Genre Rebellion

Writers understand the importance of defining genre; if nothing else, it assures our books shelf space and saves librarians hours of frustration. Beyond that, though, some of us don’t give it much thought. We have stories to tell, and not all of them are docile, co-operative, and neatly pigeonholed within a particular genre. This is neither bad, nor good.

My first real awareness of genre came when I started sneaking my mother’s and grandmother’s gothic romance novels – cheap and plentiful paperbacks, all well-defined in my mind as “woman running away from the house” books. Because, invariably, the covers of books in the gothic romance genre feature terrified young women running away from creepy old mansions – most of which are ivy-covered, brooding, castles perched on the edge of a cliff above an angry sea. How silly these young women were, I thought, even in middle school. I just knew that those haunting (and probably haunted) castles by the sea must have hidden passageways, attics, and underground tunnels to explore, and I caught on young that the gentleman with dark stormclouds for eyes would certainly turn out to be a decent sort who would kill the rats in the tunnel and carry the young ingenue off to the local hospital for a tetanus shot, should she snag some body part on the family cemetery fence.

I wonder if the charming young cousin, the sour-faced gardener, the handsome doctor at the ER ever turns out to be anything but villainous? Probably not. That wouldn’t fit into the gothic romance genre at all.

I refused to cut 10 pages from A New Leaf for Lyle to make it fit industry-standard lengths for juvenile fiction. In my short story, “Innocence Denied,” I set out to write a horror story and ended up writing a sort of psycho-social suspense drama. There’s a bit of horror, but it’s the sort of horror you’d feel in learning that your parents never married, that they found you in a Dumpster, and that they actually thought of leaving you there and pretending blissful ignorance. But it won several awards, so clearly I wasn’t properly punished for straying from the formula. I particularly love endings reminiscent of “The Lady or the Tiger” (no matter how much they annoyed me in middle school), and have written one story, called “Meet Me Halfway,” that I honestly could not tell you the ending to if I tried, since the ending differs – even for me – each time I read it, depending on my mood. Do I believe in love, everlasting, or do I believe that the world is a horrible, tragic place where no good deed goes unpunished? I don’t know – ask me tomorrow.

I have been blogging since 1999 – back when Blogger was a baby birthed by Pyra Labs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyra_Labs). I was running a little website for writers – I think it was called The Writers’ Corner or The Write Stuff or some such nonsense – and I wanted a faster, easier way to add new material that didn’t require uploading new static files to the site. Blogger could, at the time, be tightly integrated into the website template in a way that made it work seamlessly with other pages, and my first blog was born. The only reason I started the website at all was to teach myself HTML. Back then, most websites consisted of fairly useless lists of people’s CD collections. I didn’t care at all what music others listened to, and I didn’t want my site to be boring. But I wasn’t thinking about having a “niche” or defining a genre for my website – I simply didn’t see many other sites for writers. It hadn’t yet been done to death.

That changed fairly fast. Soon, everyone had a website aimed at writers. I grew bored with mine. So for a while, and ever since, I’ve written my blog posts the way people naturally have conversations – about random things that flit through my mind, but not so random as to bore you to tears and drive you away screaming. I hope that its being random doesn’t make it uninteresting, uninformative, boring, or confusing. I hope that, being a whole and well-rounded human being, you can relate and appreciate that if I had to shove every post neatly into a single category, or mold my blog to fit a niche, I’d go stark raving bonkers.

I even told Darren Rowse, back in 2009 or so, that I was setting out to dominate the “No-Niche Niche.” I haven’t changed my mind about that. There’s plenty of room for competition, but none of us will be accused of copying the others, I’m sure. So much room in which to differentiate and invent and blather on about…everything.

When I first moved to Houston, I fell in love with a newspaper column by Leon Hale. I don’t write like Leon Hale, but I thought, then, that if someone would just pay me to write a regular column about my thoughts on things, I could die happy. Or live happy. The man’s in his 90s and still doing book signings. I think he must be doing it right! If Hale’s got a genre, I think he invented it. His books are found under biographies and memoirs, anthologies, state and local… but his columns always seemed to be “whatever’s on Leon’s mind today.” And that makes a lot of people happy.

What makes me less happy is trying to puzzle out things like, “Which of the following categories does your blog belong in?”

  • Home & Family
  • Business
  • Travel & Recreation
  • Personal Development & Health
  • Food
  • Healthy Living
  • Just for Fun & Storytelling
  • Religion & Spirituality
  • Collecting, Hobbies & Music
  • It’s Personal

“All of the Above,” apparently, is not an option. “It’s Personal” sounds like “None of your beeswax,” or like a blog that’s part steamy confessional, part teen girl diary. I’m not sure that posts like “How to Create Document Properties in Word 2010” really count as fun, but the post wasn’t aimed at business only, either. Personal development? I mean, sure – doesn’t any post that tells you how to acquire a new skill count as personal development? There are posts here on healthy living (though I’m not sure if they’d belong there or under personal development and health); there are a few on travel and recreation (but there’s a dearth of sports-related posts). There are many posts that mention food, but I’m not sure all of those feature food as a central motif. We are all spiritual creatures, and where do thoughts come from, if not straight from the soul?. There’s no pigeonhole for politics – if this were a politically focused blog, where would it fit?

Meh. Do I blog to fit these narrow topics, do I stretch the meaning of the topic to the point where it’s a bit misleading, or do I ignore the directive to “choose one” and simply make up a new one? I’ve defined my own categories; you can see them in the menu options at the top of each page. I’m not doing this exercise again, trying to fit into someone else’s list. So for the purposes of this exercise – the Ultimate Blogging Challenge – I may just call it all Food, because I hope it’s “food for thought.” 🙂

 

 

HollyJahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.
Please share this post!

44 thoughts on “Genre Rebellion”

  1. Yup, that’s a dilemma us weirdos have to face. We can’t fit into “normal” categories.

    Hey, maybe we can start a new niche under the heading of “weirdness.” Nah, the normals will never get it and miss out on all the wisdom we dish out that they so much adore.

    BTW, you’re missing the link to the word 2010 post. Just thought you might like to know.

    Wait, what’s an Ultimate Blogging Challenge?
    Rasheed Hooda recently posted…Marketing EthicsMy Profile

    1. The Ultimate Blogging Challenge is here, Rasheed: http://ultimateblogchallenge.com/ (Sign up now – there’s still time, I think!) It doesn’t run every month, as far as I know, but several times a year. There’s also a Facebook group where you can share your posts and meet other bloggers who are share similar interests. (Really, the genre thing is not a bad idea – I just think the categories need expanding! I like that I don’t fall into a rabbit hole of bad expectations when commenting on other blogs, now – and commenting on others is a requirement if you ask for comments on yours.)

      “Weird” has so many connotations. I’m not sure that my mother meant the same ones the time she called me a “weirdo magnet” and the time she gave me a key fob that said, “I like you, you’re weird.” I’m not sure us magnets always attract the same types of weird, for that matter. You’re awesome, but if we set it up as a blog category, I’m pretty sure neither of us would claim the Top 10, let alone #1 spot. And I’m not sure either of us would want to, if you know what I mean. (Check out “the weirder parts of YouTube” and I think you’ll come running back here with your eyes big as saucers. There’s weird…and then, there’s WEIRD. Just like “It’s Personal,” it needs refinement and clarification. We could do it like they do in the DSM V – we could have a “Weird Type I” and a “Weird Type II” and a “Rapid-Cycling Mixed State Weirdness.”)

      You really think that post needs more help promoting itself? I guess I should capitalize on its smug success. Fine. Link added. 🙂 Just for you.

      How’s 2016 starting out for you, Rasheed?
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and S HealthMy Profile

    1. What could I have done to make it an awesome post, Robin??

      I think that’s the thing – there are a lot of topics I know a bit about, and I’m curious and interested in things I know nothing about, but there’s not one thing I feel I’m the world’s foremost EXPERT in. I always worry, just a little bit, that if I picked the one thing I’m BEST at to blog about, I’d run out of posts, sooner or later, and there would go any illusions I might’ve had, any pretensions to being an “expert” whatever. On the flip side of that, when I know too much about a thing, it seems rather obvious – to me. And that leaves me with little to say about it. I’m better at blogging my own learnings, my imperfect opinions, my discoveries, the things that lurk in the Swiss cheese holes in my brain – than I am at writing about anything I’m “expert” in, because when it comes to things I know very well, I tend to think others know them just as well as I do. I’m always surprised to learn that’s not true, which is why questions can lead to blog post inspiration. It’s just a tiny touch of “imposter syndrome,” I think – not enough to hold me back, but enough that I really never imagine that I know more than everyone else, even on the rare occasion when I may.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Genre RebellionMy Profile

  2. Oh I love this post (and I’ve been thinking about writing something similar). I’m enjoying the UBC but the category thing annoys me so much. I’ve been saying “it’s personal” for the category but it’s not – I don’t write daily updates of today I did this and today I did that I write about my life – it’s books, and disability and writing and goals for the year and crafts and things I’ve thought about – so many different things all at once and different every time.

    1. I thought YOU would love this, too, Emma – thought of you as I was writing it. We need to invent our own category (we have Rasheed’s full support – need to include him in the discussion), and then take it to Danni and Paul and say, “Look, we need more diversity AND inclusiveness! Here’s what we want our stuff called!” LOL Oooh, how about “General Awesomeness”? 😀 I mean, seriously, I do get the need to communicate the general topic / category (and mind it less if it’s just post by post), because I got a bit tired one round of always falling into these super religious posts and having very little I felt comfortable saying. It’s not that I mind reading them, but if comments are required, I need more of a hat to hang them on, sometimes. Same of super personal posts by young bloggers talking about their “bae” or their sexual exploits. That’s as bad as sports – you know, more of a participatory thing than a spectator thing. 😀

      1. I see we garnered some attention with our blogging! We could be awesome blogging activists! LOL Yes, I saw and enjoyed your post. You are, indeed, beyond and surpassing definition. I just yanked you into something over there on FB… hope you’ll forgive me for my eager rudeness.

  3. Some women have more than one wig. Some writers have more than one genre. All politicians have several versions of the truth, none of them true. This is the nature of our world.

    Even guys like Heinlein, Clarke, and company who were basically known for science fiction, could and did write other stuff: Pure science, Biblical commentaries, humor, etc.

    Gene Roddenberry, is remembered for Star Trek. But he also wrote scripts for police procedurals, and drama.

    Holly has less fame, but more diversity…. Of course, she is more notorious! LOL!

    So as Austin Kleon or Seth Godin would say, keep on producing. Keep on shipping. Keep on doing. But being a good little truth and honesty loving Texan attorney, don’t go around stealing like an artist! Perry Mason would not like that!

    1. What a lovely tribute, Pete! 😀 (FWIW, I’m more artist than attorney – I have a law DEGREE, but not a license. I’ve never actually used the degree. In fact, it’s still in its cardboard shipping container.)

      1. One should always keep one’s degree in a cardboard container, in a safe place for security reasons…

        Now, see, IF maybe I was a writer, I would write a cute little Jahangirian horror story, about a degree that was actually a living thing, and was kept in a cardboard box for decades, pining away…. Doe sit want revenge for not seeing the light of day? Does it accidentally get out, to wreak havoc upon the world? Does it turn into a powerful Genie, and one day someone frees it, and it grants them a wish? (I know a Blonde or three that would wish for one less Meddling Canuck! But one is a forgiving Pastrix, the other an absent minded employee of a tech company. The third, would likely wish for a guillotine!….)

        Ah, there are possibilities here. And different degrees would do different things….. A business degree would take over a medical company and raise the price of a much needed drug. A medical degree, would give someone a rare itching disease. A divinity degree would — A law degree….. But, I digress, do I not?

        Still, with a little imagination and some creative thinking, there could be several stories here….. A small series of them….

      2. Hmm. No, mine’s pretty much just a dead tree lounging in a dark corner of my closet. I actually have a completely different idea, if I ever write it (been mulling it for a few years now) that I think you’d like. Maybe I should mull less and write more, this year.

  4. Oh, and this:

    “The true art of letter-writing is to express on paper exactly what one would say to the same person by word of mouth.”
    Jane Austen, 1801

    I’m not sure how relevant it is. I talk a lot. Sometimes even on topic. But it rings a bell, and is about writing…..

    1. It’s a good quotation, and I think of blogging the same way Austen thought of letter writing. In fact, I’ve joked in the past about blogs being the extended version of the Christmas card letter, just mass mailed to the world. I try not to make mine so personal that strangers can’t relate; however, if they’re completely IMPERSONAL, they might as well be written by a machine, at this point.

      1. Welllll….. do Mull less and write more. But mulling is a FIRST requirement to any creative endeavour. You need to get the little grey cells turned on….

        And there is a fine balance between too personal and too impersonal. Personal enough that anyone can join in and feel like the “thing is talking to them”. Impersonal enough that they do not feel they are being talked about (Unless, of course, that is one of the objectives!) Or impersonal about that a newby does not feel they are intruding on a private conversation.

      2. Yes. I loved that when I was blogging about having cancer, one commenter boldly admitted that they weren’t sure if they were SUPPOSED to laugh over my posts, but they were laughing. That made me laugh, too – with sheer joy in the knowledge that I was doing it right. As I said to them, “If you’re not laughing, I’m doing a poor job as a writer.” Because there was a ridiculous side to all of it, and it’s usually much better to laugh than to cry or curl up in a little weeping ball of misery under the blankie. I’m not sure that cancer can survive genuine laughter. Laugh at it, and you make CANCER curl up in a little weeping ball of misery.
        HollyJahangiri recently posted…RCE: Small Victories Deserve Big Celebrations!My Profile

  5. Oh, Hella! And this!

    “Don’t impress others with what you have; impress them with who you are.” — Robert Tew

    Now you have been inspired. Go write.

  6. I faced this problem too when I was asked to put my blog under a particular category. It is so confusing right? There is this and there is that! Can’t put it under a particular category. Loved your post!

  7. I’ve been blogging since 2009, and I can’t put my blog into any one category, either. I’m part of that same challenge you are talking about and I admit to some annoyance with the daily request to announce a category for your blog. On purpose, I don’t limit myself to any one topic. I love your solution – perhaps I should call my category Food, also, for: food to nourish the reading soul, eye candy (my pictures), food for thought (today’s post on organ transplants), and maybe I’ll even post a real food post sometime in January.
    Alana recently posted…Organ TransplantsMy Profile

      1. Call it mental and spiritual nourishment and development, then, not food. And what the hella is a punishment pig? Would one be available to send to a good Swedish friend, who is struggling with losing weight? (And is also a fan and servant of The Princess Singer…)

      2. No, you misunderstand the inside joke – “Food” was one of the choices. “Spiritual nourishment and development” was not. The “punishment pig” refers back to the consequence I set myself for not meeting last year’s weight loss goals. It’s a crocheted, amigurumi pig with seed pearls and a purple feather boa, which I will auction off for Relay for Life this year. Due to the problems with my eye and the fact that I did lose SOME weight, I’m letting myself off the hook when it comes to the part about crocheting it in embroidery floss. That’s just too harsh.
        HollyJahangiri recently posted…RCE: Small Victories Deserve Big Celebrations!My Profile

  8. Since you mention it, where DO you stand on “The Lady or the Tiger”? I believe now, as I always have (sunny flipping optimist that I am), that she directed him to the lady. Where there’s life, there’s hope. Also, she undoubtedly has the connections to arrange for the lady to be disappeared at some point in the future.

    1. I, too, believe she directed him to the lady. If she ever loved him at all, she did. And if he loved her, he would know that she did. It’s funny, but I never doubted it until asking other women – far too many of whom would have sent him to his fanged doom. I’d have sent him to the lady. Love worth dying for is love worth living for, and that kind of love always wants what’s best for the other.

      That said, “Meet Me Halfway” isn’t QUITE the equivalent. 😉 It just has one of those ambiguous endings that might be full of bright promise for a happy future or…not. Today, I think yes. But the sun is shining after days of unrelenting gray, dripping dreariness. Ask me again, tomorrow.

      1. I read a story once, long ago…. where she sends him to the lady, who is a close friend/relative of hers. The lady spirits him away, back to her, and the 2 lovers escape.

        The other story I read was that he was sent to the tiger, but that there was a weapon also behind that door to even up the odds.

        Now where and when I read this? That information was lost long ago.

        They were not full stories, they were more like discussions or commentaries….

      2. “The Lady or The Tiger” has provoked many discussions and commentaries since it was written. I remember studying it in high school. I think the ending frustrated me a little, but it stuck with me in a way that a resolved and definitive ending never would. When I first read it, I knew nothing of romantic love, loss, jealousy – it seemed obvious to me that if you loved someone, you’d want only the best for them. I still feel that way. But I know, and better understand, those who believe she sent her lover to the tiger. That isn’t love; that’s jealousy and possessiveness and discussion of the story may be a good way to spot the danger signs in a potential mate. There are even some who hold what I think (now) is a tragic and immature view of love, who believe he WANTED her to send him to the tiger – and that she, like Juliet, swallowed poison or otherwise offed herself before she could be married off to another. I remember my husband telling me, once, that he would not throw himself in front of a bus if he had no chance of saving me from being hit by it – but he’d be very sad and throw me a nice funeral. I was rather offended, at first, but have come to appreciate being married to a SANE man, and have since assured him I’d arrange a lovely funeral for him, as well, under the same circumstances. Seriously, I’m glad I’m not married to a melodramatic nutcase. I hope everyone in the story went on to lead a full, happy life. Even the tiger.
        HollyJahangiri recently posted…RCE: Small Victories Deserve Big Celebrations!My Profile

  9. I write as an occupation therapy to keep me out of mischief. I write only my blog and may be a few very short letters a month. I don’t think that my writing can be straight jacketed into any genre.
    Rummuser recently posted…Being Alone.My Profile

    1. Thank you, Patricia! I’ve always struggled to figure out the difference between “blogging” and “writing” (as it seemed obvious to me that “blogging” was “writing”) and now I think that I get it – writers who blog seem more reluctant to define a genre for their blogs than bloggers who write. In a way that’s kind of odd; but then again, doesn’t “genre” relate more to the shelving and marketing of a book than to anything about the writer’s creative process?
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…RCE: Small Victories Deserve Big Celebrations!My Profile

      1. Yes, it’s like being put in a box with a tidy little label so agents, editors, and booksellers can determine how to classify the book. The manuscript I have in the submission process now is being called a historical mystery by my editor, but my critique group fought hard to get me to call it women’s fiction. It’s really historical women’s fiction with an embedded mystery of the “Who’s gonna do it?” instead of the usual “Who done it?” That’s not what editors and agents want to hear.

        I’ve resisted boxing up my blog because I have eclectic interests and those interests change and flow over time. My goal is to have fun with the darned thing.
        Patricia Stoltey recently posted…The Ten Things I Resolve Not to Do in 2016My Profile

  10. RE: I remember my husband telling me, once, that he would not throw himself in front of a bus if he had no chance of saving me from being hit by it – but he’d be very sad and throw me a nice funeral. I was rather offended, at first, but have come to appreciate being married to a SANE man, and have since assured him I’d arrange a lovely funeral for him, as well, under the same circumstances.

    He seems logical! If he could save you, he would, If not, he would survive for the kids and the pets. And if you feel the same way, well, it saves HP having to replace you!

      1. Hey! I tried! And as Nancy and many others have said: “Pete is SO trying!” (You can join the club, dues are $5 a year, or 6 SHORT stories, ONE of which HAS to have a happy ending! Because I am a Die Hard romantic, just like Bruce Willis!)

        And well, hey, you probably have fun at HP! (Sometimes!)
        And the average cost of replacing a good employee can range from $2000 to $10,000. So, naturally, I do not want them to spend all that money!

        But you see, he was so logical and far sighted, that he was looking into the future! One assumes he still is. Better a logical hubby than an emotional one.

Comments are closed.