A-to-Z Day 7: Genre

Genre can mean a couple of things. It can be used to distinguish fiction, nonfiction, drama, poetry, etc.

Click for A to Z blog list.

Click for A to Z blog list.

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

 

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14 thoughts on “A-to-Z Day 7: Genre

  1. Great post! I enjoy reading/watching different genres, but Science Fiction/Fantasy tend to be my favored one in my research in nonfiction or for my fiction universes. One thing that is really interesting about Science Fiction is its natural hybridity with so many others. It always is a challenge to define it and thus delimiting a corpus for certain papers.

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    • That’s so accurate about sci-fi being a natural hybrid. It seems like SF is huge, but then its sub genres are insanely specific, like steampunk. Even in that there’s a lot of variation, though.

      My project is vaguely-retro space opera. I never see enough space opera I like. I have to say “vaguely retro” because I wasn’t actually alive in the 60s, and I like to think it’s not just rehashing old pulp anyway. It’s New and Interesting, dammit!

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  2. I enjoy a wide range of genres. Like you, I just like a well-turned story. There are a few genres I won’t touch, both in my reading and my writing. When it comes to writing, it’s always the story that dictates the genre. I’ll never reject a story idea on the basis of genre alone.

    Good post! 🙂

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  3. What a great post, I am a fan of many genres in reading and tv, as long as it’s a good story with good characters I’m sold 😀

    But not horror… never horror!

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  4. I believe genre is important and unimportant. Personally, like you, I love a mixing of genres and find when done well it creates a stronger more powerful story.

    At the same time I fight the blurring lines of genre such as the YA and NA lines. Book bloggers in particular desire to bring more and more sex and sex talk into YA in an effort for “realism”. I believe this is simply making Young Adult fiction into New Age fiction as the main difference between the two is sex and about 5 to 10 years of age. I don’t see a need for the blurring of this line and in fact find it important to maintain that line.

    A story is about point of view and as such we don’t have to see all aspects of a particular character for it to be a real rendition of the character.

    Sorry about the rant!! Haha, you sure do inspire point of views. Cheers 🙂

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    • That same push towards realism has more puking on TV and movies, and I was okay without that, as well. There’s a point where things can be implied or happen offscreen/off-the-page and still be part of a “real” world.

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  5. Reblogged this on Taylor Grace and commented:
    I loved this post. It was insightful, very well written and made so much sense. I particularly loved this paragraph:
    “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.” I thought Gene’O hit it out of the ballpark with this one. A big thanks to him for this great post!

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  6. Pingback: Things I know now that I didn’t know on April 1: An A to Z Reflection | The Writing Catalog

  7. Pingback: ORACON 2014 and the Ozark Romance Authors | Flash of Romance

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