August 9, 2011

Imagination Limited

When writers write and when readers read, they often explain their love of stories by saying that the words take them away to other times and places. Their imagination is fueled by stories and, in the case of writers, finds an outlet in stories. While it is true that very small and seemingly inconsequential things in daily life can inspire a novel, books and the written word continue to be the prime medium for the activity of the mind; reading promotes some degree of intelligence.

To have a well-rounded mind, however, it is necessary to not focus on a single genre of literature. You shouldn't read only fantasies and fairy tales; you shouldn't even have a steady diet that is 53% fantasy and fairy tales. You shouldn't have a steady diet of romances, "Christian" or secular. Nor should you wear a track from the library door to the historical novels. Histories should not gather dust while fiction is being constantly pulled off the shelf. There is no genre that can be indulged in to the exclusion of all others; the mind will be stunted if fed the same thing day after day, just as the body would if you only ever ate carrots or potato chips.

Oddly enough, one of the bits of advice most promoted by many writers today is that you should read extensively...in the genre of your choice. If you want to write historical fiction, read historical fiction. If you want to write fantasy, read fantasy. Never mind that this may very well mean that your plots, characters, story arcs, and what-have-you are being fed to you by authors who have come before, or that you are stuck in the rut of one genre both as the source and outlet of your imagination. 'Read in one genre, write in one genre' is the rule of the day, and so authors are pigeonholed into specific fields of writing to develop themselves there until they are ready to expand (if not forever).

This is not wholly ridiculous. From a marketing standpoint, it is true that if you write and publish a historical fiction, then write a fantasy and want it published, you will likely have to seek out a new publisher. I speak from personal experience; I am currently querying Wordcrafter, a fantasy, and it is almost like being an entirely new author. I have no guarantee of acceptance. But I wouldn't trade the time I spent writing that story for the certainty of publication, and I would far rather have been writing Justin's story than grinding out another historical fiction. Of course, I am writing a historical fiction now. I simply didn't want to then, because I didn't have the inspiration for one.

Writing is an art, although it must be balanced with the more "practical" side of marketing, and some of the most renowned artists are those who experimented in many different mediums. Michelangelo was a sculptor as well as a painter and architect; Leonardo da Vinci dabbled in a dozen things, from sketching to painting, from writing to inventing. In the realm of writing, Agatha Christie is most famous for her mysteries, but she also wrote romances. C.S. Lewis wrote essays on faith and philosophy as well as fantasies and "science fiction." Rosemary Sutcliff, acclaimed for her Romano-British works, wrote children's books, stories set in the Middle Ages, some nonfiction, and retellings of The Iliad and The Odyssey.

These artists were never equally lauded in all mediums, but that was not their purpose; their imagination was fired in many different directions, and so they followed that and did not remain inside the box of their own especial genre. Their minds were well-rounded, so that they could and did tackle fantasy as eagerly as nonfiction, sculpting as readily as painting. Practically speaking, if you read widely, it is unlikely that you will be able to stop your mind from developing tales in many different genres - and this is not a bad thing, even if you are not as skilled with one as with another. It's good for the imagination to expand, and not to be allowed to stagnate in a single medium.

5 comments:

  1. Ah, this was a good post. Very true; well said!

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  2. Excellent post! I don't think I've ever thought of it that way. :)

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  3. I love this! So true!
    I'm glad I have very extensive tastes in books, movies, and music.
    I love fantasy, sci-fi, and steampunk the best, but I love historical fiction, chick-lit, romance, etc. The only thing I usually dislike is non-fiction. :)
    By the way, I am EAGERLY awaiting WordCrafter. I am SO excited about it!!!!!!
    ~ Mirriam

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  4. Beautifully written and so true, I am constantly looking for new ways to expand my genre reading in good books - they can be so hard to find these days.

    Thanks for the encouragement and it was really great to see you and sister in the interview link. That must be so much fun to be published together.

    Have a lovely day!

    Jessica

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  5. Josiphine - Glad you enjoyed it! There are so many modern writers who seem to write only one genre (and thus have about two or three plots that they recycle), but I just don't see how any writer who takes care to develop their mind by extensive reading could be content with that. My head would burst.

    Emily - Thanks for commenting! It's sad how little most people read nowadays, even writers.

    Mirriam - I can never pick a favorite genre, because I enjoy so many books from different ones. Nonfiction does get a bad rap, but I think it's very important - especially history, which is so critical in forming a believable background to any genre of writing. The trick is starting yourself on nonfiction books, preferably small-ish, that deal with something you particularly enjoy, and then expanding slowly from there. History is just amazing; truth really is stranger than fiction!

    I'm so glad that Wordcrafter has captured your interest! I dearly hope that you will be able to read it soon, and that it will live up to your expectations. Next month I intend to do a "Beautiful People" post for Ethan, so you can be keeping an eye out for that.

    Jessica - That's the trouble: it's often so hard to find good books nowadays. Every time I think I've found something worthwhile, I'm disappointed. Ho hum. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you have a good day as well!

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meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings






The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings






Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing



Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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