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Master your genre…After you figure out what it is

by Jonathan 2 Comments

Genres are not static or rigid, but evolving and flexible, yet firm and stable enough to be identified and worked with... Robert McKee

Robert McKee, in his screenwriting book Story, challenges the writer to see where their work fits:

Each writer’s homework is first to identify his genre, then research its governing practices. And there’s no escaping these tasks. We’re all genre writers.

McKee’s suggests it’s the overarching genre that keeps us going, not the particular ideas:

So, in addition, ask: What’s my favorite genre? Then write in the genre you love. For although the passion for an idea or experience may wither, the love of the movies is forever. Genre should be a constant source of reinspiration. Every time you reread your script, it should excite you, for this is the kind of story, the kind of film you’d stand in the line in the rain to see. Do not write something because intellectual friends think it’s socially important. Do not write something you think will inspire critical praise in Film Quarterly. Be honest in your choice of genre, for of all the reasons for wanting to write, the only one that nurtures us through time is love of the work itself.

Chew on this nugget related to the Art Film:

The avant-garde notion of writing outside the genres is naive. No one writes in a vacuum. After thousands of years of storytelling no story is so different that it has no similarity to anything else ever written. The Art Film has become a traditional genre…a supra-genre that embraces other basic genres: Love Story, Political Drama, and the like.

Coffee Break No. 11 – John Connolly and The Seed of a Story

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If you like your fiction dark and a little fantastic, give this a try.

Responding to a comment here on the blog this morning (Thanks to Sarah Wedgbrow over at Folding Fields for jogging my memory), I was reminded of John Connolly‘s novel The Black Angel, the novel I was reading when I decided to write in earnest.

Connolly’s story was dark and contained supernatural elements. The thing I remember most, though, was the somber tone of the work.

I was delighted to find this bit on the Sedlec Ossuary and his inspiration behind the novel. I don’t know about you, but I love hearing authors talk about their story ideas.

Just be sure to shield your cup so you don’t get any bone dust in your drink.


Coffee Break No. 5 – In the Right Place

A little pick-me-up for all y’all. I hope you find it as apropos of what you’re doing on this day as I do of what I’m doing. If you’re feeling a little low, bust out the pen and paper, the word processor, the typewriter or the clay tablets and get some words, any words, down. You’ll be glad you did.

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