Why Knowing Your Chosen Genre Results In Better Stories – A Ramble

Although I’ve already talked about this topic with relation to the horror genre, I thought that I’d talk about why knowing your chosen genre is important for all stories. This is mostly because good (or even average) stories in any genre will often use multiple “types” of the same genre in order to add variety to the story and to keep it unpredictable.

In fact, if you look at almost any professionally-published novel, TV show, film etc.. then you will see something like this. It is one of the basic things that separates amateur storytelling from professional-standard storytelling.

For example, although I probably won’t review it properly, I happened to watch a rather amusing vampire-themed comedy film from 2014 called “What We Do In the Shadows” recently. Amongst other things, the types of humour in it include dark comedy, slapstick, farce, visual humour, running jokes, parody, character-based humour, wordplay, humourous contrast, understatement, subverted expectations etc… Because there are multiple types of humour here, the viewer is constantly caught by surprise and the film is a lot funnier than it would be if it had just focused on one type of humour.

Likewise, the modern sci-fi thriller novel (“The Rosewater Insurrection” by Tade Thompson) that I plan to review tomorrow contains several different types of thriller fiction. It is a mixture of a suspense thriller, a political thriller, a tech thriller and an action-thriller story. This mixture of thriller elements means that the reader never really gets tired of any one of them, which keeps the story compelling.

And, as mentioned in earlier articles, horror fiction will often use multiple types of horror in order to constantly catch the reader off-guard and prevent them from getting too used to any one scary thing. An excellent example of this is probably Nick Cutter’s 2015 novel “The Deep“, which uses at least 10-15 different types of horror (eg: psychological horror, paranormal horror, cruel horror, apocalyptic horror, gory horror, scientific horror, body horror etc…) to create the kind of unforgettably terrifying nightmare fuel that might catch even experienced horror readers by surprise.

So, if you want to avoid making your story seem amateurish or boring, then you need to know the genre that you are writing in. You need to know as many different techniques and “versions” of the genre that exist, so that you can include an unpredictable mixture of them in your story that will catch your reader by surprise. Because, if you focus on just one thing (eg: slapstick comedy, gory horror, fast-paced combat etc..), then it will probably get boring for your readers more quickly than you might think.

In computer game terms, this is why linear and almost entirely combat-focused “Serious Sam“/”Painkiller”-style first person shooter games are extremely fun to play… for about an hour or two at a time. Whereas, traditional-style FPS games (like “Doom II”, “Blood”, “Quake” etc..) can be enjoyed for much longer gaming sessions because they include a better variety of things that the player has to do. Instead of just fighting, the player also has to explore, solve basic puzzles, search for hidden items/areas etc… too.

Even if you really love one particular element of a genre, try not to focus on it too much. It might sound counter-intuitive, but you also need to include other stuff in order to prevent the audience from becoming bored or jaded. Think of it like guitar chords in a song or something like that. Even the most basic punk or heavy metal song will probably use at least three different chords. After all, if the guitarist just plays the same chord over and over again, then it will sound monotonous after a while.

So, the more things that you’ve looked at in your favourite genre, the more you will learn about what different types of things you can include in your story. Best of all, if you also look at other genres too, then you can sometimes find things that have something in common with your favourite genre, but haven’t really been used in your favourite genre that often. This results in much more original and interesting stories.

To use another musical example, take a look at the band Rage Of Light. They’re a modern metal band that use some well-known elements of the genre (like a mixture of clean and growled vocals, crunchy distorted guitars etc…). Yet, they have also obviously listened to a lot of trance music too, since their songs also include a lot of melodic electronic elements too. Because trance music is a fast-paced, intense and energetic genre of music, it goes surprisingly well with metal (which is also fast-paced, intense and energetic) whilst also producing something that sounds intriguingly different from most modern metal music.

So, whilst knowing your own genre will result in better stories (since you can use a much better variety of elements), learning a bit about other genres will result in even better ones.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

When Should You “Write From Experience”? – A Ramble

Well, I thought that I’d quickly look at the topic of writing from experience today. This is mostly because I’ve noticed it happening a few times, such as in a couple of the short stories that I posted here last February or in the second comic from the webcomic mini series that I’m making at the moment:

This is a preview. The full comic update will be posted here tomorrow.

So, does this mean that I agree with the idea that writers should “write from experience“?

Yes and no.

In short, experience can be a good source of emergency inspiration and/or a starting point if you’ve got no other ideas, and it can also occasionally come in handy for thinking of small “realistic” details too. But, experience isn’t the be all and end all of creativity. Even if you’ve got the experience, you still need imagination. After all, fiction and autobiography are very different things.

So, even if you use your experience as a starting point, then you’re still going to have to come up with a way to turn it into something different and imaginative. You’re still going to have to find a way to make it more interesting than real life. You’re still going to have to think of fictional characters, intriguing background details, a plot etc.. So, experience is a good starting point, but it isn’t essential.

Likewise, many genres of fiction usually involve things that people can’t experience in real life. Whether it’s science fiction, vampire stories, medieval fantasy or whatever, it is the impossibility of these stories that makes them so interesting. So, the people writing these stories can’t be writing from direct experience.

I think that a better way of looking at this subject is to think about writing what you are knowledgeable about, rather than what you have directly experienced.

For example, this short story of mine wasn’t written from direct experience – because I’ve never explored an abandoned shopping centre. But, I’ve been to a few non-abandoned ones (including when MVC shops still existed), I was fascinated by horror movies when I was younger and I’ve watched lots of fascinating Youtube videos filmed by people who have visited abandoned shopping centres. So, I know a bit about the topic. This then allowed me to come up with an interesting fictional story.

Likewise, this short story about a person who develops a psychic connection to the internet wasn’t based on direct experience. The initial inspiration for this story was having a dream which involved a situation where the internet wasn’t working (which, in that situation, saved the day) and then, upon waking, noticing that the internet was playing up. This bizarre coincidence made me think “what would happen if someone could sense whether the internet was working?“. After that, I relied on both my imagination and my knowledge of the internet to come up with a satirical sci-fi/magic realist story.

So, you’re probably seeing a theme here. Experience and/or knowledge can be useful starting points. But, you still need to use your imagination to tell a story that is more interesting than real life.

In other words, if you write about what you know, then you’re going to feel more inspired. You’re going to be more confident. Your story or comic will probably sound more realistic too. But, imagination matters more than all of this. Knowledge and experience are two tools that your imagination can use. They aren’t a replacement for your imagination.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

You Only Get To See Part Of Everything… And That’s Ok

Although this is an article about culture and creative inspiration (and a little bit of philosophy), I’m going to have to start by talking about looking at random photos of a town on the internet. As usual, there’s a good reason for this that will be relevant to the main subject of this article.

A while before I wrote this article, I was in something of a nostalgic mood. In particular, I was nostalgic about Aberystwyth during the mid-late 2000s. But instead of looking at the few photos I’d taken back then, I decided to do a few online image searches for other pictures of the town from back then. One thing soon surprised me – for every few locations I recognised, there was one that I didn’t.

Yes, with some of the “mysterious” pictures I saw, I could extrapolate where they were supposed to be from nearby landmarks. But it still made me realise that despite having lived there for several years, there were loads of parts of this wonderful town that I’d never actually seen first-hand.

So, what does any of this have to do with creativity, culture and inspiration? Well, the same thing is true for culture and for the things (eg: genres, periods of history etc..) that inspire us. We never see absolutely everything. And this is a good thing, it is what gives our creative works their originality, humanity and uniqueness.

First of all, not being able to take inspiration from literally everything in a given genre means that we remain curious about the genre in question. Curiosity is one of the most important parts of creative inspiration. It is the thing that makes us want to explore something by creating art, stories etc… about it.

However, there is something of a happy medium here. You need to understand enough about something to feel confident creating stuff in it, but not know enough to still feel curious.

For example, even though the cyberpunk genre has been one of my favourite genres for over a decade, I only really started making cyberpunk art even vaguely regularly after I’d done a lot more research into the genre during 2015/16. Yet, I still certainly haven’t seen everything in the genre.

“Coast Road” By C. A. Brown

“Architecture” By C. A. Brown

“Storage” By C. A. Brown

Secondly, not seeing everything means that you will probably have at least slightly different inspirations from everyone else. For example, when searching for photos of Aberysywth online, I also found a few paintings of the town by another artist.

The interesting thing was that many of them seemed to be based around the castle near the old college (somewhere I saw from a distance, but never visited). Yet, whenever I take inspiration from Aberystwyth, most of my paintings tend to be of the coast and/or town centre (mostly since this is where most of my own photos of the town were taken), the rooms I lived in or my memories of my two favourite nightclubs in the town (eg: The Angel and the sadly defunct “The Bay”).

“Days Of The Angel” By C. A. Brown

“And I Fell Into Yesterday” By C. A. Brown

“Aberystwyth – Misty Morning” By C. A. Brown

So, yes, only seeing part of something means that the things you create will be different to what other people who are fans of the thing in question will make.

Thirdly, on a more philosophical level, not seeing everything is also something that lends art a certain level of humanity.

After all, we don’t get to see everything. We all experience life from a single first-person perspective. We rarely get to see even a fraction of the Earth’s entire surface first-hand. We only get to directly experience less than a century of the Earth’s long history. We only get to read/watch/play a miniscule fraction of all the creative works ever made. We only actually get to meet a tiny proportion of the Earth’s entire population. I could go on for a while.

Not seeing everything (and, by extension, not knowing everything) is a very important, but often forgotten, part of the human condition. So, embrace it!

It isn’t all bad – it is what lends our lives, personalities and creative works their uniqueness. It is what gives us the curiosity we need in order to be creative ( I mean, just think of how cynical and jaded you would be if you’d read every novel ever written, watched every film ever made etc..). It is what makes other people’s creative works so fascinating. Again, I could go on for a while.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Three Tips For Finding Artistic Knowledge (That Can’t Be Found Online)

During a rather long series of thoughts I had the day before I wrote this article, one intriguing phrase appeared in my mind quite often – “knowledge that cannot be found on the internet“. The phrase sounded mysterious enough to fascinate me – but, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that it probably applies to most artists in some way or another.

After all, aside from more basic things, there isn’t usually a tutorial online for the exact specific thing that you want to draw or paint. Usually, if you want to learn how to do something new, the internet can only often help in the most indirect of ways. So how do you learn how to do something artistic if there isn’t a specific online guide for it?

Here are a few tips:

1) Learn the basics (then extrapolate): One of the best ways to work out how to do something on your own is to have a basic knowledge of the theory of art and to have some basic art skills. No, this doesn’t mean that you have to have gone to art school (I haven’t) or even have a particularly advanced level of artistic skill. But, the more theory you know and the more skills you have, the easier it will be to work out how to do things that aren’t explained in online guides.

Why? Because you’ll be able to see which “rules” the thing you want to make follows. For example, if you see a really cool-looking piece of art and you want to make something in a similar style, but can’t find any guides online, then knowing some basic theory and having some basic skills can help in a number of ways, including….

Knowledge of different art mediums will allow you to guess which tools the artist used. And to find the closest available thing to it that you have.

Knowledge of colour theory will allow you to work out that colour palette that the artist used, and why it “works” so well. Likewise, it’ll allow you to see the relationship between the colours in the picture too (eg: does the artist use one or more complementary colour pairs? etc..).

Knowing how to copy from sight alone will allow you to make private studies and reconstructions of the artwork in question, which might give you an insight into some of the techniques the artist used, and why they used them. You can then use those techniques in new and different ways for your own original art.

Knowledge about how lighting is often relative (eg: something can be dark, but still appear bright when placed next to something even darker) can help you to work out how the artist gave their picture a particular “look” (eg: vivid, muted etc..) and how to use similar techniques in your own original art.

I could go on for a while, but the more theory you know and the more skills that you have, the easier it is to work out how to do things that aren’t explicitly spelled out for you in an online guide.

2) Observation (and study): If there isn’t a specific online guide for how to draw something, then start by looking at as many pictures of it as you can (in books, online etc..).

However, unless you own the copyright to the images, then you shouldn’t directly copy any of the images that you see.

Instead, your goal is to see as many different pictures of the thing in question from as many different angles and perspectives as possible. To break the object in question down into it’s most basic shapes and outlines. To see what visual features all of the pictures have in common and to build up a “3D model” of the thing in question inside your mind.

The more different pictures of the same thing that you see, the easier it will be for you to work out the basic principles of how to draw or paint it. Then you can use the “3D model” as the basis for a new and original piece of art.

3) Trial and error: If you really want to learn how to draw or paint something that isn’t explained in any online guide, then sometimes the best way to do it is simply through good old fashioned trial and error. Even if the results aren’t perfect, then at least you’ll be closer to achieving what you want than if you didn’t try.

Genrally, if an impressive piece of art or an interesting style of art exists, then that means that it (and more importantly, art in a similar style/traditon as it) can be made. After all, someone has already made it. So, there has to be a solution to the puzzle of how to make it.

It’s kind of like how, in old first-person shooter computer games from the early-mid 1990s, the player would often end up “stuck” in challenging situations. Yet, because these games were often designed to be fair, there was almost always some way or another, some tactic or stratagem that the player could use to progress, even if it took a lot of thought and a lot of failed attempts. If you play enough of these games (modern fan-made levels for “Doom II” are probably a good place to start), then they can really improve your attitude towards trial and error in other areas, such as making art.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Reasons Why It’s Important To Be “Well Read” (In Written Or Visual Media) If You Are An Artist, Writer etc…


Back when I used to see myself as mostly being a writer, I read a lot more fiction than I do now.

I’d buy more books than I could ever read from charity shops/second-hand bookshops and I’d usually have a horror novel, a detective novel, a thriller novel or a sci-fi novel on the go at any given time.

But, when I started to focus a lot more on making art and (occasionally) comics, I found that I did pretty much the same thing… but with visual media instead.

Instead of reading novels regularly, I often have a second-hand DVD of a TV series on the go at any given time. I also watch Youtube more, play even more computer games and binge-read any interesting webcomics I find.

For quite a while, I worried that all of this meant that I was becoming less “sophisticated”. But, then, I realised that I was merely trying to be “well-read” in visual media. It was pretty much exactly the same thing as I used to do when I wrote fiction a lot more often. Just with pictures instead of words.

But, why is being “well-read” (whether in visual media or written media), so important?

1) It gives you more understanding: One of the cool things about being “well read” in your chosen medium is that it enables you to see things like inspirations and allusions a lot more clearly. If you have a good background knowledge, then you can work out what inspired your favourite writers, artists, comic-makers, game developers etc…

For example, although it might be a while until I review it, I started playing an indie computer game called “Technobabylon” a couple of days before I wrote this article. When I first heard of this game, the cyberpunk screenshots on the shop website intrigued me and I thought “This looks a bit like “Blade Runner“. When it goes on special offer, I’m getting a copy!

Of course, in the time between first hearing about the game and eventually buying it, I had seen and played a few other things in the cyberpunk genre.

So, when I started playing it, I thought more complex things like: “Although the visual style of the game has some influence from “Blade Runner”, it’s a lot more like the “Ghost In The Shell” anime films/TV series (which were, in turn, inspired by “Blade Runner”).”

Here’s a comparison to show you what I mean:

This is a screenshot from "Technobabylon" (2015). Although the background is reminiscent of "Blade Runner", it has a much stronger influence from the "Ghost In The Shell" anime franchise.

This is a screenshot from “Technobabylon” (2015). Although the background is reminiscent of “Blade Runner”, it has a much stronger influence from the “Ghost In The Shell” anime franchise.

This is a screenshot from "Ghost In The Shell: S.A.C 2nd Gig" (2004/5). As you can see, the cityscape looks a lot more like the one in the screenshot above than...

This is a screenshot from “Ghost In The Shell: S.A.C 2nd Gig” (2004/5). As you can see, the cityscape looks a lot more like the one in the screenshot above than…

-... This screenshot from "Blade Runner" (1982, remastered in 2007), which also contains a dense cityscape, albeit a lot less 'clean', 'bright' and ''neat' than in the other two things that it inspired.

-… This screenshot from “Blade Runner” (1982, remastered in 2007), which also contains a dense cityscape, albeit a lot less ‘clean’, ‘bright’ and ”neat’ than in the other two things that it inspired.

Even if you don’t ever plan to write reviews, then being “well-read” can help you to see how inspiration works. It can give the things that inspire you a lot more depth.

It can also show you what is popular within a particular genre and, more importantly, why it is popular (which is something you’ll probably only truly learn when you see popular tropes etc.. being used in different ways by different people).

2) It teaches you a lot : Although you can learn a lot about the theory of writing or the theory of making art from things like reading tutorials, taking lessons etc… One of the best learning tools for art or writing (apart from regular practice, of course!) is actually seeing examples of it done well.

If you read a well-written novel in your favourite genre or see a few cool-looking images, then you’re probably going to wonder how they manage to be so great. This might prompt you to work out what elements (eg: narrative style, description style, colour combinations, artistic techniques etc..) make these things so interesting. And, once you’ve worked this out, you can then use those elements in new ways in your own creative works.

Likewise, getting a good sense of what does and doesn’t “work” in stories, paintings, comics etc… is something that you’ll only really pick up after you’ve seen numerous examples of the things in question. The same is true for a lot of more subtle skills, like working out how many panels to include in a webcomic update, how to arrange them etc…

3) It keeps your work original: First of all, there’s no such thing as a “100% original” story, comic, painting etc… Whether it is conscious or not, every creative work is inspired by something else. If you’re unsure about the difference between reasonable inspiration and actual copying, then check out this article.

But, although there’s no such thing as “true” originality, originality still exists. However, the only way to produce work that people consider to be “original” is to have as many influences as you can. The more things you are inspired by, the less your creative works will look like or read like any one thing.

This also applies to things like finding your own narrative style or art style. It’s ok to copy other styles when you’re learning but, the more styles that you copy at the same, the more different your style will look like. It will look or sound more original for the simple reason that it’s a mixture of different things, rather than just one thing.

For example, here’s one of my cyberpunk paintings:

"Antique Shop" By C. A. Brown

“Antique Shop” By C. A. Brown

First of all, if you read the early part of this article, you can probably guess two of the largest influences on the content of this picture. But, the focus on 1990s technology was also inspired by an episode of “Cowboy Bebop” (where the characters have to find a Betamax VCR) as well as my general fascination with the 1990s.

The actual drawing style that I used has had many inspirations over the years, including “Pepper Ann“, “Pokemon“, “South Park“, various old comics from the 1950s-90s, Frank Kozik’s booklet art for The Offspring’s “Americana” album etc… This is a style that has been evolving for most of my life (although I put much more effort into it within the past five years), so it has a lot of influences.

The composition of the painting (eg: placing large inanimate objects in the close foreground, like the shop window in my painting) was inspired by the compositions used in old 1990s “Point and click” computer games. The colour scheme I used in this painting was mostly inspired by a really cool set of fan-made “Doom II” levels called “Ancient Aliens“.

The high-contrast lighting and high-contrast colours in this painting were inspired by things like heavy metal T-shirts, Derek Riggs’ album art for Iron Maiden, numerous 1990s computer games, “Blade Runner” (again!), “Ghost In The Shell” (again!), the cover art for old splatterpunk horror novels, old VHS cover art I’ve seen on the internet etc…

So, yes, if you want to keep your work original, then try to read, watch, play etc… as many things as you can. The more things that inspire you, the more original your work will be.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Can Knowing Less Make You More Inspired?

2016 Artwork Knowing less and being more inspired

Although I’ll be talking about the role that knowledge (or lack of knowledge) can play when it comes to getting inspired to make art, make comics, write fiction etc… I’m going to have to start by talking about music for a few paragraphs. As usual, there’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later.

Anyway, I seem to be going through another punk phase at the time of writing this article. Being one of my two oldest favourite genres of music (and the first “cool” genre of music I ever discovered), this isn’t exactly surprising. But, the interesting thing is that most of what I know about punk music, I’ve learnt within the past few years.

Until sometime in my mid-late teens, the only punk bands I really listened to were The Offspring (still one of my favourite bands) and Sum 41.

Even when I discovered classic punk when I was sixteen or seventeen, I only really knew a few famous songs by the Sex Pistols and The Clash. I discovered a couple of songs by Rancid and NOFX when I was about eighteen or nineteen. In my early twenties, I only had one Bad Religion album (and only listened to about three or four songs from it).

Punk music was the very first “cool” genre I discovered and I didn’t really know much about it. It was a intriguingly mysterious and ineffably cool glimpse into another place and another time.

I probably still don’t know that much about the punk genre, but I know a lot more than I used to, even though I’d be hesitant to call myself a “punk”.

Not only that, punk imagery turns up slightly more in my artwork than it used to do. Still, if it wasn’t for that initial period of mystery – I’d never have been so curious about the genre and it probably wouldn’t hold so much power over my imagination. It would just be an “ordinary” everyday background thing, like heavy metal music is.

There’s something both wonderful and frustrating about knowing just a little bit about something incredibly cool. On the one hand, it feels like you’re separated from something that should be an essential part of your life. On the other hand, your mind is filled with the idea that there’s lots of cool stuff out there waiting to be discovered. In the meantime, your imagination has to “fill in the gaps”.

And this is where inspiration can appear. If you can’t learn much out about something fascinating, but you want to see more of it, then it’s up to you to make stuff in that genre – if only to satisfy your own curiosity. Yes, if you don’t know enough about the genre, you’ll probably make mistakes – but you might also come up with a totally “unique” version of that genre.

But, even though you’ll probably just make mistakes, you’ll still feel extremely inspired by your curiosity. To use yet another personal example, I’ve been fascinated by the zombie genre for almost as long as I can remember. As soon as I saw some screenshots of “Resident Evil 2” in a games magazine when I was a kid, I thought that it was the coolest genre ever.

But, being a kid – and later a young teenager- my access to zombie movies and my level of understanding of the genre was severely limited. Yes, I got a copy of “Resident Evil 2” a couple of years later, read some horror novels and even saw a couple of zombie movies. But, my understanding of the genre was still ridiculously limited back then.

As such, most of the zombie stories I used to write were “serious” thriller stories that were filled with as much gore as I could cram onto the page. I thought that it was a badass genre that existed just to shock and scare people. Of course, now that I’m older, I can look back on these old stories and laugh. At it’s core, the zombie genre doesn’t have to be frightening, depressing or “serious” – it’s actually at it’s absolute best when it’s used as a vehicle for dark comedy and/or for more punk-like anarchic storytelling. But, I didn’t know that back then.

Still, being fascinated by the zombie genre (and the horror genre in general) was the thing that first really got me into writing fiction. It was the thing that made me a more creative person (even if, years later, I’m an artist/webcomic maker rather than a writer). I knew that I didn’t know everything about this genre, so I tried to make my own examples of it to fill that gap.

Although knowledge can seriously increase the quality and depth of your creative works, a lack of knowledge can be the engine that propels you forward. Unfulfilled curiosity is one of the most powerful sources of motivation and, if you’re motivated enough (and curious enough) then inspiration usually isn’t too far away.

Of course, everything I’ve just said is probably obsolete these days. In fact, I’m probably a member of the last generation who will have any access to this potent source of inspiration. Why? Because it’s easier than ever to satisfy your curiosity these days. If you’re curious, you can just type your question into Google or Wikipedia, and you’ll have all of the answers you’ll ever need.

On the whole, this is a good thing. If it wasn’t for the internet, I wouldn’t know half of what I currently know about punk music (or a hundred other subjects). I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog or making art regularly (posting art online is one thing that helps me to stay motivated). The internet is probably the best thing to have ever happened to knowledge, understanding and learning.

But, at the same time, it also means that people might miss out on those formative experiences of not knowing enough about something really cool. The experience of knowing that there is something great out there, but that it is slightly out of reach. This is one of the most powerful sources of creative motivation and inspiration, but my generation is probably the last generation to ever experience it.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Artist, Writer… Know Thyself!

2016 Artwork Artist writer know thyself

Although this is an article about learning more about yourself, I’m going to have to start by talking about myself for a few paragraphs. There’s a good reason for this that I hope will become obvious later.

Anyway, when it comes to both art and writing, one of the things that I have learnt about myself is that I tend to work best when my art and/or writing includes a high level of either visual and/or emotional intensity.

When I make art, I tend to feel at my best when my art contains bold contrasts between light and darkness. I tend to work best when my art has an underlying gloom, which allows the central parts of the picture to stand out even more by comparison.

After I scan my art, I usually digitally decrease the brightness levels and increase the contrast levels, to give my paintings a “vivid” look. Likewise, I also enjoy producing striking black & white drawings, which require a heavy amount of contrast between lighter and darker areas in order to really stand out.

When it comes to writing, I’ve found that I tend to do my best work when my fiction is related to “emotional” genres like the comedy genre or the horror genre. These are genres that are designed to provoke an intense emotional reaction in the reader.

Interestingly, these genres share a lot of features with each other – from the impish feeling of inventiveness that is needed to come up with good story ideas, to the fact that all of these genres rely on anticipation or suspense (eg: they all use similar types of pacing), to the heavy focus on clever and dramatic descriptions.

Most of my writings that have “pretty much written themselves” have been in at least one of these emotionally-intense genres – for example, my interactive story from last October, includes both comedy and horror.

By learning all of this, I’m able to produce better and more distinctive work by playing to my strengths. But, how did I learn all of this and, more importantly, how can you learn more about yourself as a writer and an artist? There are several ways to do this.

The simplest and most obvious way to learn these kinds of things is just through experience and a lot of practice. If you write a lot or make art regularly, then you’ll eventually learn what works for you and what doesn’t. For example, thanks to lots of practice with making comics, I now know that I tend to produce my best comics if I spend no more than a week on a comics project and if I use black & white artwork for narrative comics and colour artwork for “newspaper comic”-style webcomics.

Likewise, from countless failed attempts at writing novels when I was teenager, I’ve learnt that I tend to do my best writing when I’m writing either short stories and/or novella-length fiction. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn through simple experience and failure.

Another way to work out more about yourself is just to follow your feelings and your instincts. If you’re fascinated by a particular type of fiction or art, then try to make some of it yourself and see how it feels. If the experience doesn’t feel as great as you expected, then either move on to something else or try adding something from another genre that you like. However, if the experience feels more like fun than work, then you’ve learnt something about yourself.

Finally, if you really don’t know that much about yourself creatively, then just take a look at your favourite things. You’d be surprised at how much you can learn about your artistic and/or literary sensibilities just from looking at the things that you really love. Although most artists and writers don’t really understand all of their influences until after they’ve been influenced, you’d be surprised at how much you can learn about yourself from just looking at the things that have the most impact on you.

For example, the largest influences on my high-contrast art style include cool things that I loved when I was a teenager (and still do) such as the movie “Blade Runner” (with it’s gloomy settings and neon-lit streets) to Derek Riggs’ excellent cover artwork for many of Iron Maiden’s albums. These were things that I loved long before I really considered myself to be an artist and it’s only within the past couple of years that I’ve realised just how much of an influence they’ve had on my art.

Likewise, the influences on my writing include things like the ultra-gruesome second-hand 1970s-90s splatterpunk novels that I eagerly read when I was a teenager, to the William Gibson cyberpunk novels (which use a very intense and fast-paced narrative style) that I enjoyed during my late teens and early twenties.

These are just a few of the ways that you can learn more about yourself as a writer and an artist, but if you want to produce things that both you and other people think are cool, then you’re going to have to learn where your strengths lie.

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂