Are you writing in the right genre?



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  • Are you writing in the right genre?

    Do you take time to make sure you're writing stories in the right genre that best suit your talents?

    I ask this because I'll see people post ideas that are more drama by nature -- but then they tend to be funny in posts and other ways. Or vice versa, write comedy and it's clear maybe they should be writing drama because that's how it reads on the page.

    What I'm getting at is that I think sometimes we get stuck. We either love horror or sci-fi or action or comedy and start writing it. And we may continue doing that for years and years w/o success... and at any point.. did we stop and consider -- wait maybe my best talents are in another genre?

    I like comedy. I've gotten positive feedback writing it, so I keep doing it. But irony my favorite genre is horror overall in films -- I wrote a few -- and so far I'm just not very good at writing them even if I can tell you what a good one is. I think it's because I want to add comedy to everything -- so I end up writing a horror/comedy.

    Just something to consider if you've been stuck for 5-10 years with no success. Maybe the genre you think you are good at is the reason you're not getting to that next level. Maybe you would be a great thriller writer, but someone told you when you were 22 how funny you are....

  • #2
    I had a recent revelation that I had been trying to mold my writing into classic, conventional Hollywood storytelling. It would be mostly me on the page, and then I'd have to add a high concept twist or a contrived Hollywood ending where you put a bow on it, and everything somehow works out.
    Then I reconsidered what I truly love... my Mount Rushmore...
    Kubrick, Scorsese, The Coens, and Tarantino. They do all kinds of different genres, but the common denominator was a black/dark comedy twist on the genre.
    That's what I love.
    So that's what I finally started writing. My first run at it, I wrote the full script in 19 days with no structuring and hardly any pre-planning beyond character archetypes and actors I had in mind. I think it's my best **** ever, and it's currently being read by a few big companies, so we'll see. But it felt organic and true, because it came from what I actually love about cinema.


    • #3
      I look at this issue with a different take.

      To me, a writer is either a drama writer or a comedy writer. That's it.

      No matter which of the two you are, you can still write a thriller, horror, action, sci-fi, or whatever movie. Obviously, you'll still have to master the conventions of those genres if you want to write in them, but your work will still ultimately fall within one of those two broader classifications that determine how the other genres will manifest themselves.

      That said, my whole writing style is centered around blending my brand of comedy with other genres while honoring the conventions of those genres, so I may be projecting a bit.

      I've also been writing for almost five years and still haven't landed a rep, so what I say should probably be taken with grain of salt, but I'm going to be charitable to myself and say that's a result of poor strategy and self-confidence as opposed to bad writing.


      • #4
        I think you are kind of imprisoned to write in the genres that you like to watch as a movie fan. You're not gonna sit and write a family drama if you don't watch those, and you're not gonna write an action flick if you like period romance stories. I like Thriller, Comedy, Crime Drama. All my script ideas are in one of these genres.


        • #5
          That's what I'm saying. If you are having trouble breaking in or getting positive response to your work -- maybe you're secretly a romantic comedy writer and not a horror writer. Or you should stop writing crime dramas and write action movies.

          Just something for us all to consider.

          There is also the opposite problem where people are writing many genres and should really laser focused on the one they are best at.


          • #6
            I think writers are versatile. Whether you write action, thrillers or horror, you still need to be able to write in comedy as a way to create levity in an otherwise dark story. I think really good comedy writers can also write great drama writers, if they want. But writing straight up comedy is tough. That's a special kind of writer.

            I write dark action thrillers primarily and I hate romantic comedies, but I still wrote one, because I had a commercial, high concept. It even came very close to selling. Haven't had time to even write in the past 4 1/2 months since arriving in LA due to the pressure of my new day job, but I will say that I learned a lot writing it. I'm looking forward to marketing it again soon.

            There were inherently funny scenes that just came with the concept. I watched several rom-coms as research-- ugh! I read all the scripts, too. And it wasn't until I really examined Bridesmaids (watching it, and reading it several times) that I actually came to the point where I actually can appreciate it as well as enjoy it. I hated it the first time I watch it. I appreciate just how ****ing hard it is to do well. Not saying I do it well.

            But the real break-though came when one of my trusted writer friends challenged me on making it "funnier." I hate that comment, btw, it's so vague. At first, I pushed back. Then my determination set in and I thought, **** it, what have I got to lose? So, I pushed myself to go balls out, and that next draft I wrote was the one that got the interest by a prodco who wanted to take it out.

            So I do believe a writer can learn to write funny, but I think a really great comedy writer is probably the rarest kind of writer.
            "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso


            • #7
              I think rom-coms are a very misunderstood genre in terms of how people perceive what they're supposed to be. When someone says rom-com, they often have a limited view that causes their minds to jump to "Bridesmaids" to use an example from FA4's post or early-2000's Matthew McConaughey flicks.

              All a rom-com really is is a comedy that's core conflict is centered around a romance. There are a lot of unorthodox, non-chick flicky opportunities with rom-coms if a writer is willing to think outside of the box a little.

              I hate rom-coms myself, but it's arguably my strongest genre because I write rom-coms for people that hate rom-coms, which incidentally causes me to write in a relatively unique sub-genre, or in the case of the last rom-com I wrote, I think I may have created a new genre entirely.

              My style of rom-coms are typically about two dysfunctional individuals that bond over doing terrible, usually illegal things together. The chaotic nature of these character dynamics typically allows a lot of room for humor.

              That, or the other type I write is about strained relationships with some sort of high concept twist like the one I just recently started.

              On the subject of great comedy writers, I think great comedy writers are rare because they're the result of a variety of intellectual, psychological, and environmental factors coupled with a strong commitment to the genre, both as a consumer of media and as a writer, that requires a lot of osmosis and repetitions.


              • #8
                Some of the best comedy comes in small doses like in dramas or action movies. The West Wing has better comedy lines than many sitcoms. So I 100% agree on that point. But a comedy writer can also get serious too like in a show like Scrubs. Or a very special episode of Blossom... So yes every genre and type of writing can show up as we write our things -- that's part of the fun.

                Bridesmaids to me isn't a romantic comedy. It's a comedy. I'm sure it has a sub label of romance, but that is not the same as a Harry Met Sally type of romantic comedy which is a specific genre onto itself in most people's eyes. The way action comedy has become it's own genre and not action/comedy.

                All I know is I was reading some scripts that were dark and I'm thinking -- lighten up Francis. And then I read scripts that are supposed to make me laugh and instead make me cry or want to shoot myself. So maybe, just maybe, the writer is not recognizing that their writing talent is not lining up with what they are writing. And I would not judge it by what you like to watch.

                In other words there are more fans of Marvel movies than should be writing them. More fans of Star Wars than should be writing them. More fans of The Crew than should write sitcoms. You see where I'm going...

                It's just my belief that some writers are told "you're funny" when you're not on paper --- or told "you should write thrillers because you like them" when they stink at it... and maybe that's something to examine. Just another thing to think about.

                I mean -- the bigger issue if you expand it is -- should I be writing screenplays at all? Maybe I was born to write novels.

                And if you kept going -- should I be a writer at all?

                And if you keep keep going -- should I keep trying to be paid to write or should I just enjoy it?


                • #9
                  I think what I don't appreciate about stereotypical rom-coms is what I call princess syndrome where the woman isn't a complete human being without finding that one man that can both save them from themselves and complete them-- making them whole and valuable.

                  One of the reasons I like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is both the main characters are similar and equally devious, right? The female character isn't needy or desperate for a man, they both have the same goal-- to advance their career. That fact that they have to do it in polar opposite ways is what is so interesting about that film, because the nature of each of their "deal" with their boss, it creates a lot of humor/comedy. I agree with Prezzy, that thinking outside the box can be a good way to go. My rom-com has that element, too.

                  The Break Up flips the convention that the couple ends up together. They don't and that's why, for me, it works really well. You keep thinking they're going to get together and they don't. I seem to recall an interview or a story about how at one point there might have been consideration to have them actually end up together and JA fought against it saying, no, it's called the Break Up, they can't end up together.

                  Another one that flips convention is Sleepless in Seattle where the lovers don't meet at the beginning of the movie but rather the end.

                  My reference to Bridesmaids was with respect to comedy. I don't believe it's a rom-com, either. There is a romantic thread that advances in series short scenes. It's a good lesson on how, if well-written, short scenes can establish story quickly. I referenced it as a way to better understand how to write various kinds of comedy. For example, comedy is more than physical slapstick, and a clever twist on a phrase. There's also misunderstandings, situational, self-deprecating, screwball, irony, indecent/taboo, deadpan, juvenile/sophomoric, exaggerated characterization, sexual innuendo, puns and the morbid/dark.

                  Comedy-- it's ain't easy.

                  "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso


                  • #10
                    Dear God. This forum still exists? It's been five years. I thought it sank after no one could afford the cup of coffee a month to keep it running.

                    Anyway, you definitely need to write what you know. Be smarter than the reader. If he or she doesn't feel like a student by page 5, you're in the wrong genre. How many scripts or films blew you away where you actually thought you could write better?

                    Just watched All the Presidents Men. I can't even fathom how I could've wrote or adapted this. I'd just quit. William Goldman's a genius.

                    Try a comedy about something you're an expert at. For eg. If you were in the army, write an army comedy. The reader will be impressed by all the correct lingo.

                    I'm never wrong. Reality is just stubborn.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by FoxHound View Post
                      Dear God. This forum still exists? It's been five years. I thought it sank after no one could afford the cup of coffee a month to keep it running.

                      Anyway, you definitely need to write what you know. Be smarter than the reader. If he or she doesn't feel like a student by page 5, you're in the wrong genre. How many scripts or films blew you away where you actually thought you could write better?

                      Just watched All the Presidents Men. I can't even fathom how I could've wrote or adapted this. I'd just quit. William Goldman's a genius.

                      Try a comedy about something you're an expert at. For eg. If you were in the army, write an army comedy. The reader will be impressed by all the correct lingo.
                      Hi, FoxHound. Welcome back it sounds like.

                      I don't mean to call you out specifically, but "Write what you know" is probably the single piece of advice that gets tossed around to newbie writers that I despise more than anything.

                      "Write what you know" is limiting and results in people writing mind-numbingly boring stories that hinge on their own humdrum lived experience.

                      "Know what you write" is far better advice. A writer should write any type of story on any type of subject they want, but they also should make sure they should know enough about it through research or merely being perceptive enough that people won't call BS on them if they try to get technical.

                      A writer's lived experience will infiltrate a script regardless at some point anyway.

                      It's also equally acceptable to just make sh*t up. As writers who allegedly have imaginations, it's kind of our jobs.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Bono View Post

                        Just something to consider if you've been stuck for 5-10 years with no success.
                        Maybe at some stage the world catches you up. One of my favorite movies Phonebooth ""Screenwriter Larry Cohen originally pitched the concept of a film that takes place entirely within a phone booth to Alfred Hitchcock in the 1960s. Hitchcock liked the idea, but he and Cohen were unable to figure out a plot reason for keeping the film confined to a booth. Once the idea of a sniper came to Cohen in the late 1990s, he was able to write the script in under a month."

                        I heard the starting gun



                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Southern_land View Post

                          Maybe at some stage the world catches you up.
                          Wasn't it the guy who wrote Snow White and the Huntsman and it went nowhere, and then ten years later he sells it and it gets made?

                          Probably if you can write drama, you can write lots of different drama-type scripts. So you're not necessarily writing out of your range.

                          Comedy is different -- broad comedy feels like its own thing. Something like Apatow's comedies -- King of Staten Island -- doesn't even feel like comedy to me that much, more like drama but with characters who are a bit over the top.


                          • #14
                            I meant "no success" as a nice way of saying you've gotten nowhere. 99.9% of the time it's not because you are ahead of your time. Most of the new writers that make it are 10-20 years overnight success stories. We are not talking about the same thing, but it's interesting.


                            • #15
                              My opinion -- a good writer can write both comedy and tragedy/drama. It's just a matter of how they choose to express the idea.

                              I could write a drama about, let's say, a marriage falling apart and a stressful divorce. And I could write the same story if I choose to exploit the comical aspects of a divorce and push it to the limit for laughs. War of the Roses comes to mind.

                              There's a level of tragedy at the core of comedy. Stand-up comedians do it all the time. Finding the funny in the strange and bizarre and, yeah, finding the funny in tragedy.

                              Black comedian Kamau Bell, in his series, The United Shades of America, interviewed members of the KKK wearing their hoods. Just the image of a Black man interviewing a klansman in full regalia can be ironically funny while at the same time shining a light on the tragedy of racism. Tragedy-Comedy are linked.

                              As for the saying: write what you know, I think people misinterpret it to mean write about your own personal experiences. Write what you know means finding your own, unique emotional and psychological connection to your story. Your unique POV. If you can't find that connection, your stories and characters may become derivative. You may be writing versions of scenes and characters (and dialogue) you've seen before on the screen. The risk: industry people have also seen those scenes and characters before.

                              JK Rowling never attended a school for magicians. However, being a mother, she knows how kids can struggle in high school. Mario Puzo wasn't a member of the mafia. But he had a deep, personal connection to the dynamics of Italian families in which the parents were immigrants and their children were born in America.

                              Frankly, I think the best writers aren't afraid to go deep into their own fears, dark thoughts, fantasies and past traumas when crafting a story. That's writing what you know. And that's why writing can be so cathartic. But it's also scary. It's hard to go deep and rummage around areas of your life that you'd rather forget about.

                              My personal write-what-you-know experience: After the script that landed me a manager went nowhere, he asked me to develop some concepts we could look at for my next script. And he said: throw in a road-trip idea. So I came up with the idea of half sisters meeting each other for the first time at the funeral of their eccentric and wealthy father. To get their inheritance, they must take a road trip he designed. Manager was amped: go for it.

                              I really struggled developing the co-leads. I couldn't find an emotional path into the story. Everything I wrote seemed stilted to me. Then I realized why I was blocked. Because I didn't want to poke around in my own unresolved issues with my dead father (which is likely the subconscious reason I developed the idea in the first place).

                              So I started being honest with myself and looked at the part of me that's frustrated and a bit angry because I never had the chance to resolve things with my dad, And there's another part of me that idealizes him in death: the ghost dad who can do no wrong. Then I knew how to develop the sisters: the one who grew up with him, still frustrated, angry. The other, only recently found him before he died and has spent a lifetime idealizing the missing father.

                              Interesting that, this script went the furthest and the agent who hip-pocketed me, a woman, said I made her laugh and cry and that was why she was taking the script out. I don't think I could have touched her if I hadn't been willing to go deep into uncomfortable feelings.

                              If you're writing stories without finding your own emotional path into the stories, it becomes a clerical job: file nice boyfriend here, file jealous girlfriend there, file dirty joke there. And the reader won't feel anything either.
                              Last edited by sc111; 02-23-2021, 04:46 PM.
                              Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-