Monday, August 29, 2016


After more than twenty years in the profession I have decided that no two writers are alike.

We share a fascination with words and what they can do--yes. Most of us share an urge to succeed in being published--yes. We want to acquire appreciative readers--yes. But beyond that?

We are as varied as humans who read are.

The first big division of types comes, of course, in whether we write fiction or non-fiction. Non fiction ranges from blogs like this and letters to the editor ("opinion pieces?") to complex college texts and dissertations, to picture books about battlefields or butterflies, plus cookbooks and repair manuals, how-to books on health issues, articles and essays. (Though I know from experience that essays are often fiction-enhanced.)  Non fiction offers a huge variety of choices appealing to a jillion interests and needs. And the authors? As varied as those choices of course.

As to fiction--whooo. What do YOU like to read? Perhaps, since you are reading this on Make Mine Mystery, you are a mystery reader, but even in one category there is a mind-whirling variety from horror, blood and gore to gentle cozies. Me? I wonder what kind of mind produces horror stories.  Those writers seem like ordinary people. But . . . . I regret that I have never known a horror writer well enough to see what makes that person tick when it comes to words on a page or screen.

Romance--porn to sedate stories found in religious bookstores. Westerns--all over the fiction world: cowboys (and girls but, oh, she's usually the ranch owner), rodeo riders, bandits, outlaws, sheriffs and marshals, (good and bad), horses (that's consistent at least).

Then there's science fiction--and more, more, more.

Ah, well. The other thing I have learned is that writers' backgrounds vary as widely as their types of writing. For example, I write relatively cozy mystery fiction now, but I began as an essayist and article writer as well as a news reporter. (And, in truth, much news reporting is touched with fiction if only in the choice of stories covered and the manner in which they are told.) But, non-typically I think I had no interest in writing for paid publication until, as a senior adult, I discovered the Arkansas Ozarks. Being there interested me so much that, every day I woke up with a story to tell. At first it was all non-fiction, but then I began writing fiction set in real Ozarks locations.

Over and over I have heard writers talk about an interest in writing beginning something like this: "I wrote my first story when I was six, and . . . .  I also hear them say, over and over, "I create the locations for my fiction so I can put every activity in the type of place where I want it to occur. That way I have no problems with people saying 'Oh, that river isn't in XXXXX town.' "

And here I am, beginning fiction writing later in life, and choosing to set stories in real locations, all of them popular with tourists and Arkansans and described accurately down to the last doorknob and wildflower. (Want a visit to Arkansas's Buffalo National River, or the War Eagle Mill with its yearly craft fairs?  Read A River to Die For or A Fair to Die For. ) Yes, real locations take quite a bit of on-site research but I said that my chosen locations are popular with tourists and Arkansans. And, with my husband and me!

So--what's your personal story as a writer or reader?  All your stories are unique. Now, isn't that interesting?


Radine Trees Nehring said...

Extending this as most will realize, there are writers for children and young adults, and teens, and probably new categories that came up yesterday.

You meet all types at writers' conferences, though all come to hear a variety of advice and "my story" panels and talks. However, we also attend to meet with writing friends and share our thoughts and life events with them.

Ah ha--just like other humans with any profession or life interest.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Radine, I began my writing career as a news reporter in California, but longed to write fiction since I was nine and penned my first novel, which I took to school for my friends to read. I've since published Western history and historical novels, children's mysteries, celebrity/author interviews, edited a nonfiction book written by teens, and my Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense series. I'm now working on a suspense/thriller standalone. Although I've read some of Dean Koontz's horror novels, I don't think I'll ever write one. : )

Linda Thorne said...

I prefer to read books where the scenes are set in real places. I learn something about areas I haven't been while enjoying the story. My debut novel is set in a real place - The Mississippi Gulf Coast. I used my experience from going to these places, often, when I lived in that area for an 8-year stretch. I had to do minimal research (mostly checking out the color of a restaurant or verifying I had the physical location accurate). My problem came after I wrote the description of each setting for each scene, and then Hurricane Katrina came along and ruined them. Anyone who reads my book will notice that the timeframe is pre-Katrina. That's the only way I knew how to get around it. Yes, I think letting the reader travel to a new place that's real adds to a book. Just keep your fingers crossed something catastrophic doesn't happen to the place before you can get your book released.