Terrible Tips Tuesday: Stay in Your Lane
In this post, blog writer extraordinaire Briane Pagel discusses how pretty much every role Tom Hanks and Harrison Ford play are the same. That is that they each stick to certain types of roles for the most part. In Ford’s case it’s kind of obvious. I mean Han Solo and Indiana Jones are pretty much the same type of dude. Tom Hanks is far less obvious, but the analysis does make sense.
Anyway, this would seem to be a bad thing. We’re always being told that variety is the spice of life and that diversity is great. After all, we live in the Great Melting Pot, right? So it would seem that limiting yourself to certain types of characters is not the way to go.
But I disagree with that. If you can do something well and make money off of it and people aren’t tired of it yet, then keep on doing it. Specialization is part of the natural order in the modern world anymore. Heart surgeons don’t on a whim start doing dentistry and vice versa. Could you imagine if your auto mechanic got bored with that and decided to start doing people’s taxes? There’d probably be an epidemic of audits.
Of course there are a few “Renaissance Men” (and women) out there, but most of us are lucky if we’re good at one thing let alone at several things. So if we find that one thing, it’s best to just keep on doing that until we can’t anymore.
If you’re wondering what this has to do with writing, here it is. If you really like one genre or one world or one character, there’s no shame in continuing with that for as long as possible. If you like writing romance, then keep doing it. If you like your fantasy world, keep it going. If you like your hero (or heroine) then keep things going for him/her as long as you can.
Because just like all of us are lucky to have one talent, in writing we’re lucky if we have one genre we’re really good at. Stephen King has horror, Grisham has legal thrillers, Danielle Steele has romance, and so on. Even deeper than that, Tolkein has Middle Earth, Lewis has Narnia, Rowling has Potter, and Meyer has Twilight. They were all lucky enough to find that one world they were really good at writing and it paid off for them.
Another great example of this is Terry Pratchett. His Discworld series is at almost 40 books since 1982. If you do the math, you know that’s more than 1 per year! He’s done a few other side projects, but he’s kept the Discworld series going all this time. He was smart enough to realize that was his bread and butter and wasn’t dumb enough to destroy it to move on like Douglas Adams did with the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novels.
You’d think that after all these years there’d be a serious drop off in quality, but at least in my mind there really hasn’t been. That’s because Pratchett was also smart enough not to paint himself into a corner. The Discworld keeps evolving, adding new technologies and characters so that it remains fresh. It’s the same way “The Simpsons” has managed to stay around for 22 years.
So what I’m saying is to find what you like and what you’re good at and stick with it. So long as you don’t hem yourself in too tightly, you can make it last the rest of your life without sacrificing the quality. Think of it like a marriage. After you’ve found “The One,” you find ways to keep things lively without destroying the whole thing. (Though in today’s society most people just get a divorce.)
Don’t listen to that voice that says you need to do something different or something more serious. That’s what led to Garth Brooks making an alternative album and Snooki “writing” a novel.
Thursday I’ll get into literary first loves, which would have been more appropriate on Valentine’s Day…