The Genre Trap

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This is something that has been rattling around in my head for some time now. I’ve read lots of reviews on Goodreads.com which I use to help me decide what new book or series I will read and this is brought up quite frequently. It’s an interesting connundrum, especially for someone that writes:

Is someone a “true writer”, dedicated to their craft and their possible reading followers, if they jump genres? Is a person that has written a series of books in the historical romance genre and then publishes an urban fantasy just trying to get on the popularity (sales) bandwagon? Or possibly just trying to flood the market, or every market, with stories to boost their popularity and thus sales?

I have heard of authors that have put out different series under different names because their readership is so demanding, so inflexible to their creative processes, that they are afraid of disappointing their staunch supporters with something from a different genre.

Wow. This is why I’ve been so damned afraid of writing. Readers can be terribly harsh.

Could it not be, perchance, that the author’s imagination just isn’t limited to the creative ramblings of only one genre? I know for myself, I cannot help what images and fantasies accost my brain. Currently, I have urban fantasy, off-world fantasy, contemporary romance, and contemporary fiction books pleading for my attention. Do I just have some terrible writing ADD? Or do I just have an overactive imagination that isn’t limited to a bookshelf label?

Nearly everything that I see, experience, taste, think has the potential to be recreated into a story. Everything. Tendrils of imaginative smoke curl up from the most mundane of places wafting their nearly irrestible flavor in my direction. I get accosted in the car, the store, in my dreams, in my kitchen. And the flavors are almost always completely different. Sometimes I smell the same story, those flashes of inspiration work their way into a current theme tumbling around in my head. Other times  it is new, fresh, a scent of something exotic. The spices are classified differently. I can’t help it.

And if that is true for me, someone that isn’t even a true author yet, why can’t it be for others that are? How small-minded we readers can be when our favorite author’s muses pull them in a different direction. Why are we allowed to genre hop but they are reduced to a little box, a place on a shelf? Why can’t we allow those minds we love so much to stretch to their full potential?

If my writings take me down different genre paths I hope that whomever reads my writing would be open-minded enough to see that I am only following my inner callings and not fall into the genre trap. Writing is hard business, both in the creating and the offering.

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3 responses »

  1. Dude, you need to listen to that podcast on writing I sent you. There was a great episode on why/when to use a pseudonym that addresses all of these issues. Basically yes, write in every genre that peaks your fancy. When Meg Cabot was writing series fiction in the same genre, her publisher told her she would have to use a pseudonym because she couldn’t compete against herself or some such. But that was back when she was a nobody. Now no cares, I guess. The podcast though interviews an author who writes in multiple genres and how he has a separate pseudonym, and thereby blog, website, & social media presence, for each “author.” That keeps fans of one genre from getting upset that they didn’t get what they were expecting by reading a book you wrote for another genre.

  2. For myself, I write in several genres, such as ‘whine’, ‘crab’, ‘bitch’ and ‘what you should be doing’ and I haven’t had any complaints yet about my genre jumping 😀 In all seriousness, I purposely blank out genre casting because what I will unfairly limit my reading list based upon what I think I like and what I don’t. For instance, if something says ‘sci-fi’ all over it, I won’t read it, even though one of my authors is Douglas Adams who wrote several books that could be aptly labelled sci-fi. I also will tell myself that I do not do westerns, chick lit, or mysteries, but I love Even Cowgirls get the Blues, Shopaholic series (but never the film!) and the Stephie Plum novels. Genres as a major way to describe a book is a newish thing. I think it comes along with the multiple tv channels and so assumed added value to a car because it comes in hot pink. It’s a marketing thing and writers who are not attempting to appeal to popular taste or please an agent shouldn’t worry about it.

    • I used to be quite the stickler for writers doing what I thought they should…until I started writing. Now I can appreciate the ability to genre skip but dear lord, watch out for some of those critics!

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