Sylvester Stallone and Crossing Genres

There seems to be a lot of discussion lately about whether it’s a good thing to write multiple genres as an author. Is it better to seek out the wider audience by hitting several genres, or to stay loyal to your followers by continuing in the same genre you succeeded with?

So let’s talk about Sylvester Stallone.

I have no love of Rocky or Rambo or The Expendables or really anything he’s done, with one exception. In 1991, he was in a movie called Oscar. Hilarious. I quote it incessantly. (Sorry, Boss!) One of my favorite comedies of all time.

There are others who think it’s utter ridiculousness and would rather spend their time watching what I would term visual torture. I have my preferences, you have yours, they have theirs.

What does this have to do with writing?

There are always going to be people who won’t like your work. It’s the occupational hazard of being an author. If you change genres, there will inevitably be people who say you should have stuck with your original, even those who say you have no business straying outside of your genre. Jane Austen herself complained, “Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones.–It is not fair.–He has Fame & Profit enough as a Poet, and should not be taking the bread out of other people’s mouths” (from a letter to Anna Austen, September 28, 1814). If Sir Walter Scott couldn’t avoid getting lambasted for changing genres, I’m afraid you probably don’t have a chance.

So?

You, as an author, are not writing for readers, agents, publishers, editors, or anyone else. You are writing because you have a story inside of you that has to be told. Don’t forget that. The second you start writing for someone else, your writing will take a dive faster than Spiderman 3.

Should you write in various genres? Certainly not if you’re doing it for the sole purpose of garnering a wider audience. But if you’ve got a story and it just happens to be in a different genre from what you’ve previously written, go for it! Give it to the world and be proud that you were able to get another world of characters and places and relationships and rules out of your head and onto the page.

What do you think? Do you write in several genres? Do you read books of various genres from the same author? Are you going to go watch Oscar now because I told you it was amazing?

Proud, Prejudiced, and . . . Lovable?

I’ve read Pride and Prejudice twice, both times going into it with the intention of hating Mr. Darcy. After all, why would anybody like the guy? He’s arrogant, tactless, and altogether unpleasant. But both times, I closed the book with a wholehearted love of that stiff, prickly Englishman.

This time, I picked it up to find out just how Jane Austen managed to make thousands of women, young and old, swoon for a complete jerk, especially when there’s the oh-so-perfect Mr. Bingley at his side.

Here’s the thing about Bingley: he’s boring. So boring. He’s handsome and kind and friendly; he’s already where he’s supposed to be. And he’s kind of a dope. Totally clueless about his psycho sisters. Clueless about Darcy. Clueless about Jane.

Darcy has great flaws. He’s insufferably rude, with no tolerance for anyone but himself, his family, and Bingley. But nobody would love Darcy if that were all the book was about. He gets startled out of his complacent jerkhood by a pair of fine eyes. He fights it, long and hard; and even when he gives in, it’s utterly without grace. When you finally begin to see the goodness buried deep inside of him, it’s certainly not before he’s a smooth talker. It’s because he acts, because he does everything in his power to protect a hopelessly silly girl just to see Elizabeth’s worries eased.

We love Darcy because he wins. He’s crippled by his own weaknesses, but he gets past them. He lets go of his pride. He changes.

So what are your characters’ flaws? How do they get past them? What motivates them to change?