I write fantasy and romance. I read fantasy and romance but I’d like to talk about why I read nearly all other genres of fiction and some nonfiction.
I love mystery and suspense. I don’t just enjoy the story, I study the way the author escalates tension, saddles the protagonists with setbacks and sets the reader up for surprises. I like when I get to the end, and my writer-self is awed by the clever way the plot zigzagged to the finale. When the ending is a surprise but the only logical explanation, the writer has created a masterpiece. I can learn from that. Have I ratcheted up the tension with every scene? Have I planted the seeds to grow a twisty vine that will blossom into the conclusion I want? Will my readers say, yes, I should have seen that coming?
A few times a month I pick up a book labeled literary fiction though I’m not entirely clear on what earns a book that title. When I read a book that has less external conflict and more emotional conflict and growth as the plot, I put in on the literary list. Again I study the techniques used by the writer. Do they use unique descriptions of character emotions? Do they delve into a twisted mind? What interesting take is there on family dynamics? Is there a new slant on society and its norms?
I have a few favorite authors of what some people call, ‘men’s fiction.’ These action heavy novels ran at a racehorse’s pace from one fighting scene to the next. Something is always happening. Heroes are in constant jeopardy, overcoming terrible pain, wounds and losing comrades in arms. Don’t forget all that information about weapons I can learn. Men’s fiction seldom has a ‘sagging middle’ because it’s one big slugfest from start to finish. I read with envy the fast pacing of those novels and try to insert some giddy-up in my novels.
While winding the lessons I learn from other genres into my own books, I hope to improve my writing but I also must follow the conventions expected in my chosen type. Romance readers expect a happy ending. That is not true in other genres like literary fiction. Epic fantasy readers expect good to win out over evil in the wide world. They expect heroes and heroines to rise and put the greater good before their own desires. Those conventions must be followed if I want loyal readers of the genres to become my fan.
As writers we need to read everything. We can learn from writers in other areas. What genres do you read outside the genre you write in? Do you read for pleasure only or to increase your knowledge and improve your craft? Do you write in more than one genre already?