People usually read multiple genres, authors included. Authors usually write only one or two genres, though. But can they hone their writing skills in one genre by reading other genres?
Note: This is the first time Authors Answer has been late in 129 posts. I wrote a post about this. A lot of things were going on. #130 should be on time.
Question 129 – Do you think reading different genres can help you with writing in your chosen genre(s)?
Of course. I write science fiction. But I taught myself how to write action sequences by reading Louis L’Amour’s westerns. I taught myself tension from Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy. I learned revelation from Andre Norton, JRR Tolkein, and Robert Heinlein. The wider your experience, the more tools you get for your tool box.
I think it’s possible. Other genres can introduce you to new tropes and concepts that aren’t necessarily common in your chosen genre. I took some cues from thrillers when writing my science fiction novel Jasper, for example. There’s also something to be said for reading outside of your comfort zone. Who knows? Maybe you’ll pick up some a new genre-blending story idea.
YES. YES. It allows you to experience a much wider scope of voices, and lets you see the strengths of each genre and learn how to adopt them into your own novel. Who cares if I’m writing a High Fantasy novel? I want to have characters as good as John Green’s or Rainbow Rowell’s. Who cares if I’m writing a Contemporary novel? I want to have a plot as complex as Throne of Glass or City of Bones. Read wide, read deep, don’t limit yourself. (But also read stuff in the genre you’re writing – it’s invaluable as well.)
H. Anthe Davis
I certainly don’t think reading other genres can hurt your writing. It’s good to have a broad mind and an awareness of tropes and techniques throughout fiction (and/or nonfiction). And there are plenty of novels that class in more than one genre, or subgenres that pull from several parents, so why restrict yourself?
C E Aylett
Well, storytelling is storytelling, no matter the genre, so I expect all reading will teach you something. I can’t read other people’s books when I’m writing my own as I become too distracted by the novel that’s been completed, edited, published and practically perfect compared to my lump of mess. I find I’m thinking about their characters instead of my own and I don’t want to unintentionally apply their story to mine, so I avoid reading novels when I’m working on one.
Paul B. Spence
Certainly. I think a good writer reads just about everything well-written they can get their hands on. I read fantasy, science fiction, horror, thrillers, mysteries, and lots of non-fiction. Many authors have great skills at writing, even if it isn’t in your chosen genre. Anyone can learn a lot from the good writers.
Most definitely. I think the biggest difference between genres is the setting. Otherwise, the main story elements are closely related. There is still conflict and rising action and climax and a solution across all genres. Therefore, reading any genre will provide an opportunity to brainstorm new conflicts or perhaps an old conflict with a new solution.
Yes, definitely. Reading other genres helps us pick up ideas and techniques different from our standard genre tools. There are always other angles that can be incorporated into a story to spice it up or help it appeal to a wider audience.
Gregory S. Close
I think reading in different genres is a great way to build your narrative vocabulary. Genre is a pretty fluid concept as is, but obviously having great skill writing a mystery could prove beneficial if you’re writing a sci fi epic with a mystery at its heart. Conversely, having a good handle on writing science can help add authenticity to a mystery set in a research laboratory. Good writing and good technique is always worth reading.
D. T. Nova
Probably. Especially in areas where there’s any overlap.
Tracey Lynn Tobin
Absolutely, yes. It might not seem like it if you’re, for instance, reading romance when you’re writing horror, but every genre has something different to teach you. You never know what kind of literary tricks you might pick up by broadening your horizons and taking a look at what else is out there.
Jay Dee Archer
Definitely. I write mainly science fiction, though I want to write fantasy. I don’t just read those two genres, though. I also read some classics, especially Shakespeare. And I enjoy a lot of science and history. Non-fiction has helped me a lot with my sci-fi writing. I use a lot of science, and my interest in history and cultures helps me with the development of cultures and change of cultures. In my case, the different genres help me with factual information. I think that reading things like historical fiction or war novels can help with writing combat or fighting. Reading fantasy could help with writing different cultures and worldbuilding. There are so many things you can learn by reading other genres.
How about you?
If you’re an author, do you benefit from reading other genres? Let us know in the comments section below.