Friday, December 27, 2013

Limiting my potential?

A little while ago I posted a status on Facebook about how I worry that I am limiting myself as a writer by the choices of subject matter I make. I think I’ll explore that here, and see if anyone else has the same kinds of fears.

Anyone who has read my stories knows that I tend to be all about the action. And generally, that action takes place in either a fantasy or science-fiction setting (or even a science-fantasy one). I try to diversify within that bubble by changing things up with gender, setting specifics, and the like. But in the end, all of my stories tend to be about men and women of action tackling a problem head-on with the judicious application of violence.

And, on top of that, the majority of the stories I have self-published, as well as my many planned projects, involve orcs. I kind of have this vision that eventually people will see my name and say “Oh, look. Another orc story.” Now, there are two main ways they could say that (aside from passive indifference). They could either say it with a grin or an eye-roll. So, I guess I worry that the eye-rolls will outnumber the grins.

Now, I know the simple answer is to try other things. Write anything I want. And I have done that, so I know that’s an option. I mean, it’s not like I am contractually obligated to write about orcs, or even fantasy and science fiction. I could write that action/adventure character, created in the mold of Mack Bolan; I could write the Bond-esque superspy story I always wanted to; I could even finish that dark vigilante novel I started a couple of years ago for NaNoWriMo. But again, it all boils down to action.

I have toyed with the idea of trying other genres like mysteries, slice-of-life humor, coming-of-age stories, and even romances. Mysteries take too much thought and planning for me. I kind of have ADD when I write. If I spend too much time planning and plotting, I lose focus and energy, and abandon the project. Humor I could do, but probably not for humor’s sake. I tend to try to inject bits of humor into everything I write, but I don’t think I’m clever enough to tackle it as a genre. I think I’m too far removed from my own youth to really connect with young readers. I mean, I could just view my kids, but I don’t think I can get inside their heads and write kids believably. And romance? Forget it. I’d be embarrassed trying to write that stuff (though I have tried).

Hmmm. I wonder if maybe I feel that I will never write “the great American novel” or anything “important” that people will talk about for generations. I’ll never write a Lord of the Rings, or The Great Gatsby, or even Starship Troopers. Because whenever I have tried, it all sounds like I am just rehashing the works of others. Which, in itself, points to another fear: I’m not very original.

Eh, there’s a good possibility that I’m just being whiny again (I tend to do that sometimes, in case I have any new readers who haven’t already noticed). I could be just airing out my insecurities in a vain attempt to get attention. I mean, after all there is an element of “attention whore” in me, just like in all writers to a greater or lesser extent. I mean, who writes solely for themselves?

Anyways, maybe I should just embrace the idea of being “that orc guy” (it works for Stan Nicholls). I mean, there are worse things than being known for doing one thing really well.


Charles Gramlich said...

the "doing one thing well" though doesn't have to be a genre. it could be action, characterization, dialogue, emotion, etc.

Tom Doolan said...

That's a good point!

Keith West said...

Write what you want. Blend genres if you're worried about rehashing the work of others. (I've never read an orc western, but the idea has its appeal.) Ignore all critics, especially the inner critic. That guy is never satisfied, which is why I do my best to ignore him. Don't worry about only writing action oriented stories. There's an audience for that. You do that well, and as you write, you'll continue to improve in that area. As you do, focus on other aspects, such as dialogue, character, setting, etc.