In my last post, we talked about voice and how we tend to write the same types of characters, premises, and themes over and over. That’s not a bad thing. Those stories resonate with us as writers.
Similarly, there are stories we would never write. Stories might be so against our internal grain that if an idea along those lines occurred to us, we’d immediately try to turn the concept around. Or the idea would be like a road to nowhere, and we’d dismiss the idea out of hand.
For example, if we’re drawn to strong heroines, we probably wouldn’t write a doormat type. If we enjoy rooting for the underdogs in stories, it’s doubtful an idea to make a bully into a hero would appeal to us. Or if we write about the power of love, our muse is unlikely to nag us to start a story where everyone dies miserable and alone.
Just as we can learn about ourselves as writers by studying what stories we tend to write, we can learn about ourselves by figuring out what we won’t write. Those limits might echo the stories we don’t enjoy reading, or plot points that squick us out, or situations against our moral code, and sometimes, a premise simply doesn’t appeal to us as a writer.
I’ve read countless stories with love triangles, but I’m unlikely to ever write a story with a straightforward triangle of two heroes and one heroine. In YA, where the young heroine often shouldn’t make long-term commitments, triangles can work. However, in adult stories, the heroine comes off in too many love triangles as flighty or unable to make up her mind.
Even worse for me are the triangles where a heroine faces off with another woman for the hero’s affection. I can’t stand reading stories where there’s a feeling of competition between the heroine and any other woman. Can. Not. Stand. Them. So writing them? No, the chances of me writing a story along those lines are nil and none.
By analyzing my “won’t write” boundaries, I learned I have no interest in writing jealousy. Part of the reason for that has to do with my genre. I write paranormal romances and paranormal stories with romantic elements. The hero and heroine are supposed to be perfect for each other, and that doesn’t leave much room for a third party. Jealousy is angsty, not sexy or romantic.
The other part of the reason has to do with my personal reaction to jealousy. I hate experiencing such an ugly emotion. (Yes, I realize the irony of describing my reaction to one negative emotion by embracing “hatred,” another negative emotion.) So I avoid jealousy at all costs in my life. The last thing I want to do is explore that emotion for a story.
Sometimes, the things we won’t write can become as much a part of our brand as the things we do write (think about inspirational romance authors). Readers grow to trust us for our boundaries. That means if they see an “iffy” element in a back cover description, they might trust that we’ll handle it with intelligence and sensitivity, because they know we wouldn’t write about it any other way.
This goes back to my post about not exploiting our brand in a bad way. We should recognize what makes up our brand, both in what we do and in what we don’t do. If we don’t want to lose readers, we have to honor our brand. We can change the limits of our writing (look at Anne Rice’s many reinventions), but there are risks.
One thing I try to point out with all my posts about branding is to be aware of the impression we create. If we’re aware of the messages we’re sending, we can ensure they match what we want others to think about those intangible confines of our work. And if others want to limit us too much, that doesn’t mean we can’t branch out, but maybe it means we have to tweak our message to broaden others’ impression of us.
Are there stories you won’t write? Why won’t you write them? Do you avoid reading stories along those lines as well? Can you think of any authors where you know their boundaries? Have you ever lost trust in an author because they broke the limits you thought they had?Pin It