Owning up about your genre


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Thread: Owning up about your genre

  1. #1

    Owning up about your genre

    https://medium.com/the-coffeelicious...s-327d343be4fa

    Hopefully this article will help someone else as well as me. I did a lot of reading last night on blogs about reader expectations and Im really glad that I did because although I havenít learned yet what the holy grail is on getting your reader to care, I did have to own up that my historical fiction on the Greenland Norse is predominantly a romance. I mean itís supposed to be character-driven, but its core is probably romance. Eek!

    What do you think of this article? Any clarity for anyone else?

    Also, this article on set-up and pay-off and scenes was very helpful to me. But what do you guys think? https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.jan...up-payoff/amp/

  2. #2
    An excellent article. As someone who is also struggling with what genre to call my novel it registered with me. The concept of not disappointing your reader is important. I've come to the conclusion, that I have a story to tell and I shouldn't focus too much on the genre, for fear I will wash down the story by responding to tropes. However, this article made me aware, that it's important to market it properly, so as not to let anyone down. It also makes me realize how important the back blurb and cover design design are. You gotta let people know what's inside the book!

    I remember how desperately I wanted to buy the Twilight series, because I loved the names and I LOVED the cover designs. But each time I would pick one up and read the back blurb, I knew it wasn't for me.


    EDIT: You can read about them here and how they don't represent the genre per se:

    https://screenrant.com/twilight-midn...ngs-explained/
    Last edited by Taylor; February 27th, 2021 at 11:26 AM.
    Sometimes in the waves of change we find our new direction...
    - unknown

  3. #3
    The fundamental problem is that writers think about genre differently than readers.

    To a writer, genre is about more than just the section of the bookshop. To many writers, genre is about their writing identity. To many science fiction, horror, romance writers the genre they identify their work as being is an inextricable part of who they are -- i.e. they are not 'writers' but 'horror writers' and therefore everything they write should as closely resemble 'horror writing' as possible, lest the story be dismissed as 'not working'.

    Oh, perhaps on occasion the horror writer will allow some melding with other, closely related genres, and thus we get these ill-defined, red-headed stepchildren genres like 'weird fiction', but for the most part people stay within the bounds of what they want their story to be, not what it actually is. We encounter this all the time and I think almost everybody, at some point, has fallen into the trap. I know I have.

    In my opinion, this is the reason -- really the only reason -- why picking out a genre is 'hard'. It's hard because we want the book to represent us, but that's not the right way to look at it. The fact is just about EVERY book CAN work if only it is allowed to happen organically. If we find a humor book isn't funny, it may well have nothing to do with the book not being good and everything to do with it not actually being a humor book but something else. And yet, many writers WILL throw it in the trash.

    So, a few hot takes:

    1 - Refrain as much as possible from describing yourself/your work as belonging to a particular genre. Lots of really good writers dabble in multiple genres, often ones that are quite diverse. Margaret Atwood was not considered a writer of dystopia prior to The Handmaid's Tale and her work since has varied. Books belong to genres, writers do not. Approach every project as open mindedly as you can.

    2 - Even if you really do 'only write science fiction' there's absolutely no benefit to pigeonholing yourself as a 'science fiction writer', at least not beyond the most basic needs (say, to join a society). Think of yourself as a writer, nothing more. Willing and able to try anything, and your work will be better for it.

    3 - When considering what genre a book is, if in doubt, just keep it simple and focused on what is clear and obvious. Star Wars isn't really science fiction in any intellectual sense (there's almost no science, for one thing) and yet it absolutely does belong to that genre for marketing purposes, simply because it is set in space. If your story has dragons and castles, it's probably fantasy. If it has the paranormal and is scary, it's probably horror (if it has the paranormal and is not scary, it's probably fantasy). Is this oversimplifying the issue? Yes, it absolutely is, but that's the point. This doesn't need a lot of stress. This is about figuring out what shelf at the library this would sit on, nothing more.

    4 - CONSIDER THE READER. The only thing that matters here. It doesn't matter if you, the writer, think it could be a genre. This isn't about you. What matters is whether Joe Average would see it that way.

    5 - If the book does not seem to have any dominating genre, or doesn't seem to fit into what is obvious, consider if there are any issues in the story itself. It could be too diffuse. How many settings does it include? How many main characters? What are the main themes? If the main themes are collectively focused on the darker sides of human nature, it makes no sense to call the book a romance (unless it's a dark romance!) Jaws is a horror novel for the simple reason that it's terrifying and the themes it incorporates are largely pretty similar to a horror novel -- unnatural evil, etc.

    6 - If the book blends numerous genres (most books that are touted as being of multiple genres are not really and the average 'sci-fi horror with themes of romance and crime' is just word salad for a writer too neurotic to make a decision) then I find a good rule of thumb is to go in order of CHARACTER(S) > SETTING > THEME(S). Jaws is about a shark. Sharks don't belong to a particular genre. Jaws is set on/near the sea. The sea, also, does not belong to a particular genre. Therefore, the genre comes from the theme. On the other hand, Alien is about an alien, which is typically belonging to science fiction. Alien takes place on a spaceship, also science fiction. The actual themes of Alien, however, are closer to horror. Nevertheless, the appropriate 'shelf' for Alien would likely still be science fiction because the character and setting both 'belong' to that genre. Again, this isn't an intellectual exercise, we aren't super interested in the literary concepts, but about dressing a mannequin in a store window.

    ETA 7 - ALWAYS BE LOOKING TO SUBVERT THE TROPES! The wizard is a kind old man? Make him an evil child. Terry Pratchett made an entire career out of this.
    Deactivated due to staff trolling. Bye!

  4. #4
    This article is good, and talks a bit more about mixed-genre books and what to do. At the end this author talks about preparing her readers for a book that’s different than her others:
    https://main.nightowlreviews.com/v5/...y-cooper-posey

    You know how the movie Knives Out switched from mystery to thriller to mystery successfully? Well here is someone critiquing a book that must have been unsuccessful at it. https://elizabethspanncraig.com/busi...ons-for-genre/


    I get a bit angry if the trailer is mis-marketing a movie— and the fact that it can be Mia-marketed just shows how much you do get certain expectations.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    The fundamental problem is that writers think about genre differently than readers.

    To a writer, genre is about more than just the section of the bookshop. To many writers, genre is about their writing identity. To many science fiction, horror, romance writers the genre they identify their work as being is an inextricable part of who they are -- i.e. they are not 'writers' but 'horror writers' and therefore everything they write should as closely resemble 'horror writing' as possible, lest the story be dismissed as 'not working'.

    Oh, perhaps on occasion the horror writer will allow some melding with other, closely related genres, and thus we get these ill-defined, red-headed stepchildren genres like 'weird fiction', but for the most part people stay within the bounds of what they want their story to be, not what it actually is. We encounter this all the time and I think almost everybody, at some point, has fallen into the trap. I know I have.

    In my opinion, this is the reason -- really the only reason -- why picking out a genre is 'hard'. It's hard because we want the book to represent us, but that's not the right way to look at it. The fact is just about EVERY book CAN work if only it is allowed to happen organically. If we find a humor book isn't funny, it may well have nothing to do with the book not being good and everything to do with it not actually being a humor book but something else. And yet, many writers WILL throw it in the trash.

    So, a few hot takes:

    1 - Refrain as much as possible from describing yourself/your work as belonging to a particular genre. Lots of really good writers dabble in multiple genres, often ones that are quite diverse. Margaret Atwood was not considered a writer of dystopia prior to The Handmaid's Tale and her work since has varied. Books belong to genres, writers do not. Approach every project as open mindedly as you can.

    2 - Even if you really do 'only write science fiction' there's absolutely no benefit to pigeonholing yourself as a 'science fiction writer', at least not beyond the most basic needs (say, to join a society). Think of yourself as a writer, nothing more. Willing and able to try anything, and your work will be better for it.

    3 - When considering what genre a book is, if in doubt, just keep it simple and focused on what is clear and obvious. Star Wars isn't really science fiction in any intellectual sense (there's almost no science, for one thing) and yet it absolutely does belong to that genre for marketing purposes, simply because it is set in space. If your story has dragons and castles, it's probably fantasy. If it has the paranormal and is scary, it's probably horror (if it has the paranormal and is not scary, it's probably fantasy). Is this oversimplifying the issue? Yes, it absolutely is, but that's the point. This doesn't need a lot of stress. This is about figuring out what shelf at the library this would sit on, nothing more.

    4 - CONSIDER THE READER. The only thing that matters here. It doesn't matter if you, the writer, think it could be a genre. This isn't about you. What matters is whether Joe Average would see it that way.

    5 - If the book does not seem to have any dominating genre, or doesn't seem to fit into what is obvious, consider if there are any issues in the story itself. It could be too diffuse. How many settings does it include? How many main characters? What are the main themes? If the main themes are collectively focused on the darker sides of human nature, it makes no sense to call the book a romance (unless it's a dark romance!) Jaws is a horror novel for the simple reason that it's terrifying and the themes it incorporates are largely pretty similar to a horror novel -- unnatural evil, etc.

    6 - If the book blends numerous genres (most books that are touted as being of multiple genres are not really and the average 'sci-fi horror with themes of romance and crime' is just word salad for a writer too neurotic to make a decision) then I find a good rule of thumb is to go in order of CHARACTER(S) > SETTING > THEME(S). Jaws is about a shark. Sharks don't belong to a particular genre. Jaws is set on/near the sea. The sea, also, does not belong to a particular genre. Therefore, the genre comes from the theme. On the other hand, Alien is about an alien, which is typically belonging to science fiction. Alien takes place on a spaceship, also science fiction. The actual themes of Alien, however, are closer to horror. Nevertheless, the appropriate 'shelf' for Alien would likely still be science fiction because the character and setting both 'belong' to that genre. Again, this isn't an intellectual exercise, we aren't super interested in the literary concepts, but about dressing a mannequin in a store window.

    ETA 7 - ALWAYS BE LOOKING TO SUBVERT THE TROPES! The wizard is a kind old man? Make him an evil child. Terry Pratchett made an entire career out of this.
    Lucky, you've drilled right down to the core.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    The fundamental problem is that writers think about genre differently than readers.

    To a writer, genre is about more than just the section of the bookshop. To many writers, genre is about their writing identity.

    1 - Refrain as much as possible from describing yourself/your work as belonging to a particular genre.

    It is kind of a let-down (personally and identity-wise) to think what I want to be historical literary genre boils down to romance. Well, it is those other things too, hopefully. Some of these authors have luckily made me see it through the reader’s eyes a bit. Since I am also a reader it’s not hard to think of the time that the trailer for Marley and Me made us think the film was going to be a fun light-hearted chuckle about a puppy and then we left the movie theater bawling with our then 5 year old twins traumatized. Sigh... Yeah, I think labeling and avoiding false advertising is important— and it does mean such a close look at the recipient’s expectations,

    I think the thing I am really trying to look at here (and have been all week) is setting up and understanding your readers expectations well so that you then can subvert them skillfully and in a way that delights your readers. This is particularly thought about in franchises like Star Wars, isn’t it? And I agree with what you said about Star Wars, it’s really a fantasy, isn’t it? I really want to try to understand everything with expectations. I think that the kind of literature I attempt to write which is the character-driven historical literature might have less defined expectations other than characters changing. I’d love to hear your thoughts on expectations on all of this, lucky.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Llyralen View Post
    This article is good, and talks a bit more about mixed-genre books and what to do. At the end this author talks about preparing her readers for a book thatís different than her others:
    https://main.nightowlreviews.com/v5/...y-cooper-posey

    You know how the movie Knives Out switched from mystery to thriller to mystery successfully? Well here is someone critiquing a book that must have been unsuccessful at it. https://elizabethspanncraig.com/busi...ons-for-genre/


    I get a bit angry if the trailer is mis-marketing a movieó and the fact that it can be Mia-marketed just shows how much you do get certain expectations.
    I thought this was an interesting post found on the newsletter above:

    Readers draw conclusions from your title, cover art, and copy. Betray those expectations at your peril. Major flaw in untrained writing, right up there with faulty story structure.
    The same poster talks about ďOS&CĒ, conventions and obligatory scenes. Maybe I'm naive, but I don't even want to know what they are.
    Sometimes in the waves of change we find our new direction...
    - unknown

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor View Post

    I remember how desperately I wanted to buy the Twilight series, because I loved the names and I LOVED the cover designs. But each time I would pick one up and read the back blurb, I knew it wasn't for me.
    I remember when Breaking Dawn came out. I was a little kid in Barnes and Nobel with my mother. Seeing the book on a promotional display, (a rack in the center of the store) I said something to the effect of 'Ooh, a chess piece," to which my mother replied, (again, in effect): "I don't think you're interested in that."

    She was certainly right.

    Anyway, that's why my current book - actually involving a ton of chess - has a chess-related name.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by EternalGreen View Post
    I remember when Breaking Dawn came out. I was a little kid in Barnes and Nobel with my mother. Seeing the book on a promotional display, (a rack in the center of the store) I said something to the effect of 'Ooh, a chess piece," to which my mother replied, (again, in effect): "I don't think you're interested in that."

    She was certainly right.

    Anyway, that's why my current book - actually involving a ton of chess - has a chess-related name.
    Haha...that's a funny story! And of course you will have fun with the cover too...
    Sometimes in the waves of change we find our new direction...
    - unknown

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor View Post
    Haha...that's a funny story! And of course you will have fun with the cover too...
    That will presumably be the publisher's job.

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