Is Genre a Straitjacket? →
#Is Genre a Straitjacket?
Some writers believe their stories don’t fit into the neat pigeonholes of an Exclusive Books or Amazon. They prickle when you bring up the subject of popular and commercial genres like romance or suspense. It’s a straitjacket: constricting, narrow, stereotypical.
Testing your story
But does it have to be? Genre is a great litmus test—it simplifies and illuminates. It can help the writer focus—maybe make the suspense tighter, give more attention to a romantic sub-plot or rethink a theme. Genre can make a story immeasurably stronger because it suggests a proven structure where readers feel comfortable. Structure gives strength. Genre can teach a writer discipline and focus. It can also stretch the imagination.
Perhaps the problem is when writers see only the limits of genre. Instead of meeting the challenges of genre, they end up with a mushy manuscript that often can’t be marketed—or sold.
Experiments not Accidents!
That’s not to say that experimental forms must be dismissed. Bret Easton Ellis uses blank fiction to show the bleak and fascinating ennui of his characters’ lives. He uses it because only something anti-generic can be a lens for his characters, not because he is confused or lazy.
The Hunger Games trilogy similarly uses speculative fiction to show a dystopian future and the effects of an authoritarian regime. In fact, the strength of speculative fiction has led to it becoming a compelling hybrid of many other established genres.
Pushing the limits
Writers can make popular genres work if they look at pushing the boundaries without breaking them. Genre offers many rewards if a writer can see the endless possibilities and permutations within its parameters.
I’m reminded of Raymond Chandler, who took the detective novel with its genteel drawing room mystery, and gave it a new authenticity by adding hard-boiled criminal characters to the mix. I’m betting he didn’t find genre boring.
Who, for you, has been a pioneer in popular fiction?
by Anthony Ehlers for Writers Write
Six things to consider before you cross your genres - Writers Write →
'Once upon a time we had genre. Genre dictated how we wrote, which setting we used, the length of the book and characters we created. It dictated which shelf the book would sell from. Genre made promises. Romance promised love, action promised excitement, horror promised sleepless nights.
Then we crossed over. Paranormal romance allowed us fall in love with vampires for example. But these hybrids were tricky. They posed problems. Should they go on the paranormal shelf or should they go on the romance shelf?
And now, not only are the genres crossing over, they’re having a party and everyone is invited. We have historical romance with enough humour to entice chick-lit readers. This used to be all serious sex scenes and no embarrassing blunders. Thank-you, Bridget Jones. We have Young Adult (YA) Paranormal with Historical and Contemporary Romance; those would be the yummy Salvatore brothers. Not to mention all the wonderful YA dystopian fiction with psychological twists and sci-fi flavours in The Hunger Games.
Why are we getting away with this?’
Find out more here
Definition: A literary sub-genre, referring to fictional family sagas set in British middle-class country or village life.
Origin: The name comes from the AGA cooker, a type of oven in country houses in the UK. Novelist, Terence Blacker first used the word to describe Joanna Trollope’s novels.
Popular Aga Saga Authors: Joanna Trollope, Maeve Binchy, Rosamunde Pilcher, Catherine Alliott, Mary Wesley
From Writers Write
"There’s absolutely no reason you can’t write in ANY genre if you are prepared to put the work in. Genre is craft. Craft can be learnt. So learn the conventions of the genre you want to write. Watch all the movies in that genre, big and small; read all the scripts. Go to events, learn about it. Read articles, blogs, soak it all up."