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Can You Successfully Write in Two Different Genres? by Carol Wyer

Article by Carol Wyer ©.
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People often ask me how hard it is to write in two very different genres – comedy and thrillers, and my stock answer is, ‘It isn’t difficult at all, as long as you are in the right zone.’

Comedy and tragedy have long sat side by side – heart-breaking moments in a romantic comedy heighten the uplifting events that guide the reader to that ultimate feel-good ending. Conversely, comedic scenes can break a relentless gripping novel.

The juxtaposition of comedy in tragedy is not new and is used effectively in drama. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, for example, there is a harrowing scene in which Macbeth and his wife, murder King Duncan. The audience is then treated to a comedic scene from the gate keepers and the very first recorded ‘knock-knock’ joke. This gives the audience a break from the emotional build-up of tension.

To know happiness, you must also know sadness and vice versa. Many comedians laugh at themselves but in essence they are, like all humans, wearing a mask. They use laughter as a front to hide their anxieties, worries and heartache. Humans are capable of contrasting emotions that share the same mental space – love and hate, happy or sad. They can be pulled by the dark or the light. It is therefore possible to write in two contrasting genres. Which explains why I can perform stand-up comedy and write romantic comedy books one day and the next delve into the mind of a lost soul, tormented or damaged by their past and who has turned to murder.

Of course, both genres are poles apart and as a writer you need to plan each book in quite different ways. My comedies generally follow simple formats and I focus mainly on characters and life situations to provide the humour, so when I’m plotting out a novel, I write extensively about every character in a notebook. I create a backstory for each one of them so I understand who they really are, and then use that knowledge to create ‘real’ people who provide the laughs.

If I’m working on a thriller then research is paramount and I’ll spend considerable time checking with experts in forensics, the fire department and the police to ensure I’m following procedures correctly and then spend a crazy amount of time working out complicated plots that direct the reader towards red herrings and to twists that surprise them.

Comedy, especially romantic comedy, doesn’t require that same intensity of research although I always write about what I know. If one of my characters goes diving with sharks or zorbing, then you can be assured I’ll have done so too because that way, I can write about it accurately and inject the necessary humour.

What Happens in France, my latest romantic comedy out in January, is not only set in France where I have lived, worked and still visit several times a year, but is about a game show that takes place there. Research for the book proved enjoyable as I lifted experiences from my participation in three different televised game shows.

Writing for the light and dark side requires a conscious shift of focus and mood. Getting into the right frame of mind is vital to the success of the novel. To help achieve this I have bright coloured notebooks and pens ready for my comedies but when I’m working on a thriller, I set up a crime board wall covered with Post-it notes of suspects and victims.

If you are working in two different genres, it’s important not to cross over and for example, inject too much humour into a crime novel. The writing has to be pacier, scenes seamier and characters more world-weary. Dialogue must be grittier and to my mind, the book should unfold much like a gripping drama on television. Comedies tend to be more relaxed. The reader can enjoy the ups and downs in the assurance they are not going to come away with their heart beating faster.

It is entirely possible to write comedies and thrillers but you must be comfortable with each genre.

My five tips for writing in these two genres are:

  • Ensure you have read plenty of books in these genres before you begin.
  • You will need two distinct voices. Make sure you have a clear voice for each.
  • Plan your thrillers out very carefully. I run each book through my head several times like a film before I begin work.
  • Timelines in thrillers/crime can go awry so plot out what happens on which day before you begin writing.
  • If writing romantic comedy, try not to overdo the humour. What you find funny, others may not, so test out little sections to see how they go down. I often put up a few jokes/funny stories on my FB page to see how they’re received then turn them into lines for my characters.

(c) Carol Wyer

About Last Lullaby:

When the body of mother Charlotte Brannon is discovered by her husband Adam, in their bedroom, Detective Natalie Ward is first on the scene. The killer has left a chilling calling card: The word ‘Why?’ written on the wall in blood.

As Natalie begins to delve deeper into the couple’s lives, she discovers that Adam has a dark past he’s been hiding and she’s sure that the Brannon’s teenage babysitter Inge has secrets of her own.

Then another mother is murdered on her doorstep in front of her young son, the word ‘why’ scrawled on the wall next to her.

All the key suspects have alibis and with her own marriage hanging by a thread, Natalie is struggling to stay focused on cracking her toughest case yet.

When a young woman and her baby disappear, a member of Natalie’s own team is put in terrible danger. Can Natalie stop this twisted serial killer and save one of her own before more families are torn apart forever?

Gripping, fast-paced and nail-bitingly tense, this book will send shivers down your spine. Perfect for fans of Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott and Karin Slaughter.

Order your copy online here.

Carol Wyer, who also writes as Carol E. Wyer, is an award-winning author and stand up comedian who writes feel-good comedies and gripping thrillers. Her book, Grumpy Old Menopause won The People's Book Prize Award for non-fiction 2015. The DI Robyn Carter series has earned her acclaim as a crime writer and the first book in the series, Little Girl Lost, shot to the #2 best-selling spot on Kindle #9 best-selling audiobook on Audible, and was also a USA Today top 150 best-seller. Carol has been interviewed on numerous radio shows discussing ''Irritable Male Syndrome' and 'Ageing Disgracefully' and on BBC Breakfast television. She has had articles published in national magazines 'Woman's Weekly' featured in 'Take A Break', 'Choice', 'Yours' and 'Woman's Own' magazines and the Huffington Post.