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3 Personal Health Questions to Be Sure Your Writing Genre is a Good Fit

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What genre do you use to create stories? Have you ever considered what genre you could never bring yourself to write? That’s this month’s question being discussed by the writers of the Insecure Writers Support Group Blog Hop.

I thought this was going to be a super easy answer. And I was wrong.

Why?

Some genres stand out as obviously bad choices for a particular writer. For me, the idea of writing horror makes me cringe, bringing back childhood memories of many sleepless nights after watching a horror movie.

But there are other genres that sound good on the outside, yet create more insidious problems for authors over the life of the project. For example, I’ve known writers that put months into a project, then confess that one of the subject matters has mentally and emotionally damaged them to the point of not being able to finish the manuscript.

Woman with long brown hair and blue blouse looking thoughtful with a large question mark near her head

So, how can you be sure you won’t end up in that position?

Knowing ahead of time is key

Writing is a long, long process. From the time of your first brainstorm to the very last edit (and even after that!), your genre, the themes, and the plot will be with you. We live, eat, and sleep while constantly thinking about our scenes, characters, plot points and twists. We immerse ourselves in the world we create.

But what if that world is subtly (or not so subtly) toxic to our emotional or physical well being? What if it digs up our own weaknesses or bad memories that we’d rather not swim around in for months (or years). What if we don’t know until it is too late?

Hey- if even Stephen King can confess that he scared himself while writing The Shining, it could happen to any of us.

The risk of writing what you love to read

Authors often write in a genre they love to read. After all, the stories we read can be such an inspiration for writing. But loving to read a genre is completely different than writing it. When we read, we can take a break when needed, set the book down and go about our other business of the day. But when we write, we live the story, morning, noon, and night for months.

For example, you may absolutely LOVE memoires, but most of us have at least some emotional challenges in revisiting our past. (Some of us have a closet full of skeletons). If you choose this genre, can you handle being that close to your past?

Thrillers are very popular. Being on the edge of your seat with a page-turning, adrenaline rushing plot can be a fun read. But writing it? Can you handle being in the headspace of your bad guy? Can you immerse yourself into his world and mind deep enough to write the story, without creating your own sleepless nights as the protagonist’s twisted goals come to the forefront?

Yellow clipboard with a pencil laying on top with check marks for assessing the health of genre choice

3 personal health elements to assess before writing in a genre

When choosing your genre, make sure you’ll be able to handle what you’ll put yourself through, while writing the story. Look at the obligatory scenes that readers expect in that genre, look at the kinds of devices you will need to employ, think about how you will need to fully understand your character’s motivations and thoughts. Then consider the potential impact of those on the following:

  • Emotional health
    • Can you emotionally handle what you will be exposing yourself to over, and over again? Check out these tips on writing emotionally difficult scenes. You also may need to consider shoring up your emotional reserves before writing your story. Check this quick read for tips to refuel your emotional endurance tank.
  • Psychological health
    • Think about how this kind of story line and character building will impact you psychologically. Will you become depressed? Will you have trouble sleeping? Will you be afraid in your home alone at night?
  • Physical health
    • Dredging up old memories or scaring yourself with your own story line can lead to insomnia, depleting your energy reserves for day-to-day life and impacting your immune system. Emotional and psychological stressors impact your overall physical health, as explained in this review from the American Psychological Association.

As I mentioned, I know I wouldn’t be able to tackle a horror story. Even a psychological thriller would be a difficult leap for me (although I love reading these!). I still have flashbacks to sleeping with the lights on after watching horror movies as a kid, and checking under my bed and in the closer for monsters. (This may or may not have gone on until college, also!) I’ve steered clear of watching horror movies to this day as a result.

How about you?

What genre could you never write? Add to the comments below, then head over to IWSG to see what other writers are saying and make some new connections.

Thanks to this months’ blog hop co-hosts: Kim Lajevardi, Cathrina Constantine, Natalie Aguirre, Olga Godim, Michelle Wallace, and Louise – Fundy Blue!

Click here to see the all 130 blogs from other authors in the IWSG community. Now, THAT’S a lot of support. (Powered by Linky Tools)

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8 Comments

  1. What a thoughtful and informative post, Miffie! I appreciated your approach to the question, because it’s true we live with our characters and the subject matter of our writing so intensely. Stephen King’s “The Shining” scared me too. I’m actually glad he was scared, because I’ve never gotten that book or the movie out of my mind. I’m actually writing a memoir, and it is taking me a very long time because I have to deal with things that happened in my past. It’s difficult, but worth it. Have a good one!

  2. Very good points. I couldn’t be in the head of the bad guy, which eliminates some genres. Or at least some stories. I could do horror but probably more of the ghost or monster type than serial killer.

    1. I didn’t think about the ghost type of horror story. That might be a possibility for me, but I’m thinking it would end up being a “Casper the friendly ghost” kids book. LOL. Thanks for dropping by Alex.

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