We all like different kinds of movies. I enjoy watching romantic comedies as much as I like a good space western. And I enjoy writing comedy with the same enthusiasm as I do drama. But sometimes I take on a ridiculous challenge, like writing five or so pages of an original psychological thriller or I map out an anime movie where a girl discovers that her new pet can open up portals to different dimensions. Those two examples are quite a stretch from the more familiar comedy and drama genres but for me, going to those places makes for a great experience.
Try writing a story in a genre that you usually wouldn’t. There are several practical reasons to do so.
Writing in a different genre enables the flexing of creative literary muscles. Every story has at least one character, a setting, and theme. As the architect, you’ll always develop plot and create interesting characters and situations. If you choose to do so in a genre you’re not always writing for, you’ll be doing it in a different settings and different tones. And you might even do well.
Penning a screenplay in a genre that you’re not used to will be like going from running on a track to running in a pool. Same type of motion, different environment. Also, different challenges. A comedy has twists and punch lines, but as a writer of dramatic screenplays for teenagers, for example, you might not be used to being more hilarious than heartfelt. In coming up with material for your screenplay, you can draw from personal experiences – the same way you would for a drama – but ones that are funnier or embarrassing (the ones that make you nervous to put down on paper). A suspenseful thriller writer coming up with content for their children’s film can put intense action scenes in the children’s movie. They would simply have to keep the dialogue G-rated and the body count at zero, most likely. But it can be done and done well.
It’s good to be a versatile writer with a colorful portfolio. Exercising the creative muscles by writing in different genres helps a writer create screenplays for children, adults, tweens, sci-fi junkies, and sports movie aficionados. Once a writer gets good at writing different types of screenplays, he or she becomes more of a competitor when they’re out looking for pickups. It’s good to specialize in one area, but it only helps to have the capability to write in different genres. Joss Whedon is a good example. He wrote Buff The Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and The Avengers screenplays. All three of those different shows and movie don’t all have the same fans or similar content, but they were all well written and received very well. So if a Hollywood agent knows that a writer can write great scripts for different niche audiences, they’ll have that information in mind when opportunities arise.
And don't forget: It’s fun! Writing in different genres is like experiencing a great creative change of scenery. If you’ve been writing a gut-wrenching drama that will give Steel Magnolias a run for its money, try writing a children’s buddy comedy about a talking rabbit and a singing carrot. It’ll be an interesting 180° turn where you can even sneak in tidbits from your grim drama. Try it out! The next time you’re watching television, think about two movies you love with completely different genres and plan out screenplays similar to them. Who knows? In the next six months, you could be the writer that comes up with the next great kid’s movie like The Muppets AND the next great horror thrill ride, like Oculus. But you’ll never know until you write them.