked pretty well at rerouting me, though I haven't written much in that time.

If anyone else was curious about the seminar that PB&Jenny referenced I found a link here:

Posted by LDWriter2 (Member # 9148) on :
coralm I've found my self doing something like that even though mayhaps not as many times.

A while back I was writing a certain scene for one of my novels and I realized I had the same scene in one other novel, and I think a story also. Not exactly the same scene of course since we are talking about different characters and events but with the same basics. The characters reacted to the same stimuli the same, you might say.

[This message has been edited by LDWriter2 (edited December 27, 2010).]

Posted by coralm (Member # 9274) on :
Ya, that's what happened with me. It's not the exactly same scene that I wrote, but I found that the character reactions were similar, even though the characters and the setting are vastly different in the two pieces. It just had an aura of sameness, that really bothered me. Maybe it was just something I grafted on to both scenes because I was irritated by it? I have no idea.
Posted by PB&Jenny (Member # 9200) on :
Oh, thanks coralm. Appreciate the help with the link!
Posted by LDWriter2 (Member # 9148) on :

I had a slight hesitation because of how close the scenes were but I decided it didn't matter for just a couple.

I say hesitation but it was more like a daydream of some reader saying something along the lines of "That L. E. certainly likes to put that scene in every book." But I decided doing it only a couple of, a short few, times wouldn't get that responses.

Posted by Crank (Member # 7354) on :
As far as repeating scenes, I've upped the ante on myself.

It wasn't until I began working on the order of events for story number three of an ongoing series that I realized I was essentially rewriting the first half of the same story each time.

Scene one: Military conflict

Scene two: the antagonist confers with his superiors / mentors / partners in crime

Scene three: the protagonist and his group / team / squadmates move on to their next task, as if their prior opponents are no longer a threat.

Scene four: the antagonists' true intentions are revealed to the reader / the protagonist / someone associated with the protagonist

The way I dressed these scenes up with alien species and technology might camouflage this pattern from some readers, but I chose to do better than that. The second story in the series (a WotF HM winner) will remain the same. The first story (previously mothballed) is already undergoing an 'order of events' makeover. The third story is still on the drawing board, so changing it at this point won't be so hard.

Obviously, the more stories I write within a particular 'world,' the more potential there is for my familiarity and complacency with that series' characters and surroundings to lull me into this exact same pattern repeat. I'm glad I caught this apparent predisposition, because I'm about ready to start my YA short story series.



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