Monday, December 3, 2007

Attributes That Identify Your Writing

Nathan Bransford had an interesting post about cross-genre writing today. Essentially, he advocated that writers stick to one genre, in order to build their skills and their brand, until they are so famous that it no longer matters (think John Grisham). In response to questions in his comments, he further revealed that he felt that certain complementary genres, such as sci-fi and fantasy, or the various sub-genres of children's literature, were less of a problem. But in the case of the sci-fi / fantasy question, which was particularly relevant to me, he did mention that you still have to have some aspects to your writing that makes the stories obviously "you," and thus something that will have less risk of fragmenting your readership.

So that got me thinking: what aspects of my writing are distinctly "me," and present in all of my works? To date, I've written two Science-Fantasies (that's a real book category, not something I made up), and I'm working on one Dark Fantasy that's set in the future of our modern world, so in some senses is a bit like science fiction (just with magic). So here's what I came up with:

1. All my works have both magic and technology in them, to some greater or lesser degree.
2. All my works have characters with modern outlooks. Either my story is set in modern times, in the future, or in an alternate universe.
3. All of my books have a dark streak to them. Main characters are not safe from death, though I'm not cavalier about that.
4. Multiple cultures are always present in my works, and often multiple languages are present, as well.
5. I usually make use of some non-European mythology or folklore as the underpinnings of parts of my story or world.
6. There is usually a blend of locales in my stories that includes industrial/commercial locations as well as deep wilderness locations.
7. There is almost always some sort of Eastern influence in my works, usually Japanese, Korean, or Chinese (or all three).
8. Entropy is a theme (or at least a strong element) in every last work I write.

There are probably other things, too, but that's what I could come up with off the top of my head. In my biased, non-expert opinion, I think that this is enough to tie together a readership and build a fan base that can enjoy all my works. I don't plan to write any thrillers or horror or romance, though those elements may creep into my various works to greater or lesser degrees. But the core sci-fi / fantasy mix, and other elements that I mention above, are always part of my works, and should make a story recognizably mine once people have read a couple of my pieces. The main question is the ratio of sci-fi to fantasy, and that's something that varies work-to-work for me.

What about you? What attributes permeate every work that you write? Everyone has something, even if it's only one or two things. For instance, Orson Scott Card, who writes in something like four genres, is well known for always including interesting ethical dilemmas in every one of his works. Even if it's something as broad as that, or the fact that you always have strong female leads, or always write in a certain notable voice, you probably have something consistent in each of your works. So what is it?

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