Identity Crisis

When people ask me what sort of fiction I write, I usually stutter a bit before I can get out a response.  Sometimes, I slip up and say “horror.”  Now, I wish I could state that I was a horror writer and not be an outright liar.  But over the course of the last year or so, I’d be hesitant to go that far.  So, if I am having a good day, rather than stuttering, I will answer: “dark fiction”.

Here’s why:

When SynergE accepted Hell on Earth: Darklights in ’07, I assumed that I would be considered a horror writer.  In the interim between then and now, I have written a good number of short stories that may also be considered horror.  But now, as I think of ways to end Hell On Earth Book 2, it seems that the horror writer in me is either deathly ill or packed up his belongings and moved to greener (er, deader?) pastures.

For example, let’s consider Broken Skies.  Is it weird?  Hell yes.  Is it unsettling?  Yes, in parts.  Is it dark?  Eh, depends on who you ask.  And lastly, is it horror?  No….not at all.  Not even in the same ball park.  Looking beyond that, there are about 4 short stories that I have written in the past year or so that I think are potentially the best stories I have ever written.  Only one of those would be considered horror.  On the other hand, two of them have very little horror elements to them at all.

Looking further ahead, if I can ever get beyond the three unfinished novels I have in progress, the ideas I have for future novels are pretty dark, but again, nowhere near horror.  It has made me wonder about the process that certain writers take to stay within their comfort zone or, rather, to purposefully step out of it.

Think of it this way: when Clive Barker knocked out the final draft of The Hellbound Heart, do you think he had any idea that one day he would writing kid friendly tales like The Thief of Always or The Abarat series?

As writers, is it overly dramatic to call this genre-confusion an identity crisis?  When we find ourselves always wanting to kill a character in a very morbid way, despite the feel of the narrative and direction of the story, is that the horror writer inside saying “Leave me behind if you want, but you know where you came from” or just a writer’s way of spicing things up?

I promise, when I started this post, this seemed to all make sense.  But I think somewhere along the way I confused myself.  Anyway, if you could make sense of any of this, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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7 comments

  1. I don’t like to pigeon hole myself into a genre. I say dark fiction as well. Most of my work is not horror, but the seed of it may be planted somewhere within. Most conflict arises from darkness anyway.

  2. I think our minds/muse go through phases and fixate on different themes. Right now, all I can think about is tragic love stories. I would love to write something fun and gory, but it ain’t gonna happen until this other itch is scratched.

  3. I hear ya, man. I’m all over the map. Hell, I recently changed my entire creative direction and blog. All that matters is a writer must keep writing.

  4. Yeah, I hear you too. I always say “horror and fantasy” and let it lie, but for me that pretty much says it all. Labels are both a curse and a blessing– but particularly a curse when we feel like slipping from one to another and writing crossgenre stuff is a negative thing. Definitely something to which I give a lot of thought, anyhow.

  5. I always thought of myself as a science fiction and fantasy writer. It wasn’t until the last couple years that I got really into horror and felt like that was my calling. So now I just say speculative fiction writer.

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