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David Annandale: Respect your subgenre

The genre-leaping writer on the importance of adjusting your voice to the story—and not the other way around.

quote-cw-thumb-130x130-104373.jpgThough writers of horror, fantasy and science fiction will generally (but not always) wind up concentrating their efforts in a particular corner of the speculative fiction world (steampunk, urban fantasy, space opera, paranormal romance, and so on), many will try their hands at several different modes of the fantastic. This is good and creatively invigorating. I believe it is important to remember, then, that you have to adjust your writing voice to make it suitable to the story.

I don’t mean that you should not have a recognizable style, but it shouldn’t be rigid. In conversation, your voice is always yours, but you vary tone and content to fit the context in which you find yourself. The same should hold true in writing. The techniques that I use when I write a horror novel like Gethsemane Hall are not exactly the same as those that I use when I write Warhammer 40,000 fiction like The Death of Antagonis. There is some overlap, yes, but there are also approaches to character, dialogue, event and description that are appropriate to one and not the other. Trying to impose exactly the same style on different forms will only make life difficult for yourself. Will shouting in a library get your opinion noticed? No, it will simply get you thrown out. So adapt to the demands of your subgenre."

David Annandale is the author of Crown Fire, Kornukopia, and The Valedictorians, thrillers featuring rogue warrior Jen Blaylock. His short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies of horror fiction. He teaches literature and film at the University of Manitoba and lives in Winnipeg.

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