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Don't Be a Genre Zombie

From a blog for

We novelists are advised, ad nauseam, to; choose an extant genre or sub-genre, read manically in our chosen domain, and then give birth to books eerily similar to others we've just read. Isn't this classic zombie behavior, creepily using the brains of others for our own creations? But, isn't this the path to commercial and financial success as well? Probably not, unless you can surpass authors who are already well established, well known in your target genre. Worse than the lack of sales is the resultant loss of self as a writer, as being a genre zombie sucks the vitality from the reasons we write, from our joie de vie, from our very being.

Living, breathing novelists enjoy the electrifying, intense, painful process of writing; inventing alternate realities, dreaming up new characters, crafting unique plots, presenting vivid descriptions, bringing exciting action and passionate romance to life on the page. Genre zombies resurrect other authors' published concepts to a second or third life, reliving the same-old, same-old. How many police procedural mysteries, teen-aged vampire novels, gothic romances, outlandish thrillers, or dystopian futures can be written without resuscitating moldering, un-dead concepts, plots, and characters?

Instead, consider the established popular genres as a living stock of available parts. Delve into the lab on your computer screen and build yourself a new construct in your manuscript. Vampires in space! Chick lit from the guy's viewpoint! A sci-fi murder mystery! A literary novel with a real plot! All these and many more can be made extant, created, breathed into life. Get your writing life-blood flowing. Let imaginary lightening strike your new creation. For example, in my latest book, The Pilot; Fighter Planes and Paris, I invented the aviation romance novel, set in Paris, of all places, but with air combat and torrid romance spread across the skies of time.

Will this literary gene-spicing process make you rich and/or famous? Again, probably not, but when you look in the mirror, you'll see a real, live author, not a genre zombie. You just might inject life into a new literary creature, a previously unknown replicant, as I did, then you can watch others try to resurrect your ideas.

Now, to start my next genre-ignoring novel:

"It was a dark and stormy night........"

Ed Cobleigh is the author of The Pilot: Fighter Planes and Paris, and War for the Hell of It; A Fighter Pilot's View of Vietnam.

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