Be Positive about Negative Capability

As part of our shared journey through the realm of fiction writing, let’s explore a few rooms within a stately mansion belonging to the English romantic poet, John Keats. In particular, what did he mean by the term negative capability, and how does it relate to creative writing?

photo By William Hilton – National Portrait Gallery: NPG 194

Nearly two centuries ago, on December 21, 1817, Keats wrote a letter to his brothers where he mentioned negative capability:

“…at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously—I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason—Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. This pursued through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration.”

That may be confusing, but here’s what I think he means—If you want to be a great writer, be willing to:

  • delve into the essence of your characters (or objects, like a Grecian Urn),
  • shed your preconceived world-view,
  • abandon any search for meaning or the urge to fit things into a logical structure, and
  • accept any mysteries and ambiguities you find without trying to resolve them.

Keats praises Shakespeare for the Bard’s ability to show us his characters, through their speech and actions, as they would be, without the author’s heavy hand fitting everything into a coherent whole. Keats criticizes Samuel Coleridge for starting with a philosophical vision and fashioning poetic characters to illustrate that vision.

Why did Keats call this approach ‘negative capability?’ The Wikipedia entry offers an electrical explanation. However, I believe Keats was saying that a true poet should negate her own capability (to make judgements; detect patterns; deduce from, or induce to, general principles) and instead immerse herself in the object of study and absorb all that is there, with all its contradictions and inconsistencies.

For those of you still stuck on the word ‘Penetralium’ in Keats’ letter, let me digress a moment. The word refers to a building’s innermost part, like a temple’s sanctuary. By extension, it can mean the secret inner essence of a person—the soul. Keats thought in terms of rooms of the mind, as illustrated by a letter he wrote, which is cited in the Wikipedia article: “I compare human life to a large Mansion of Many Apartments…”

For another description of negative capability, see this video with author Julie Burstein, especially from 1:00 to 1:25. Also, check out this post at Keats’ Kingdom, and this one by Dr. Philip Irving Mitchell of Dallas Baptist University.

As for me, I take a nuanced view of negative capability, as it regards creative writing. I agree writers should empathize with their characters, to know them as directly as possible. That keeps all the characters from seeming to be slight variations of the author. I also concur writers should embrace “uncertainties, mysteries, doubts.” The worldview of any character and even the universe of the story itself don’t have to fit neatly together in every detail. The writer should approach the characters and story with an open mind, allowing things to develop as they would in their world, not necessarily in step with the worldview of the writer.

But where Keats asserts “the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration,” I suggest this applies to the story as a whole, not just one character. Characters are not works of art for a writer to portray, however empathetically, in isolation. They are part of a greater whole, the story, and that whole—with its plot, themes, style, setting, and characters—is the thing the writer must strive to optimize for reader enjoyment.

I hope you liked our visit to this mansion of John Keats’ mind. It’s time to continue with the rest of the tour, led by your literary tour guide—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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Are Your Stories Antifragile?

That’s no typo in this post’s title. Antifragility is a thing, and today I’m discussing the concept as it applies to fictional stories.

In his book Antifragile, Things That Gain From Disorder, Nassim Nicholas Taleb asks if there is an antonym of the word “fragile.” If there were such an adjective, he’d say it describes things that become stronger when stressed.

He doesn’t mean words like ‘robust,’ ‘tough,’ or ‘resilient.’ Those words describe things that sustain shocks without damage. He wants to describe things that improve their resistance to stress by being stressed. Lacking a ready word, he coined the term ‘antifragile.’

Can a story be antifragile? To answer that, we should consider the things that impose stresses on stories. These include criticism in negative reviews and mocking satire.

What would it mean for a story to become stronger? If it meant that the story became more widely read, more popular, with increased sales, then an antifragile story would be one that suffers negative reviews or even satire and yet its sales increase.

Are there any such stories? If I recall correctly, Nassim Taleb offered the more popular plays of William Shakespeare as examples. For four centuries, those plays have endured bad reviews and been mocked, but they are performed far more often and in more languages and formats than they were in Shakespeare’s time.

From an author’s point of view, antifragility seems like a wonderful property for a story to have, especially the increasing sales part, right? If you wanted to write an antifragile story, and perhaps lacked the skill of Shakespeare, how would you go about it? Are there tangible attributes of such stories? Is there a checklist to follow?

I hate to disappoint you, but there’s no checklist. Further, the only authors who really understand what it takes to make a story antifragile…well, they’re dead. That’s because stories don’t really demonstrate that property to the greatest extent while the author is alive.

Still, being me, I’ll take a crack at it, because I like a challenge. Here is my proposed checklist for making your stories antifragile:

  1. Create complex and compelling characters. They need to seem real, with strong emotions and motivations, with goals to attain, with difficult inner problems to surmount, and with bedeviling decisions to make.
  2. Appeal to every reader. That may be impossible to achieve in a single story, but in your body of work you should include characters of many types, in diverse settings. Include rich and poor, young and old, introvert and extrovert, city and country, etc.
  3. Explore the eternal truths about the human condition. You know many of these eternal truths—we’re born, we grow up, we have parents, we learn to relate to others and even fall in love, we have disagreements and conflicts with others, we become curious about the nature of our world, we deteriorate with age, and we die. When I say to ‘explore’ these truths, I don’t mean to write a philosophy book. Write a fictional story that entertains, but causes readers to ponder those deeper truths after reading it.
  4. Execute your story with style, flair, and creativity. Yeah, right. Simply do that. This one is hard to implement, but I’ll suggest some thoughts. Look for ways to turn a phrase well. Create a new word that English lacks but needs. Write in a manner that stands out, such that readers could identify your unique voice from a couple of paragraphs chosen randomly from your stories.

Okay, it’s not really a checklist where you mark off each item in turn: done, done, done. It’s more of a guideline with concepts to aim for. Who knows if it’s even accurate? After all, I’m not dead yet (as I write this), so I can’t possibly know.

Still, it’s intriguing to think that one day, readers may consider your stories to be antifragile, and when scholars trace it back, they’ll discover you learned how to do it from—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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Writing and the Black Swan

My question is, once you understand how the Black Swan relates to writing fiction, will you be so dejected that you’ll abandon any idea of becoming an author?

black swanNassim Nicholas Taleb wrote The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable and it was published in 2007. A statistician, the author was trying to get readers to think about low-probability events and our estimation of their risk.

He defined a black swan event as having three properties: (1) it is very rare, to the point of being almost impossible; (2) it has a huge impact on people, either positively or negatively; and (3) people do not (or cannot) predict it in advance, but after it occurs, everyone sees that it should have been predicted since it was obvious all the time.

By the way, Taleb chose the metaphor of a black swan because most swans are white, and black ones are very rare. In fact, people were convinced that all swans were white, until proven wrong. That’s part of Taleb’s point. If a rare event hasn’t occurred today, or yesterday, or for your entire life, you come to believe it cannot happen. Since black swans have a massive impact when they do occur, there is a huge difference between impossible and improbable.

I read the book about two and a half years ago, but I recall Taleb discussing success in writing as a black swan event. For our purposes, let us define success by the amount of money earned from writing. Success in writing, therefore, is rare, has a huge impact on a few writers, and is difficult to predict in advance but obvious afterward.

Taleb would conclude that if we could compile the relevant accurate statistics, the resulting graph would look like this:

black swan and writingThe vast majority of authors earn very little money, while very few earn a large income from writing.

Why is that? I believe Taleb would say that an author’s income is related to the popularity of his or her books. That popularity is determined by readers when they hear about the book, learn that their friends like it, and when they read it and recommend it to others.

People hear about books from various media outlets, so the media plays into book popularity. Luck has a role too, since poorly written books sometimes become bestsellers despite the writing quality.

Let’s say you’re an aspiring author, and let’s assume all the above is true. Does it depress you to know how much the odds are stacked against your success? Does it make you want to give up on your dream?

If you truly are writing for the money, there are things you can do to position yourself for the black swan. You can become really good at marketing; you can seek out (or pay for) media attention. You can practice your writing until you become more skilled at it.

No guarantees come with any of that, but your odds of success will improve a bit. The trouble is, you could strive for years, doing everything right, and still not achieve success because that intangible luck eludes you. That’s disheartening.

Alternatively, you could redefine what success means for you. You could decide you’re not after money, but seeking the pure enjoyment of writing, or the thrill of seeing your name in print. That’s a much more probable event, not a black swan at all.

Still, it’s my hope that the black swan of financial success from writing pays a visit soon, to both you and—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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When Good Authors Turn Bad

Arrogance is today’s topic. It seems to me that authors generally start out their career with a tentative and uncertain attitude, but sometimes become more conceited with time. Is this a bad thing? If so, is it inevitable?

No, I’m not naming names. If you follow any author blogs, you may have seen the pattern, and can think of examples yourself. You read an author’s early fiction books, or read their blogs or essays, and they seem unsure, qualifying their statements, admitting they might be wrong.

good - bad authorAt some point later, that same author gives more decisive, unqualified opinions. He or she makes some controversial statements, occasionally deriding some other authors, or publishers, or editors, or society in general, etc.

In the last phase, the author becomes insufferable. Conceited beyond measure, she or he has a provocative opinion on every topic. Protagonists in the author’s later books are always dogmatic firebrands, and they’re proven right in the books’ conclusions.

Why does this happen to writers? In my view, authors aren’t the only ones susceptible to it. The phenomenon of turning to snobbery occurs in every field, but is probably more noticeable for those in the public sphere, such as sports, politics, news, and entertainment.

My theory is that it’s part of human nature to believe your own hype. If you’re surrounded by people telling you how great you are, and you have statistics (book sales, blog followers, etc.) to prove it, you’re likely to start thinking you’re pretty special.

Is this egotism a bad thing? I have mixed feelings about that. The most important thing readers want from authors is well-written books. If that need is satisfied, readers can put up with a fair number and degree of personality quirks. There’s a saying that goes, ‘bragging’s okay if you can back it up.’

Of course, if we had our choice, we’d prefer our heroes not only super-competent, but also humble. But we’ll settle for the former, if that’s all we can expect.

Speaking of that, is it really too much to expect, that top authors display a bit of humility? Is it impossible to resist human nature, to retain some measure of unpretentiousness during your rise to fame and glory?

Of course it’s possible. There are many great authors who remain modest and unassuming, who resist the lure of becoming a pompous jerk. Such people earn extra credit points in our hearts. We’re comforted when we hear it said of our favorite authors, “He’s such a great guy in person,” or “She’s so down-to-earth when you meet her.”

The main thing, I believe, is what I mentioned earlier. Concentrate on writing well, on producing great prose. If you become famous for it, your personality won’t matter much. Should you change into an intolerable blowhard along the way, you might lose a few readers who care about such things, but those lost sales will be in the round-off error of the huge fortune you’re amassing.

What about me? If you look back over the span of my blogging and story-writing career, do I show the signs of turning into a stuck-up, opinionated braggart? Am I already there? That’s for you, my readers, to decide.

This is one of those blog posts I might regret later, at some future point when I’m a Famous Author being driven in my limo to my mansion while smoking a fat cigar I lit with a $100 bill. I’ll take that risk. After all, making bold, provocative statements is one of the most loveable traits of—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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I’ll Never Write As Well As They Do

It’s easy for your favorite authors to intimidate you. When you grow up enjoying reading, and when you study fiction by the world’s best writers in school, it’s natural to put them on a pedestal. They are geniuses, titans, specially gifted demigods with an ability beyond your understanding.

At some point, you might be tempted to try writing fiction yourself. Immediately you reject the notion out of hand. In your mind, you compare yourself to those great authors and dismiss the idea of creating any fictional work. Impossible. Laughable. Pretentious. You’ll never write as well as they do.

I’ve mentioned this phenomenon before, but I’d like to explore the problem in greater depth.

Just for fun, let’s give our intimidating scribblers some names. You have your own favorite, famous novelists in mind, but we’ll say that you idolize Bes Werdsmither, Gray Trighter, and Rhea Noun Dauther.

Okay, not the funniest puns, but they’ll do.

When I mentioned this issue in a previous blog post, I made two points:

  1. You can’t know today, before you begin writing, how you’ll eventually stack up against your imagined pantheon of Bes, Gray, and Rhea. Remember, all three of them started out as unknowns, too, like you are now.
  2. Even if you’re right, and you never end up writing as well as Bes, Gray, or Rhea, remember that there’s room in the world for lesser-known writers. You don’t have to aim for eternal fame or a mansion on your own island. You can still write your own stories, reach some readers, and make a little money.

Great writer comparisonEven though you worship Bes, Gray, and Rhea, I’d advise you not to try to imitate them, anyway. For one thing, why should readers read your copy-cat stories when they can purchase the real thing? Also, it’s best to allow your own inner voice to emerge, rather than attempt to channel some famed author.

Sure, you adore the characters, style, settings, and plots of Bes, Gray, and Rhea, but I suggest you strike out in a different, but related, direction. Write in their genre if your interests reside there, but make up your own characters, style, settings, and plots.

If you find some success as a writer someday, I assure you it won’t be because you copied someone else. It will be due to the separate and distinct course you charted, or the path your own muse led you along.

By the way, when your muse does whisper something outrageous (and she will), listen to her. She may implore you to write a story quite different from anything in the bibliographies of Bes, Gray, and Rhea. The muse might pull you in a strange and new direction you never imagined. Don’t ignore her. She’s your inner creativity, the voice of your soul calling you, so don’t hang up.

You can still enjoy novels by Bes, Gray, and Rhea, without dreaming of writing like those three. Your goal, one you should visualize, is to become the best author you can. It’s a process of continual improvement.

My personal geniuses, titans, and demigods are Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Heinlein. As readers of my blog know, my stories aren’t like theirs at all. I’ve taken off in a different direction, a unique course steered by—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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That’s Classic!

Today’s lesson is: how to write a book that becomes known as a classic. Good news—we can identify some attributes of classic literature. Bad news—no book becomes a classic in the author’s lifetime, so you won’t find out if your book made the list until after you’ve been dead awhile.

ClassicsI’ve blogged before about the attributes of good, quality short stories, but today’s question is about the few books that attain true classic status. These must pass a more stringent test.

Easy, but Unsatisfying Definition

Many people say that a classic is that which endures, stands the test of time, and which people still read long, long after the author is dead. In his book Antifragile, Hassim Taleb states that you can make a rough prediction about how long a book will remain in print. The average time a book will remain in print from this point on is equal to the time it has been in print so far.

To me, this definition of a classic, though true, doesn’t really settle anything. It begs the question, why do readers today still want to read this book? Let’s accept that a classic must endure, but I want to explore why this is so.

Other Folks’ Definitions

I’m not the first to knock on the door to this party; in fact I’m way past fashionably late. Many people before me have come up with great definitions of what makes a classic.

  • Italo Calvino says you can’t feel indifferent to a classic. That definition makes it a personal connection between book and reader. However, that’s not so useful to an author trying to write a classic.
  • Blogger Chris Cox builds on Mark Twain’s definition. There are two kinds of classics, those we’re embarrassed not to have read yet, and those we nag others to read. Funny, but again it concentrates on the reader-to-book connection.
  • The French literary critic Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve said the author of a classic “….has enriched the human mind…caused it to advance a step; who has discovered some moral and not equivocal truth, or revealed some eternal passion in that heart where all seemed known and discovered…who has spoken to all in his own peculiar style, a style which is found to be also that of the whole world, a style new without neologism, new and old, easily contemporary with all time.” This is closer to what I’m looking for—let’s hold those thoughts.
  • Goethe said it’s not a classic because it’s old, but because it’s forever new. I like that one.
  • Some blog commenters have said a classic had some impact or effect on the age in which it’s written. That may be true for most classics, but not all such books endure.
  • Others say a classic is that which is new or innovative in its time. But, again, it’s not clear to me why such books would necessarily stand the test of time.
  • Jonathan Jones, a writer for The Guardian, says a classic must be elastic. That is, it endures despite plagiarism, satire, criticism, etc. Hassim Taleb would hasten to add that such pummeling of a classic makes it stronger, more enduring, and to use his word, antifragile. I like this attribute too, but it’s more about the reaction to a book rather than the writing of it.

My Definition

Borrowing the attributes I like and rejecting the rest, here are my rules. A classic for the ages must:

  • capture its time
  • be well written
  • say something profound and permanent about the human condition

There you have it. Write your book that way, and it might become a classic someday. Something for your great-grandchildren to enjoy. Currently at work on a classic, I’m—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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November 2, 2014Permalink

Guess Who’s Author of the Week

Yours truly is the Author of the Week for Gypsy Shadow Publishing. For those of you who’ve been on the fence, somewhat undecided about purchasing one or more of my stories, this would be the week to buy one (or more). It’s a rare opportunity to purchase a book during the same period in which I’m Author of the Week. Very few people can say they’ve done that.

To celebrate the week, I am embarking on a world tour. Well, not physically, but virtually. For this whole week, I’m making this website available everywhere all over the world.

GSBannerBrdrFor this honor, I’d like to thank Gypsy Shadow Publishing, the company that has published a good number of my stories, all in the What Man Hath Wrought series. Among the company’s huge staff, CEO Charlotte Holley and Chief Editor Denise Bartlett deserve being singled out for special mention. Thanks to them, my rough manuscripts have become e-books of timeless prose with eye-seizing covers.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also express my gratitude to all those who’ve influenced me in one way or another, helping me achieve this level of accomplishment. This list includes my parents, my critique group, and my spouse. Thanks as well to you, my legions of eager readers. I couldn’t have done it without you.

I’ve let it become known around my household that being the GSP Author of the Week comes with certain privileges, certain reasonable expectations of being catered to. These expectations include freedom from common drudgery work, absolute quiet while writing, the appearance before me of the beverage of my asking within moments of my asking, the use of respectful forms of address (such as Your Most Illustrious Highness, Author of the Week), and a polite bow or curtsey when approaching my presence.

To my amazement, my announcements of these sensible forms of deference have been met with very little interest, and even less obedience. This I find curious, and I’m sure you do too. Ah, well, I suppose greatness comes with the responsibility to educate the less deserving, to increase their understanding of the grandeur and glory of me.  It’s true that genius often goes unappreciated in its own week.

And, yes, to answer the question uppermost in your mind, it is wonderful for all of us to be alive during the very time that I’m the GSP Author of the Week. Someday your grandchildren will sit in reverential awe while you relate the sheer excitement of it.

Now that I think about it, being Author of the Week is the sort of honor that could go to one’s head. During weeks when it’s bestowed on lesser authors, that might well be a concern. But my unsurpassed humility and matchless modesty combine to keep me from becoming, in the slightest degree, egotistical.

No, fear not. I’ll go on, unaffected by the focused adoration of the Earth’s billions. To all of you, I’ll be the same old, unassuming—

                     Poseidon’s Scribe, Gypsy Shadow Publishing’s Author of the Week






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Dreaming of Success

Do you fantasize about being a best-selling author?  If so, what form does your daydreaming take?  Are you being interviewed by a famous talk-show host?  Receiving a call from someone in Hollywood who wants to turn your story into a movie?  Throwing a huge book launch party?  Swimming through money in your mansion’s vault?

Dreaming of SuccessToday’s ramblings are about whether your Walter Mitty-type  flights of fancy are helpful or harmful.

First of all, I think such dreaming is normal.  It’s typical when a person embarks on any new endeavor.  It’s natural to wonder, “What if I turn out to be really, really good at this?”  My guess is that everyone considers this question whether they’re throwing a football, playing a piano, or writing a story.  After all, someone has to be the world’s greatest, and maybe it could be you.

Further, some experts see the practice of visualizing future success as useful, even necessary.  Sports trainers often urge players to imagine succeeding on the field or court.  However, I believe the focus of such training is on actual moves or plays while engaged in the sport; the players are not encouraged to dream about lofting trophies high in the air while confetti rains down.

If you’re a beginning writer who envisions instantly skyrocketing to the New York Times bestseller list, it’s important to understand that such stratospheric success is a low-probability thing.  The overwhelming majority of authors get nowhere near that.

However, I’ll be the first to admit that such literary victories, however rare, are possible.  In my view, though, if you do become a famous writer, it won’t be because you daydreamed about it first.

Here’s my list of ways you can know if your dreams of success have become harmful to you as a writer:

  • The fantasies take time away from writing.
  • You begin to see your visions as the measure of your success.
  • Fame or fortune becomes your sole goal, rather than becoming the best writer you can, or creating the best stories you can.
  • You become disappointed or frustrated when you can’t achieve the exact scene foretold in your dreams.
  • The dreams become a fixation, a dominant part of your life.

On the positive side, here’s my list of ways you’ll know that such dreaming is okay, or even helpful:

  • Your flights of fancy are occasional.
  • You see your daydreams as motivational and inspiring.
  • After your visualizations, you feel like writing.
  • You understand that your visions represent unlikely events, and you regard them as fanciful, innocent fun.

When the glittering fame and fortune of your imagination collides with the dreary reality of long, solitary hours spent writing followed by numerous initial rejections, it’s important that you learn certain things:

1.  You can enjoy writing for its own sake.  The goal is a well-crafted story, not any accolades that might ensue.

2.  Two of the prime factors determining whether you’ll be a well-known author are skill and luck.  You can work to improve your skill.  You can’t control luck.

So dream your dreams, novice writer, but keep a bit of perspective about the whole endeavor.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to try on my tux and practice my acceptance speech for the big award dinner.  Or perhaps that’s all in the mind of—

                                                    Poseidon’s Scribe

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Dear Ray Bradbury

I just had to write to thank you, thank you, for the great times, the pleasures of reading your work.  There’s no sense letting a little thing like your death in 2012 prevent me from expressing my gratitude, is there?

220px-Ray_Bradbury_(1975)_-cropped-Sorry, I haven’t read all your books and stories.  I’ve read less of your canon than I have of Jules Verne’s, Isaac Asimov’s, or Robert Heinlein’s.  But, oh, the few of your books I digested left lifelong mental imprints:  Something Wicked This Way Comes, Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, The Illustrated Man, Now and Forever, and The Martian Chronicles.  In high school, I read your short story, “The Flying Machine,” and my recollections of it inspired my story, “The Sea-Wagon of Yantai,” written decades later.

At one point, you declared you wrote fantasy, not science fiction.  In my view you blended the two.  You made science sound like fantasy.

Moreover, your flowing style of writing contrasted with that of the hard-science fiction writers.  Their stories conveyed a love of machines, of science.  Yours proclaimed a love of word imagery, of the magic of English, of poetic prose.

The authors of hard science fiction told me tales of technical detail.  You sang me stories of marvel and wonder.

I guess I’m trying to say that I write more like those other guys, but wish I could write like you.

On occasion, you related a particular memory from when you were about twelve.  At a carnival, one of the performers known as Mr. Electrico touched an electrical sword to your nose which made your hair stand out.  You claimed he told you, “Live forever!”

In a very real sense, Mr. Bradbury, you will.  Thanks again.

                                                            Poseidon’s Scribe

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December 22, 2013Permalink

The 7 Types of Genre Writers

Some time ago I stated there were two types of great writers—pioneers and giants.  What about all the writers who aren’t great?  Today I’ll expand on my pioneer/giant idea and discuss seven types of writers, as they apply to genre fiction.  I’m not going to list any authors here, but I’ll bet certain names will come to mind as you peruse each type below.

pioneer1.  Pioneers.  These are writers who start a new genre of fiction by themselves.  They discover it.  They often have difficulty finding a publisher initially, since the publisher doesn’t know what to make of a book that doesn’t fit established categories.  Such authors may never be known for the quality of their writing, but will always be remembered as the first to discover a genre.

Copier2.  Copiers. Authors in this category pretty much follow in the footsteps of the Pioneers.  They recognize a new, ripe genre and suspect it might appeal to readers; they don’t stray from ground already trod by earlier writers.  Their books need not be outstanding, just available right away, and designed to appeal to readers hungry for that genre.

formula3.  Formulists.  This type overlaps Copiers a bit, and consists of writers who use a standard plot and only a few basic character types, and stick with them in novel after novel.  Sometimes Formulists develop these models on their own, and sometimes they pick up formulaic plots and archetypal characters from others.  Often such authors can develop a loyal following that remains with them.

surveyor4.  Surveyors.  While the Copiers and Formulists ply their craft along well-traveled paths, the Surveyors are interested in exploring the far reaches of the genre.  They look to the boundaries, experimenting with stories that barely fit within the genre’s borders.

giant5.  Giants.  These are authors of great skill who begin writing in an established genre and make it even more popular.  It is these authors whom we look back on and identify them with the genre itself.

mixer6.  Combiners.  After a genre is well-established and explored, and perhaps starting to get a bit stale, Combiners come along to mix the genre with other genres.  Such books can take the form of mashups and be intended as humorous.  It’s possible for Combiners to end up creating new subgenres.

nostalgist7.  Nostalgists.  Some genres eventually run their course and die out, or at least trail off to a minimum.  Westerns seem to be headed this way.  Nostalgists can come along with books that harken back to the dying genre, attempting to revive it, perhaps with new twists.

I don’t mean to imply there’s anything wrong with any of these types of writers.  All are legitimate.  There’s room in the various genres for each of them, and they can all make money.

Which type of writer, you’re asking, am I?  At first I dabbled in various genres, responding to my muse’s whisperings.  Lately it seems I’ve written mainly in the Alternate History subgenre, and my stories focus on people’s interactions with technology.  I’d have to say I’m more of a Copier than any of the other types.  Maybe most authors are of that type.

My turn:  which type of writer are you, or which do you aspire to become?  In my listing, did I miss any types?  Leave a comment for—

                                                Poseidon’s Scribe

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December 15, 2013Permalink