Genre can mean a couple of things. It can be used to distinguish fiction, nonfiction, drama, poetry, etc.
It can also be used to categorize work as fantasy, romance, literary, etc. I suppose that technically, that second set of categories should be sub-genres, but that’s not how most people use the word.
I view genre as a set of conventions. I don’t make distinctions about the value of the work based on genre; but I do ask questions like:
- How well is the author using the conventions of the genre?
- Are they being innovative?
- Using the same old tricks people have always used for this story?
- Making some interesting statement about the genre itself?
- Incorporating elements of other genres? (I love it when people do this).
I will admit, like anyone else, I prefer some genres to others. I like fantasy, sci-fi, modern realism, literary fiction, and westerns, to name a few. That doesn’t mean, however, that I can’t appreciate a good romance, a comic book, or Young Adult Lit, or Dr. Seuss. A well-turned story is a well-turned story as far as I’m concerned; and I think work in any genre has the potential to tell us something about the world we live in and the culture that produced it. This is why one of the most basic principles of my personal writing philosophy is that all genres are equal.
The element of storytelling that’s essential in all genres, if I have to only name one, is that the characters act like human beings. That means they’re not always just depressed or happy, because life is an emotional thrill ride. Sometimes people hurt one another just for the fun of it; sometimes people sacrifice themselves for others even though that is rarely a rational decision. Relationships aren’t always healthy, but sometimes they are. Occasionally people just break. And so on.
One of my favorite aspects of contemporary fiction is the potential to play with genre. An author can write endless variations of genre savvy characters and deconstruct genres. Genre busting is one of my favorite creative exercises; it’s difficult to pull off, but when it works, the payoff can be huge.
What are your favorite genres? And are they the same as the genres you write in?
A to Z Badge by Jeremy of Being Retro