“Oh, I never read that…”
Our most recent [Fiction] Friday asked that select a work of fiction that we would never normally read.
Why? As writers, why would we consider any work as something that we would never read, and what criteria do we use to decide that?
Obviously, as with all other people, we have our personal preferences. I selected a work from the “chick-lit” genre. I don’t read chick-lit, but I can’t say I would never read it. It isn’t aimed at me primarily (for the obvious gender reasons). On that level, there isn’t a broad appeal to me, but as a writer, shouldn’t I dip into it occasionally? Don’t I owe it to further development of my craft to experience and appreciate the work of others?
When I have read chick-lit, I have enjoyed it. I loved Bridget Jones’ Diary (guilty secret #1). I enjoy Jane Austen, who some have claimed to be the progenitor of chick-lit. For my [Fiction] Friday entry I chose a book by Candace Bushnell, most famous for Sex and the City I’ve not read it, but back in college I used to watch the TV show (guilty secret #2) so I have a sneaking suspicion I may enjoy it.
(As an aside, Jane Austen is also serious literature, Pride and Prejudice is my favourite Austen novel, and Bridget Jones is essentially Pride and Prejudice – so perhaps that’s why I like it…)
As a reader or a writer, you may not enjoy the work of a particular writer. For instance, I find Dan Brown unreadable, yet he writes about things I am broadly interested in. If the way a particular author writes does not gel with you, then that is a valid reason to not read them.
Can someone dismiss an entire genre, represented by a plethora of diverse writers, so easily? As readers, whilst I would still encourage the occasional sampling of new works, reading is primarily a pleasure activity. If you do not derive pleasure from a particular genre, then it defeats the purpose of reading to force yourself through it. Enjoyment is subjective, and what Person A enjoys is just as valid as the Person B’s preference.
But we’re not just readers. We’re writers too. We can validly dislike a particular author for reasons of style. We cannot validly dislike a particular genre for reasons of substance. I don’t read chick-lit because as a male reader, I am not the target audience. I don’t read romance because I find it formulaic and hollow. I don’t read legal or crime novels because I’m trying to disconnect my life from law.
Should I close my own writing off in the same manner? Pigeon-hole myself in one genre? Most writers do find themselves working mainly in one or two genres. Is this because they can only write in those genres? I don’t think so. A good writer can write well in any genre. I believe writers wind up in one genre over others because it is the one they personally enjoy the most as a reader and a writer.
We cannot be so proud that we are unwilling to look at what works in other genres. We don’t have an excuse to not look at good writing across all genres, just because it is unfamiliar to us or unappealing as a reader. Sometimes our best writing comes when we move out of our comfort zone. Perhaps we should move beyond our reading comfort zone once in a while too.