While I procrastinated writing this blog post, I commented on another blogger’s post regarding genre. It was about writing in a popular genre or writing what you love most. Some believe one will find success by writing in a popular genre instead of following the rule of writing that you write what you know and love.
I’m one who writes what I love. As for writing what I know, I can’t say I write what I know because I’m not crazy or killed anyone, although my mid-life transition has a way of creating and releasing insane thoughts. Because I write what I love, I’ve made the biggest faux pas of writing, and that’s not sticking to one genre. So not only do all my books NOT fall into the current mainstream genres, but I’m inconsistent too. According to this 2014 article about the 5 Book Genres that Make the Most Money, Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Religious/Inspirational, Crime/Mystery, and Romance/Erotica are the top selling genres.
Categorizing books by genre helps readers find the books they want to read. The problems I see with genre labeling is that many cross genres, and place in the wrong genre. We can find plenty of descriptions out there, but we’ll also find contradictions. It’s difficult to know what genre descriptions to follow. For this post, I used some from the Writer’s Digest.
After I finished my first novel, Net Switch, I had to figure out what genre fit best, along with making my book trailer represent it. It wasn’t too difficult regarding the description for psychological.
“A narrative that emphasizes the mental and emotional aspects of its characters, focusing on motivations and mental activities rather than on exterior events. The psychological novelist is less concerned about relating what happened than about exploring why it happened.”
This matched Net Switch, but there was more to the book than the psychological part so I looked into suspense. The Writer’s Digest lists suspense/thriller as a sub-genre of mystery. I thought suspense/thriller was a main genre. Here is a definition of psychological thriller from dictionary.
“a suspenseful movie or book emphasizing the psychology of its characters rather than the plot; this sub-genre of thriller movie or book. Examples: In a psychological thriller, the characters are exposed to danger on a mental level rather than a physical one.”
I labeled Net Switch as a dark, psychological suspense thriller. From what I could find, there isn’t a sub-genre category for dark, but I promoted and marketed my book using that description because of the book’s content. It is dark, and some people just don’t want to go there.
Opening paragraph of Net Switch: “Mental institutions don’t relieve the mind of misery, they only create more chaos where overcrowding exists. As the patient, I feel withdrawn from life because they, the doctors, are ignoring me and are not improving my situation so I can get back into society. This has been my home for over a year and it still troubles me to talk about what brought me here. My mind is my own prison and sharing it with anyone else won’t change my predicament as long as the evil that put me here continues to enjoy freedom. Still, I know I must comply with their requests if I want a chance to be discharged from this miserable place.”
My second novel, Fogged Up Fairy Tale, was a bit more tricky because it crosses genres. Unfortunately, the Writer’s Digest doesn’t have a genre for women’s fiction or contemporary. These definitions are from Find Me An Author.
“Women’s fiction is a wide-ranging literary genre that includes various types of novels that generally appeal more to women than men. They are usually written by women, are addressed to women, and tell one particular story about women. The genre description is an umbrella term that covers mainstream novels, romantic fiction, Chick lit and other sub-genres.”
“Chick Literature, called “Chick Lit” is a genre description disliked by some people…The characters are recognizable, often featuring a contemporary heroine that women of today can relate to. Often the protagonists are addressing an issue of today or even ‘the modern female experience’, whether that is single life, married life, office politics, playground politics or all of the above.”
I categorized Fogged Up Fairy Tale as a women’s fiction / chick lit book, but I think I might have put the wrong label on it. It has lots of romantic elements in it. Sub-consciously, I think I avoided the romance category, because I’ve read that so many people don’t think highly of the genre. People consider romance cheesy and amateurish. I work hard on my writing and stories, so I didn’t want anyone judging my book before reading it. I’m sure this was poor judgment on my part.
And if mislabeling wasn’t an issue, some of my readers read Fogged Up Fairy Tale thinking it was another psychological suspense thriller. They were disappointed once they realized it was a different genre. It made me wonder if I was a genre away from ruin. Am I destroying any kind of success by writing what I love no matter the genre?
Opening paragraph of Fogged Up Fairy Tale: My name is Brand Rye and last year I lost my life—not literally, but mentally. I had amnesia, which erased my past memories. It was an awakening for me to recreate my life and regain my memory. With the help of my husband and friends, I learned about myself. This is an interwoven story of the days I struggled with amnesia and the past that I had lost and recovered.
Stroke of Genius (Working Title)
But I can’t help it. My writing turns to mush when I write about something that doesn’t interest me. For my current WIP, I’m leaning toward a crime mystery or suspense/thriller. I’ll have to look into all of these genres to pinpoint which one. Below is the description for mystery.
“A form of narration in which one or more elements remain unknown or unexplained until the end of the story. The modern mystery story contains elements of the serious novel: a convincing account of a character’s struggle with various physical and psychological obstacles in an aeffort to achieve his goal, good characterization, and sound motivation.”
Opening paragraph of Stroke of Genius (still in revision): It isn’t the increase whites of their eyes, or the rush of blood pounding in their ears, or a paralyzing fear that makes me do it. Those are a given. The smell of fear drips from their sweat and tears, wafts from their skin. No, the fear isn’t what makes me do it. It’s about the last thing, me being the last thing they see. Their life will flash before them, but I’ll be the one they physically see. My face, my hands, my motions burned into their soul. I am the one they will see before the infamous heaven or hell.
Do you write in a specific genre? What are your thoughts about genre categorization?
Genres and Writing,