Three More Reasons Why Reading Regularly Is Important For Writers

Although I’ve talked before about the famous advice (summed up most pithily by Stephen King) about the importance of reading regularly if you’re a writer, I thought that I’d look at this topic again since I’ve been thinking about some more of the useful things it can do for authors. But, since I’ll be talking a lot about inspiration (and copyright) here, I should probably give the obligatory “I am not a lawyer” disclaimer right now.

1) It widens your palette: The more fiction you read by more different authors, the more interesting and varied your stories will be. Often, this won’t be blatant or obvious, but it’ll often allow you to add all sorts of subtle stuff to your story that you might not have even thought about including before. Every book you read leaves a small trace in your imagination and expands your own personal definition of what a story is and what sort of stuff it can include.

So, the more books you read, the wider your “palette” will be when it comes to crafting original story ideas of your own or even working out how to create a particular effect or mood in any one part of your story.

All creative people are inspired by everything that we have ever read, watched, seen, played, heard etc… Originality comes from having a wide enough range of these things that an instinctive, well-chosen combination of general elements, themes, stylistic pointers etc.. from all of these things (but NOT highly-specific copyrightable details, because that is plagiarism) turns into something that the reader has never quite seen before. So, the more books you read, the wider the palette you’ll have when creating your own stories and story ideas.

2) “I wish I could have written that!”: If you read regularly, you’re going to have this reaction. You’ve just read an absolutely amazing book and you think “I wish I could have written that!“. Of course, if you’re either still in the early stages of learning how to write fiction, haven’t read that much or don’t have enough ideas of your own yet, then this will probably result in you writing some non-commercial “fan fiction” that uses the characters, settings etc… from the book you’ve just read.

Of course, if you’re a bit more experienced and, more crucially, have read quite a bit then you’ll probably think of examples where other authors have clearly had these moments but done something a lot more imaginative with them. After all, they wanted to write a “proper” book that they could publish and sell. Not only couldn’t they directly copy the thing that inspired them (because of copyright law and all that…), but they also then did something different with it that was much more in tune with their own imagination, sensibilities, interests etc…

Reading a lot of books (and, even better, reviewing them) makes you think about books on a more technical and thematic level. It gives you the ability to work out exactly what inspires you so much about a book and exactly what elements set your favourite type of book apart from the rest. It allows you to refine this definition through seeing lots of books that you do and don’t like. And when you’ve worked out what all of your favourite books by different authors have in common, then you have the beginnings of a good story idea that you’ll be really inspired to write.

Of course, you also need to know yourself. You need to, through experiences, introspection, daydreaming and – of course, reading, watching etc… lots of stuff, have a very good understanding of your own imagination. Since, although you might have your “all my favourite things have this in common!” idea, you still need to tailor-make it into something that only you can write. You need to use it as a skeleton to put all of your stuff on top of.

Yes, your final story will (and should, if you want to avoid copyright problems) be fairly different from the story that initially made you think “I wish I could have written that!” But, it’ll be something better. It’ll be an interesting, unique story that will probably make other people think “I wish I could have written that!”.

3) Finding your writing style: The more you read and write, the more your own distinctive writing style will evolve. And, yes, this another reason why reading a lot – especially reading lots of different authors – matters so much.

Reading a lot exposes you to lots of different writing styles and, if you’re new to writing, you’re almost certainly going to spend time copying your favourite ones (for example, when I was 17, virtually every story I wrote sounded like either Conan Doyle and/or Lovecraft). Although these stories will be second-rate imitations of your favourite writers, they are still important! Because, when you’ve done this enough times, when you’ve read enough different writing styles and “tried out” a few of them, your own unique style – a combination of all of them in varying proportions- will begin to emerge.

So, not only is reading a lot (by different authors) important for developing your own writing style, but it also shows you that styles that you might have written off as “boring” or “annoying” can actually work well. For example, when I got back into reading regularly a little over a year ago, I tended to focus slightly more on books that were written in a fast-paced, informal way because this was fun to read. In fact, I even started to notice how formal the writing in a lot of older 1880s-1990s books I read when I was younger were and, for a while at least, I thought that formal narration was a “bad thing”. Old-fashioned, dull, slow-paced etc…

Then I started to notice how these types of slow-paced, formal writing styles allowed for a lot more depth and atmosphere (something only noticeable when you’ve read several informal, fast-paced books and then read a formal one). Then, more importantly, I started practicing and experimenting with writing at length again (after dabbling with short stories). And I tried to write fast-paced thrillers, written in a punchy, informal style that was just like the thriller novels I really enjoyed reading.

After a while, these stories felt limp, empty, repetitive, boring and/or monotonous to write. All of these fast-paced stories failed in one way or another. It was only then that I remembered that, yes, I know how to write formal narration (eg: all of that practice with writing in the style of Conan Doyle, Lovecraft etc.. when I was younger and all the practice I’ve had writing these articles) and that reintroducing some of these “slow-paced” elements to my writing style would allow me to write much richer, deeper and more atmospheric stories.

So, yes, reading a lot will help you to refine your writing style into something unique and interesting that is both fun to write and to read.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Top Ten Articles – January 2020

Well, it’s the end of the month. So, I thought that I’d do my usual thing of collecting a list of links to the ten best articles about writing, reading etc… that I’ve posted here over the past month (plus a couple of honourable mentions too).

All in all, this month’s articles went reasonably well – even if, behind the scenes, creating them was a little bit slower and more erratic (due to being busy with other stuff) than usual. Still, thanks to a large enough buffer of pre-written articles (seriously, if you’re starting a blog, you need one of these!), it didn’t affect the posting schedule 🙂

In terms of reviews, there were less game reviews than I’d expected this month (“Doom II” WADs aside, the only game I reviewed was the excellent “Dreamfall: Chapters”) but this meant that I could review twelve novels this month 🙂 My favourites were probably: “Deathday” By Shaun Hutson, “Sunburn” by Laura Lippman, “Rosewater” by Tade Thompson, “Lair” by James Herbert and “The Damnation Game” by Clive Barker.

Anyway, here are the lists 🙂 Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles – January 2020:

– “Three Things To Do If Your Story Gets Stuck On A Mini-Cliffhanger
– “Four Things Writers Can Learn From 1980s Shaun Hutson Novels
– “Three Things That Writers Can Learn From 1980s Clive Barker Novels
– “Four Reasons To Read Older Novels
– “Three Tips For Choosing A Book To Read Next
– “Four Tips For Adding Pop Culture References To Your Story
– “Four Thoughts About Writing Modern Noir Fiction
– “How To Use Signposting To Make Your Story Less Confusing
– “Why Dismissing The Past Is Bad For Creativity- A Ramble
– “Four More Tips For Making Your Thriller Story More Gripping

Honourable Mentions:

– “Using Themes And Focus To Innovate In Genre Fiction – A Ramble
– “Should Writers Take Influence From Films?

Three Tips For Choosing A Book To Read Next

Well, I’m not sure if I’ve written about this before, but I thought that I’d talk about choosing books to read. After all, there are literally millions of books out there and it is impossible to read everything that has ever been written. So, if you’re reading regularly, then you have to be selective.

However, whilst I’ll probably talk a bit about buying books, I also want to write this guide in a way that will also be useful if you just want to choose a book from the ones you already own or from a library etc… too. Plus, this guide is mainly aimed at people who are new to reading novels – since, if you’re an experienced reader, then you probably either know most of this stuff already or have worked out your own methods of choosing what to read next.

1) Try it out: I’ll start with the most obvious way of choosing a book. In other words, reading the first few pages of a book to see if it is something that you want to read more of.

Yes, this isn’t a perfect way to judge whether a book is worth reading (after all, some books only really get good after a few chapters or once you’ve got used to the writer’s style, and some books are only good at specific times in your life) but it’s a good first test and there’s no shame in putting aside a book that you’ve read a little bit of and looking for another one instead, if you’re going to get more out of another book.

After a while, you’ll get a knack for this kind of thing. For example, the novel I’m reading at the moment (“The Afterblight Chronicles: Kill Or Cure” by Rebecca Levine) wasn’t my initial choice of what to read next after I’d finished reading Clive Barker’s “The Damnation Game“. Originally, I’d planned to read an urban fantasy novel with an interesting title and a really cool-looking cover but, after reading the first few pages of it, I realised that I wasn’t really in the mood for it at the moment. So, I set it aside and went for a post-apocalyptic thriller novel instead.

So, although it takes a bit of practice and getting to know yourself, the best way to choose what to read next is simply to read the first part of a book and see if you want to read more of it. This is the best, and perhaps only, way to test out a book (and better than things like cover art, reviews etc..) that you are thinking of reading next.

2) Set rules: One good way to choose what to read next is to set yourself rules. However, these need to be rules that have a good practical reason behind them (so you’ll actually follow them) and should be made with the goal of increasing your own enjoyment. Making rules for the sake of showing off or anything like that won’t last for long and will result in a lot of bad book choices too. So, your rules actually have to mean something to you.

For example, when I got back into reading regularly a little over a year ago, I started by binge-reading eight thriller novels by Clive Cussler. By the end of the eighth one, I was so used to this author’s stories, writing style etc… that reading his books had gone from being exciting fun to being a dreary chore. Likewise, after reading the six main novels in Jocelynn Drake’s excellent “Dark Days” series within about a month, I found myself wishing that I’d spread these books out a bit more so that I didn’t feel the intense sense of loss that I did when the series was over.

So, I set myself some rules -in addition to my long-standing “If you enjoy it, read it. If you don’t, then don’t” rule – to avoid these problems.

To avoid getting bored with any one author, I initially started with a rule that I’d read a book by another author to the one I’d just finished reading and then, to avoid reading amazing book series too quickly, I also added a rule that I wouldn’t read more than one or two books by any particular author in the space of a month.

So, yes, making some rules can be useful for choosing what to read next. But, as I said earlier, you need to have a good practical reason for these rules because – if you don’t – you’ll either end up ignoring them or they will ruin your enjoyment of reading.

3) Serendipity: If you read a lot, then you’ve probably got a chaotic collection of unread books, including a few that you’ve forgotten about. If you haven’t got one of these, then look for a library or either a website or physical shop that sells second-hand books. The goal here is just to explore a collection of books until something catches your interest.

Earlier, I mentioned looking at second-hand books and this is important because these tend to contain a much greater variety of authors, genres etc… than shops selling the latest bestsellers do. They’re also cheaper too, which is good for building a personal library on a budget. Looking for interesting random books is a bit more difficult if you’re looking for second-hand books online – but things like going through several layers of recommendations (eg: “People who liked this book also liked…”) on sites that include them can give you something vaguely similar to it.

The advantage of doing this, rather than following a set reading list or anything like that (although these can be useful), is that it forces you to choose on the basis of quality. When you’re looking through a collection of random books then things like an author’s fame, awards etc… matter less than whether the book you’re looking at right now has an intriguing opening chapter, a fascinating blurb etc…

But, the key word here is “random”. So, this tends to work best when your book collection consists of chaotic piles of books (rather than neat shelves) or when looking through the shelves of a second-hand bookshop/charity shop.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Four Reasons To Read Older Novels

Well, I thought that I’d talk about some of the reasons to read slightly older books. This is mostly because, for most of my teenage years during the 2000s, I mostly read older and/or second-hand novels from the 1950s-1990s (in addition to the occasional 19th century/early 20th century novel or short story) and actually preferred them to modern books.

It also helped that, thanks to charity shops/second-hand bookshops, I was able to belatedly experience both the paperback horror boom of the 1980s and glimpse the golden age of sci-fi. These days, such books are unfortunately less common in these shops 😦

But, when I got back into reading regularly a year or so ago (after about 3-4 years of not reading much), I focused more on slightly more modern fiction. It was more readable, more fast-paced, more interesting in some ways etc… For a while, I actually preferred it to older fiction. But, every now and then, I’d find an interesting older novel or re-read one of the books I enjoyed when I was a teenager. And, since I’m doing this at the moment, I thought that I’d talk about some of the reasons to read older books.

1) They make you a better reader: When I started re-reading Clive Barker’s 1985 novel “The Damnation Game” a few days before writing this article, I was surprised at how formal and slow-paced the writing seemed to be. Then, I remembered reading this book for the first time when I was about nineteen or so. At the time, it had been just another ’80s horror novel – something I’d read for relaxation and enjoyment. I didn’t remember the writing being so elaborate or the pacing being so slow – it was just an “ordinary” older horror novel to me.

Of course, I read older books more frequently back then. So, I was more used to and well-practiced at reading this writing style. It was pretty much standard. I was, in short, a slightly better reader than I am today. Yes, some traces of this lingered in the vaguely formal writing style that I use for most of these blog articles ( I blame the many essays I wrote in school/college/university and discovering both Sherlock Holmes and H.P.Lovecraft at the age of seventeen for this. I actually find it easier/quicker to write non-fiction like this than to use a more informal style), but I was less used to this writing style than I was when I read older books more regularly.

Still, there are good reasons why modern books often use a more streamlined and fast-paced style. Not only is it even more relaxing and fun to read, but it also allows modern books to compete with the distractions of the internet, smartphones and other such things. Even so, reading older books still makes you a better reader – it’s kind of like a workout for your brain or something like that. Not only that, if you get used to reading older books (with their slightly slower and more complex narration), then modern books will seem even more thrillingly fast-paced by comparison too.

2) They’re a really interesting type of history: Older books, by their very nature, are dated. Sometimes, this can be a bad thing (eg: dated attitudes etc..) but sometimes it can be a good thing. In short, older novels are one of the most intriguing types of history out there. Not only are they a completely immersive glimpse into the past, almost like a type of time travel, but they often present a more “realistic” version of the past than stylised modern historical films, pop culture nostalgia etc… do.

After all, these books were the “modern literature” of their day. They were new once. They were written about the “present day” in the way that modern novels are. And this provides a much more complex, interesting, nuanced and unvarnished glimpse into the past than you might expect. Sure, you can sort of do this with other mediums – for example, watching the first series of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and various Beatles music videos will give you a highly stylised glimpse of the general “atmosphere” of 1960s Britain – but, because books force you to use your imagination, they are a bit more vivid and immersive.

Not only that, there’s also something cool about experiencing exactly the same type of entertainment as people in the past used to enjoy too. And, unless you’re reading a modern reprint, it’s also interesting to think that the book you’re reading right now is exactly the same book that someone twenty, thirty etc… years ago also enjoyed too.

3) They can surprise you: Although books are one of the oldest storytelling mediums out there, they can often be further ahead of their time than films, TV, videogames etc….

For example, Dashiell Hammett’s 1929/30 novel “The Maltese Falcon” feels much more “modern” than films of the time. Even Mickey Spillane’s 1947 novel “I, The Jury“, a pulp novel that has otherwise aged terribly, is written in a surprisingly fast-paced style that wouldn’t be entirely out of place in a modern thriller novel.

Then there’s the way that Shirley Jackson’s 1959 horror novel “The Haunting Of Hill House” includes humour, a group of “misfit” main characters etc… in a way that is at least vaguely reminiscent of modern horror films.

Then, there is science fiction. Whether it is the way that Neal Stephenson’s 1992 cyberpunk novel “Snow Crash” reminded me a lot of mid-late 1990s sci-fi films like “Ghost In The Shell” or “The Matrix”, the way that William Gibson’s 1996 cyberpunk novel “Idoru” almost seems to be a novel about the modern internet or even how Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” is a satire of the 1960s that was written in the 1930s, it is absolutely amazing when you find an old novel that is eerily ahead of it’s time 🙂

4) You don’t have to read “classics”: One of the most off-putting things about older books is the whole idea of “classics”. You know, the boring old novels that you were forced to read when you were in school. Most older novels aren’t like this!

Seriously, reading older novels doesn’t mean having to trudge through “the classics”. Yes, some 19th and 20th century “classics” are actually really good books (and are well worth reading for fun), but one of the cool things about old books is that there are so many of them – most of which end up being forgotten. In other words, you can find some absolutely brilliant hidden gems if you are willing to look.

Of course, this was a lot easier a decade or two ago, when lots of mid-late 20th century literature was easily available in charity shops and second-hand shops. Yes, finding and buying books is ten times quicker and easier using the internet, but it lacks what made shopping for older books in the 2000s so interesting – serendipity. The fact that you don’t know in advance what old books will be on a shop shelf and end up accidentally discovering all sorts of great authors, amazing novels etc… because of this.

I mean, my interest in 1980s horror fiction (which reignited my love of reading when I was a teenager) was sparked because I happened to find an old Shaun Hutson novel on a market stall when I was about thirteen. I hadn’t expected to find it there, but I did. So, yes, finding hidden gems was a lot easier a decade or two ago than it is now, but there are a lot of hidden gems out there if you read older fiction.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Old Fiction Vs Historical Fiction

Well, I ended up thinking about the differences between old fiction (written decades or centuries ago) and historical fiction (written in the present day, but set in the past) after both reading an interesting horror novel from the 1950s and finding this intriguing Youtube channel filled with old film footage from the 19th and early-mid 20th century.

One of the advantages of old fiction is immersion. Simply put, it is quite literally a direct window into the past and this can be quite surprising. For example, the “realistic” settings of a 1980s horror novel like Shaun Hutson’s “Breeding Ground” are a lot more understated and, well, believable than the stylised depictions of the 1980s you might see in a more modern historical novel, film etc…

Because writers in the past didn’t need to create a “historical” setting (because everyone back then already knew what the world looked like), you can get a much more vivid, detailed and unvarnished glimpse into the past when you read old novels. Not only that, you also get to see how people back then really thought about the world and how they saw the world.

Reading fiction from the past allows you to quite literally step back in time and see the past in a totally different way. After all, people back then read these novels for entertainment in the way that we watch TV shows, play computer games etc… these days. So, you are quite literally enjoying yourself in exactly the same way as someone many decades ago did. After all, although older novels might be reprinted, the basic technology behind them (eg: words on paper) hasn’t changed since they were first printed.

On the other hand, whilst the technology hasn’t changed, the English language has. This is one of the main advantages of modern historical fiction. In short, historical fiction is aimed at a mainstream contemporary audience, so it’ll be written in a way that is more accessible to modern readers. Usually the writing style will keep some historical flavour, but the narration will be a bit more streamlined and a bit less formal than older novels.

Yes, old-school formal narration adds atmosphere to a story but, if you’re just looking for a book to relax with, then modern historical fiction tends to be more readable. But, although older novels might sound “highbrow” these days, it’s important to remember that novels are usually written for the average reader at the time they were published. They were designed for ordinary people (who read more back then and were also used to slightly more formal language, slower pacing etc..) to enjoy. So, don’t let a novel’s age put you off. Older novels can sometimes be more readable than you might think.

Plus, modern historical fiction will often be more realistic than older fiction in some ways. Whilst older fiction gives the reader a direct glimpse into the past, it also had to contend with things like censorship (for example, most of the “grittiness” in Dashiell Hammett’s excellent 1929/30 novel “The Maltese Falcon” is implied rather than shown). So, modern historical fiction can often show things that may not have been considered “publishable” in the past.

Modern historical fiction also looks at the past from a more modern perspective too. Whilst this can result in a much more interesting variety of characters, more gripping drama and stuff like that, it can also suffer from the author underestimating the reader’s intelligence. In other words, some modern historical novels can have a tendency to lecture the reader about social ills that the reader already knows are bad. Then again, older novels can sometimes (but not always) include awkward or narrow-minded moments that haven’t aged well and are a bit cringe-worthy to read today. So, both things can be annoying in different ways.

On the other hand, older novels often tend to have more interesting cover art. Since many older novels were published before the internet was popular, having an eye-catching and dramatic cover that would stand out on bookshop shelves was even more important than ever. Likewise, before photo editing became something that people could do easily with computer programs, there was more incentive for publishers to use traditional paintings for their cover art. So, older novels just generally look better. Here are some examples of 1980s sci-fi/fantasy/horror novel cover art to show you what I mean:

Here are some examples of painted cover art from the 1980s. I wish this type of cover art was still standard these days.

Another advantage of older novels is their brevity. Because longer books were more difficult or expensive to publish in the past, older novels often tend to be a bit shorter and to the point. Yes, the formal writing styles used in the past mean that older novels will often take longer to read, but it is so refreshing to see novels that can tell a full, detailed story in just 200-300 pages 🙂 On the downside, this brevity is sometimes achieved by just reducing the size of the print.

On the other hand, one cool thing about modern historical fiction (and TV shows etc..) is that they can give vividness and life to the past in a way that older things might struggle with. After all, when watching the grainy greyscale footage on the Youtube channel I mentioned earlier, my mind instantly started “filling in the gaps” with things that I remembered from modern historical novels, TV shows etc… So, modern historical fiction can make the past seem a lot more vivid and alive.

Of course, the most interesting type of history-based fiction is historical fiction that was written in the past. This is often an interesting middle-ground between the two things and not only does it give us a glimpse of how people used to think about the past but, due to it’s historical setting, it bizarrely tends to age better than older fiction set in the “present day” of when it was written.

So yes, older and historical fiction both have their fair share of advantages and disadvantages. In short, if you want something readable, gripping and vivid, then read modern historical fiction. But, if you want something a bit more complex that also gives you a direct window into the past, then take a look at older fiction.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Top Ten Articles – November 2019

Well, it’s the end of the month, so I thought that I’d do my usual thing of collecting a list of links to the ten best articles (with maybe an honourable mention or two) about writing, reading etc… that I’ve posted here this month.

All in all, this month has been a bit of a strange one and although I quite like most of the articles I wrote, some of them also ended up going in very slightly more of a game-based direction since I got a modern refurbished computer at the time of writing many of them. On the plus side, this also led to non-“Doom II” related game reviews (eg: this one and this one) returning to this site for the first time in about six months or so.

Talking of reviews, I also managed to review twelve novels this month – with my favourites being “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” By Phillip K. Dick, “Virtual Light” by William Gibson, “N or M?” by Agatha Christie, “Blade Runner 2: The Edge Of Human” by K.W.Jeter, “Seventh Heaven” by Alice Hoffman and “Breeding Ground” by Shaun Hutson.

Anyway, here are the lists 🙂 Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles – November 2019:

– “Does Writing Style Matter More Than Plot?
– “Three Things To Do When You Can’t Use Your Favourite Writing Style
– “Imperfect Technology Is An Important Part Of The Cyberpunk Genre – A Ramble
– “Two Very Basic Tips For Reading A ‘Difficult’ Book
– “Four Reasons Why Spin-Off Novels Are So Awesome
– “When To Use Alternating Chapters In Your Story
– “Two Tips For Writing Stories That Can Compete With The Internet, Games, Phones etc…
– “Why Writers Need To Read Multiple Genres Of Fiction
– “Three Ways To Make Your Story More Readable
– “What Can A Computer Game Teach Us About Writing Horror Fiction That Focuses On One Type Of Horror?

Honourable mentions:

– “Three Reasons Why 1980s British Horror Fiction Was So Shocking
– “Is Simplification A Good Thing In Storytelling? – A Ramble

Why Writers Need To Read Multiple Genres Of Fiction

Although I’ve talked about why it’s important to read more than one genre of fiction before, I ended up thinking about it again whilst watching a music video. It was a video for a modern heavy metal song called “Afterlife” by Metalite and I noticed that, like with another modern metal band called Rage Of Light, the song contained elements from the trance/electronica genres.

Surprisingly, this really works. Both genres of music are fairly energetic, not to mention that the “colder” sound of the synthesizers goes really well with the “warmer” sound of the guitars. Yet, this awesome innovation couldn’t have happened if the musicians had only listened to nothing but heavy metal music. But, what does any of this have to do with writing?

First of all, I should probably repeat the old advice about reading and writing. In other words, if you’re writing fiction, then you also need to read it regularly too. Not only will this give you direct experience of being a reader, which will help you to see your own fiction from your reader’s perspective (eg: things like pacing, flow etc..) but it will also teach you all sorts of techniques that you probably won’t find in a writing guide. It’ll show you what does and doesn’t “work” in stories (yes, even terrible novels can be educational) and it just generally makes you a better writer.

But, what does this have to do with reading several genres of fiction? After all, if reading regularly makes you a better writer, then why shouldn’t you just read your favourite genre of books?

If you only read one genre of fiction, then the fiction you write will be limited to everything that has already been done in that genre. All of the writing techniques you use will be ones that you’ve seen in a limited number of novels. The type of plot that you will write won’t be too different to the general story types in that genre. Your characters will be similar to other characters in the genre. Your story might still end up being really good, but it won’t be the kind of outstanding, memorable thing that will end up inspiring other writers.

On the other hand, if you read several genres of fiction, then you’ll be exposed to a much wider variety of characters, you’ll see writing techniques that you haven’t encountered before and you’ll spot things that you really love and think “how can I add this to my favourite genre?“. In short, you’ll have a much wider range of inspirations and experiences to draw from when you are writing your story. And, this will result in a more interesting, original and compelling story.

But, how does this work in practice?

To give you an example, take a look at a zombie novel from 2009 called “Patient Zero” by Jonathan Maberry. Although this novel contains all of the stuff you’d expect to see in a zombie novel, one interesting change is that it is written and structured like a mainstream thriller novel. Even the main character is a bit more like someone you’d see in a novel by Lee Child, Clive Cussler, Matthew Reilly etc… than the typical “ordinary person” main character you’d usually find in a zombie novel.

Although this experiment doesn’t work perfectly (since the thriller elements reduce the horror slightly), it makes for a really interesting and memorable novel. It also allows the story to have a slightly more innovative plot too. Instead of the usual story about people trying to survive in a zombie apocalypse, this novel is a much more fast-paced story about a secret team of elite soldiers trying to stop bio-terrorists from causing a zombie apocalypse. It’s a small change, but it is the sort of thing that you probably wouldn’t think of if you only read zombie fiction.

To give you another example, take a look at P. N. Elrod’s 1990 novel “Bloodlist“. This is a hardboiled “noir” crime story set in 1930s Chicago, but with an interesting twist. The main character is a recently-turned vampire.

This automatically makes it more interesting than both the average vampire novel and the average hardboiled crime novel. After all, not only has the main character got to deal with being a vampire, but he’s also got to investigate a series of mysteries (starting with finding out who murdered him when he was human). It is the kind of creative idea that Elrod could only have because she’s read stuff in both of these two genres.

So, if you are writing fiction, then remember to read more than one genre of fiction. It will result in much better and more interesting stories.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂