Well, I thought that I’d write about obscure genres today. In particular, what to do when you find something in an interesting obscure genre – but don’t know what else is in it or what makes it so distinctive. Although this has happened to me a couple of times (and I’ve probably written at least one article about it before), the thing that reminded me of it this time was listening to a song by The Beatles called “For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite”.
It’s this wonderfully weird vaudevillian circus-themed song that has a really distinctive atmosphere that is both creepy and amusing at the same time. It suddenly made me think about the “evil circus” genre (I think this is what it’s called) and I started trying to think of other examples of it for a list-based article about the genre. But, I could only think of about three or four other things that came close to fitting into this genre (eg: Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes“, a few parts of the movie “Paprika”, a level from “Blood” and two segments from “Silent Hill 3“).
Noticing that this list was probably fairly incomplete and/or partial, I thought that it would probably be better to come up with a more general list of things to do if you find something interesting in a random or obscure genre that you don’t know much about.
I’ll also focus on non-internet ways to do this because, when I tried to talk about internet searches in the first draft of this article, it sounded really patronising and obvious. Plus, although the constantly increasing amount of stuff being put on the internet means that we live in an age when finding something cool and then thinking “How do I find anything else like it?” isn’t as much of a problem as it was even a decade or two ago, it also means that you don’t really get any of the fringe benefits of the “old school” methods I’ll be talking about in this article.
1) Passive searching: This is more useful if you’re looking for something that is hard to define, if you aren’t in a rush and/or if internet searches aren’t helpful. In short, just carry on enjoying lots of different creative works that interest you until something similar shows up again. If you’re the sort of person who reads, listens to music, plays games etc… regularly, then it will probably happen at some point. But, don’t expect it to happen that quickly. Still, it is really cool when everything just falls into place.
For example, in late 2008, I read “Lost Souls” and “Drawing Blood” by Poppy Z. Brite. The lush, poetic and vivid writing style in these novels really amazed me, but I had no way of giving this style of narration a name.
A little under a decade later, I was going through a “1990s films” phase and ended up watching the film “Practical Magic” . I learnt that it was based on a book by Alice Hoffman. Out of curiosity, I found one of Hoffman’s other novels and was amazed that it used a vaguely similar writing style to the two novels I mentioned earlier. Since all of the novels I’d seen this style in were from 1990s America, I thought of this writing style as a “1990s America” thing, which helped me to think of it in terms of time and place.
In a totally unrelated comment on this site, someone recommended Ray Bradbury’s 1960s novel “Something Wicked This Way Comes” to me. Eventually, I got round to actually reading it and – to my delight – I suddenly realised that it was probably the inspiration for this “1990s America” writing style I’d been trying to learn more about. Bradbury’s writing style was like the ones I’d seen before, but turned up to eleven. Suddenly the pieces fell into place and I had a much better definition of what this writing style was. Not only was it inspired by Bradbury, but it was also a slightly more understated 1990s version of the psychedelic 1960s too.
And all of this came from just knowing what interested me and/or looking for creative works that I thought I’d enjoy. It took a decade, but I gained the knowledge I’d been seeking. So, if you found something in an interesting obscure genre, then you’ll probably find out more about it if you just keep looking for things that interest you. It might not happen for years, but it’ll probably happen. Just enjoy the journey. In the meantime, you can always do some…
2) Study and creativity: In short, if you can’t find anything else in an obscure genre that interests you, then make it yourself. Even if you’re fairly inexperienced at creating stuff, then it’s still worth having a go at this.
Begin by carefully and closely studying the creative work you’ve found and find a way to break it down into it’s most basic and generic elements (which can be described in just 1-3 words and aren’t specific to the thing you’re looking at). Be sure look for things like over-arching themes, prominent colour palettes, unusual techniques, emotional elements etc… too whilst you are studying. Then write a list of all of this stuff.
For example, if you’re interested in Sherlock Holmes, then your list of basic elements might include things like: “solving puzzles”, “complex crimes”, “genius and sidekick”, “eccentric detective”, “scientific study”, “formal narration”, “sidekick narrator” etc…
When you’ve got your list of generic elements, try to make something different that includes all of these things. Don’t write “fan fiction” or make “fan art”, make something different and original that also includes the basic elements you’ve found in the thing that interests you. Yes, it probably won’t be as good and – depending on your skills – you might even have to work in a completely different creative medium, but the experience will teach you a lot. It’ll also mean that your next attempt at making something will be a little bit better because you’ve had some practice.
Not only will this lead to you actually adding something to an obscure genre but, if you’re doing it right, then you’ll probably “fill in the gaps” by taking inspiration from other things and/or using your own creative sensibilities. This will result in better work than just simple “fan fiction” or “fan art”, because you’ll actually make something that is your own distinctive interpretation of the genre. You’ll also bring in new things from outside the genre that will make it more interesting. It’ll be something that, if you’ve had enough practice, might even inspire other people – and this is also how new genres also get started too.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂