Author Topic: How to avoid cliches writing in a genre you don't read?  (Read 1783 times)

Offline MadDove

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How to avoid cliches writing in a genre you don't read?
« on: April 24, 2016, 02:56:50 PM »
I'm writing a novel in a surreal, existential setting which will be tagged as fantasy, a genre I haven't read in a while though it was a former fave. (If anyone wonders why I'm writing in a genre I no longer prefer it's because I like the freedom it allows to exercise my imagination in unconventional ways). The tenets of good writing apply regardless of genre so it should not be relevant. I've done some limited research and have not discovered a book that resembles what I'm trying to create. Yet I want to avoid cliches and at the same time not be influenced by others' imagined worlds; I'm a stickler for trying to keep my ideas fresh if not wholly original (cause there's no such thing). I consciously choose books for my recreational reading written by respected authors hoping to glean something about writing from their example. Should I include fantasy to peruse the current landscape? It's a dilemma I'm not sure how to reconcile.

Offline Vogel

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Re: How to avoid cliches writing in a genre you don't read?
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2016, 04:32:12 PM »
If you're going to write a fantasy book, I think you're going to have to read the genre. What you read ten, fifteen years (or however long) ago doesn't count as much, I don't think, because then you probably wasn't reading from a writer's standpoint.

For example, I'm writing a mystery novel (well, sort of) set in the Southern US. It's not a conventional mystery and can't be shoved into specific genres like cozy or police procedural and while there's not anything out there I think that is exactly like it, many of the themes are present in other books. I think my reading material inspired what type of work I wanted to write. In my free-time I read thrillers, horror, fantasy, Southern lit, mysteries and general fiction. I learn something new from each and every genre I read, but at the same time, you're not going to know what's out there and what's expected for the genre, if you don't read and study it. I wouldn't limit myself to the genre of the book you're writing, for many reasons, but I wouldn't expect to be able to write a successful Southern novel, without reading the genre from time to time. You can borrow ideas freely. I'm not talking about stealing plots or characters, but little tricks of the trade. Like dialogue, for example and word choice, among other things. See how these authors create fantastical elements, how they balance realism with the fantastical, how they create mood, plot, etc.

As you work out your novel, I'd suggest writing short stories in between, maybe set in the real world. While you may feel that the fantasy genre leaves you with many open windows, it's incredibly hard to get right and to write something original and fresh. Writing pieces set in the real world can help a writer get a grasp on how to create imagery for the reader, among other things. It'll help you develop a style that you can apply to fantasy Besides, most fantasy mirrors realism, if you get what I'm trying to say, I'm having a hard time trying to say what I mean. While there are fantastical elements, the characters and setting should reflect real people and real places, because they're inspired from them.

I'm like you, hardly anything is original, though what I think makes a difference in one piece and another, and the originality of the piece, is the voice and style. I think it's essential that you find your own voice and style and use it, rather than mimicking other writers. This is only something that you can achieve through experience. And it will be effected by what you read.

Don't know if that helps or not. Use or lose.

For what it's worth, I started out writing fantasy. I think many new writers do. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if that doesn't change down the road, but if you're meant to write that genre then stick with it. But I would suggest reading fantasy, at least in-between reading other genres.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2016, 04:37:20 PM by Vogel »

Offline Annmarie

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Re: How to avoid cliches writing in a genre you don't read?
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2016, 08:22:16 AM »
If you're writing the book for fun, just write it and read what you feel like reading. There's nothing wrong with doing something for the fun of it and without studying the market.

But if you expect to publish the book yourself, and especially if you hope to get an agent/publisher, you *need* to know what the genre has been doing lately. Otherwise you might think you're doing something fresh and new, and it's really stuff the genre dealt with years ago. You can't know everything that's out there, but an honest look at the market, especially at what debut authors are doing, gives you a good idea where your book will stand in subject matter and quality. So at the very least, if you have ambitions for your book, you should read some debut fantasy authors. At the very, very least, download dozens of free chapters off Amazon and read those. It gives a good cross-section of what's out there. That reading should inspire you and give you lots of ideas for your own work. You can get that from any genre, of course, but you chose *that* genre and should feel comfortable in it.
Work hard. Believe. Take a chance.

hillwalker3000

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Re: How to avoid cliches writing in a genre you don't read?
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2016, 11:14:20 AM »
You brought up the opening structures employed in Narnia, Oz and Wonderland in another posting - 'fantasy' classics written 60, 115 and 150 years ago. If you're using these three as templates for your current fantasy novel you're in for a horrendous shock. There's no harm in breaking new ground in an existing genre that has maybe become clichéd - but you have to 'know your enemy'!

H3K

Offline MadDove

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Re: How to avoid cliches writing in a genre you don't read?
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2016, 01:08:08 PM »
Alrighty then :D. I've added works by Lois McMaster Bujold, Angela Slatter, V.E. Schwab and Vic James to my reading list. If anyone has any contemporary fantasy authors whose work you consider stellar must-reads, please don't hesitate to post here or PM me. Thanks for the counsel, everyone!

Offline Vogel

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Re: How to avoid cliches writing in a genre you don't read?
« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2016, 05:57:30 PM »
Personally, I like Neil Gaiman.

I don't read a lot of fantasy. Game of Thrones is great, but it's not anything like the piece you've written.

You might check out The Dark Tower series.

I only know the really popular fantasy authors. Haven't read much from lesser-knowns.

Offline MadDove

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Re: How to avoid cliches writing in a genre you don't read?
« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2016, 06:18:11 PM »
Gaiman, yes! Also Guy Gavriel Kay and Terry Pratchett.