Learning A 2nd Language
Julian Beever is an enterprising artist whose pavement drawings have garnered attention and accolades for over a decade. His amorphous images drawn flat look 3-dimensional when viewed at the correct angle. He has spread his art from England to France, Germany, Australia, and Belgium, and his pop art style mixed with classic has given him a distinctive ‘voice’ within the art community.
A good writer can do the same thing. A mama mouse taught her children a valuable lesson the day the cat became too close for comfort and she barked loudly. As the cat skedaddled, Mama Mouse turned to the baby mice and said: It’s always good to learn a second language.
This is precisely what writers do who wish to broaden their canvases and snag new readers—they do the familiar things their readers expect and love, but they incorporate new ideas occasionally, throw the readers a curve, delight them with new material.
One of the most prolific writers of his day knew how to throw his voice like a ventriloquist by switching genres. As creator of Conan The Barbarian, Robert E. Howard spun tales of savagery as his character went from adventurer to mercenary to ruler of his own kingdom. With Brin Mak Morn stories, the author introduced a Pict chieftain, and with Breckenridge Elkins, the writer donned his cowboy thinking hat and wrote westerns. During all of these, he kept what he loved and admired…heroes with brawn and brains, men who conquered the unconquerable and rose above whatever pitfalls life and their creator pitched at them.
We can do the same, even if we don’t wander outside our genre(s) of choice, simply by introducing something new with the old, whether it’s a new twist, a secondary plot we haven’t tried, new characters, or a different setting, taking care that we put our unique spin on the plot or make the setting as lively and entertaining as a character.
Sometimes it's a matter of looking at the same thing a little differently that turns a flat piece of work into 3-D. The ingredients are the same, but that special touch that only we can give to our manuscripts makes all the difference. Our views are unique; our deliverance of them should be as well.