Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Out of Genre

So, small town Utah where I live doesn't have a big book store. Or even a big library. And in the library, the YA section is even smaller. (Although the romance/erotica section is pretty big.) That means my options for new YA books are pretty limited.

I recently looked the the collection of books at our house and found a fairly large stack of books by John Grisham. I thought to myself: "Self, you've never read one of these. Everybody loves them. You've seen a movie or two on TV and thought they were pretty good. Give it a try." So I picked the top book off the stack. A PAINTED HOUSE.

I started to read. It wasn't too long before I realized that this book was not what I had expected. I kept thinking, "Where's the lawyers? The judicial system? The thriller/suspense action." Turns out, I had picked the one book in the pile that was a literary work instead of a suspense book. I don't think I could have picked anything further from my chosen genre if I tried.

So, the book follows a 7 year old boy through the rigors of cotton picking in the 50s. There's no real action to drive the story forward. It kind of plods along. I found myself reading 5 or 10 pages and putting it down for the rest of the day. It took me almost a month (which is unheard of for me), but I finished it a few nights ago. And in true literary style, the book didn't really end. It just kind of dropped off in the middle of the next thing that happens.

So, why am I telling you all this? I learned something reading that book. While it was definitely not something I would have chosen, I did want to see it through to the end. There was something about that 7 year old and all the secrets he encountered in the course of the story that kept me coming back. And while it wasn't sweeping, crashing world of a young adult novel, I cared about the characters. I could see the places and the people.

While I doubt I will ever write something truly literary, especially for an adult market, there's a lot that can be incorporated from reading and learning about literary works.

What about you? Have you read out of your genre? What did you learn by doing so?


Ashley Nixon said...

I feel that you have to read outside your genre as well as within your genre to be a good writer. I've read all sorts of books since my time in college, and while some probably hindered my writing ability (by being monotone and well...kind your creativity), many opened a new world and new ideas!

Great post! :)

Sarah Pearson said...

I'm just laughing at the fact that you managed to pick up what might be the only Grisham novel that doesn't have a court setting :-)

I read every kind of genre. Unfortunately, I think this might be reflected in my writing. It's hard to define some of my stories.

NiaRaie said...

I've been reading out of my genre (accidentally) lately, and I've enjoyed it more than I expected and more than I have in the past. It stretches you as a writer and opens a new world to you as a reader definitely.