Posted by: Trisha Leigh | September 19, 2011

My Brain Doesn’t Work That Way, Redux

I have many stories waiting to be written. They are scratched in a notebook stuffed away in my bag. Some are character sketches, some are simple concepts, and others are a bit more fleshed out. Two or three have earned a first chapter, or a first fifty pages, because they won’t stop pestering me until I give them at least that much.

All of those stories have something more than an every day experience. They have paranormal elements, or science fiction, or historical. None are contemporary.

The funny thing is, as a reader it’s the contemporary novels that touch me. As an avid movie goer, the contemporary tales are the ones that worm their way inside, that fill me up, that make me cry and touch places I honestly think might be dead sometimes.

I finished (another) great Sara Zarr book the other day. Her novel Sweethearts was one of my favorite reads this past year, and this one (How To Save a Life) punched me in all the right places as well. I mentioned on Twitter how jealous I am of people like Sara Zarr, Hannah Moskowitz, Courtney Summers, Stephanie Perkins etal. who write these beautiful, true things.

My good friend Claire Legrand (who just landed an AMAZING illustrator for her middle grade novel, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls) said “You could write it, silly goose!”

To which I replied “I know. But those aren’t the ideas that come to me.”

To those of you who are writers, this seems like a normal statement. If you’re not, just go with it. Stories and characters come to me, I rarely go in search of them. Most of the time the characters have names, and attitudes, and tales they want told.

Also, in my mind writing contemporary seems hard. First of all, you have to create a narrative driven entirely by your characters and their relationships, with far fewer outside forces acting on the story. For instance, if you get stuck, you can’t just blow something up or have a zombie horde attack their hiding place. Second, there has to be times those very real people in very real lives scratch experiences and emotions floating a little too close to the surface. Ouch.

How about you? Do you enjoy reading the same genre you write, or does another type of story crack open your heart? Even if you’re not a writer, what genre attracts you the most?

What I’m watching right this minute? Nothing. I just got home from seeing The Tree of Life and am going to dive back into The Hangman’s Daughter as soon as I schedule this post.

PS: If you DO love contemporary like I do, I urge you to check out the books written by the lovely ladies mentioned in this post. Also, a list of the fall 2011 releases I’m most excited about is up here.



  1. I write light urban fantasy (light, humorous, contemporary setting), but I read everything. Well, maybe not hardcore horror, but just about everything else, depending on my mood. Sometimes I want a feast, sometimes a snack. My reading appetite is highly variable.

    • First of all, can I just get the *snort* YOU SAID HARDCORE out of the way. And yes. I read everything, and can enjoy most of it, but not everything hits the sweet spot.

  2. I am all over the map. I write whatever stories that inspire me. I have contemporaries and am currently working on a paranormal. I have not actually thought of any historicals, yet. Hmmm.

    • It’s nice that different types of stories come to you. Mine are all different, but none are contemp.

  3. I’m genre all the way. I read mostly fantasy with a little sci-fi/other thrown in. I write mostly the same way, though I tend to be a little more varied when I write. I’ve never had any inkling to write contemporary other than a short story or two when I was really depressed and trying to work it out through writing.

    • That’s a fair point. Sometimes I get the urge to write contemporary, but it is often in response to an event in my life that I feel like purging. Interesting.

  4. I’m all over the map in my reading too. About half my reads are from recommendations, so you’ve added to my Fearsome Tower of To Be Read Books which, if it fell over, would kill someone.

    I have to say, Claire is right. You COULD write contemporary. Based on what I’ve read of yours so far, I know you could. It just may not be time for you yet.

    I grew up loving mystery, but for years I didn’t believe I could write it. My feelings about mystery were not unlike your feelings about contemporary. It wasn’t until my mid-30s that I was ready to try one. And it WAS hard, but very rewarding. (Lost Dog was it.)

    I suggest you keep doing what you’re doing. Tell the stories which come to you. Perhaps a contemporary idea will never come to you, but if you keep yourself open to the possibility, I think it will. And you are definitely up to the challenge.

    • Thank you for the kind words, and I hope to give it a try some day. I might even give it a shot for NaNo… 🙂

  5. I was going to write something sweet and profound, but Bill beat me to it.

    As far as my reading habits go, like those above me, I’m all over the place. My “to be read” castle houses YA, sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary, historical fiction, et al. I will read anything. Like Bill, most of my books come from recommendations of others.

    As for what I write, I’m a mix. I’m a VERY eclectic person. I’m fearful of the whole querying process because I don’t fall into one genre. Most of my novels/ideas fall into the historical/fantasy genre, but some don’t. By definition, YES, I write what I read, but that’s everything, soooooo…..

    I’m afraid I’ve been unhelpful. Would you like a dirty limerick instead?

    • That worries me sometimes too, the liking to write different things and not being able to say, with confidence, I write XXY. Still, I can only do justice to the stories that are truly MINE so I guess I won’t worry about it.

  6. Like you, I write with paranormal elements and an old feel – not historical, not really fantasy, but something in between. Magic realism, maybe? I write this way because it strikes me as true, and I enjoy reading it too.

    I agree with the others though, Trisha – you could and should write anything you want.

    • Thanks Beth. I think we all have stories to tell, whatever the format, and that certainly those styles could change as we grow and develop as people.

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