Genre – #AtoZChallenge

Apr 11, 2021 | Creativity & Inspiration

“So, what do you write?”

What don’t I write? Porn? Probably not. Annual reports? White papers? Not anymore! I shrug. “Everything? Whatever tickles my fancy?”

“Yes, but what’s your genre?”

I take a good swig of Bourbon and I’m immediately reminded of why I’ll never write like Hemingway. I cringe at the question, fighting the urge to cough as the alcohol fumes travel back up my throat. I want to say, “That’s a stupid question,” but there are no stupid questions. Nearly 30 years after everybody found a way to get online, there are only a devastating slew of stupid answers. I consider giving one. It would be so freeing.

I did used to answer “What do you write?” with “Cue cards for Vanna White,” or “those blurbs on the back of your cereal box – that thing you read when you’ve plowed through all the good books in the house, and it’s raining.”

Genre. Hmm. Technical manuals. That would be an honest, dreary answer.  But really, is “Whatever tickles my fancy” a genre? It might be easier to answer by process of elimination. What doesn’t interest me enough to write, ever?

I’m drawn to fantasy, in part because everyone’s a critic. These days, I can’t fool you if I write about Podunk – someone living in Podunk will get on the Internet and tell the world it’s obvious I’ve never been there. Someone else will rush to my defense, saying the residents of Podunk should just be happy for the good publicity, and glad I didn’t plant a strip club where the local Methodist church actually stands.

In an era where half of all readers want to escape into an alternate reality and the other half insist on scrupulous accuracy, it’s tough to write realistic fiction.

Horror is fun to write, but hits too close to reality, some days. And again, even if you write about vampires, someone’s going to Google “vampire facts” and pick their fangs with the pages of your novel. Fiction’s the one place where it is perfectly acceptable – required, almost – to create a world of “alternative facts.”

But why should anyone choose one genre from such a sumptuous smorgasbord? Just write. Let booksellers figure out where to shelve the thing.

After all, humans can’t be easily shoved into pigeonholes, why should stories be? The most interesting stories are written about humanity – our strengths, our flaws, and our foibles. Genre – if it exists at all, will out itself in time. One may elbow its way past the others to cry out, “I am the beast of Gothic Horror!” as the romantic heroine laughs, muttering, “The creature of comedy, more like…”

As Queen of the No-Niche Niche, I’d rather write “supremely entertaining, genre-bending works of fiction.” That’s it, in a nutshell. That’s my new mission statement, as a writer.

What genre do I write? You figure it out.

 

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard; A Puppy, Not a Guppy, illustrated by Ryan Shaw; and the newest release: A New Leaf for Lyle, illustrated by Carrie Salazar. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young-at-heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.

8 Comments

  1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

    If you’re going to write a lot of things for publication – and can write different genres at length – go for it. Why not?

    If you are going to spend over twenty-five years on one trilogy (like me), you’d really better know exactly what it is or you’re never going to be able to market it.

    It’s hard enough right now to attract readers to even trying something; Stephen King can write whatever he wants, but I don’t have that kind of fans who will follow me anywhere – I have to acquire them first.

    That said, I dabble in all kinds of things for entertainment – my site has short fiction in SF, mystery, suspense, and mainstream.

    I was going to be a mystery writer. Instead, I’ve ended up committed to a finished half-million realistic mainstream novel with the same three characters from beginning to end (and a cast of 64 other named characters and many spear holders). Who would’ve thunk it?

    Writing is fun.
    Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt recently posted…Writer’s difficult decisions mirror human lifeMy Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      Writing works best when it entertains and holds the WRITER’S attention, before all others, doesn’t it? 😁

      Reply
  2. Anne Doucette

    Check your email to confirm your subscription.

    “supremely entertaining, genre-bending works of fiction”. LOL. Good answer. Same here and so say we all, I think, if we are being on honest. I hear you on writing fantasy too, but you have to be careful as people will totally judge you for historical/mythical accuracy. I am not kidding. It doesn’t matter if you are even using this mythic definition of the made-up creature or not. Keeps things interesting. At least that means people are engaged? Writing is hard. Grats on keeping on keeping on with it.

    Anne Doucette recently posted…A-Z Day of RestMy Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      Of course they CAN, but there’s no risk to me in the debate if I’m the creator of the WORLD! LOL

      Reply
  3. Bob Jasper

    I love the idea of genre-bending stories. One of the issues I have is categorizing my writing. Often (almost always) it doesn’t seem to fit any of the cubbyholes the publisher wants you to put it in. I agree with letting the reader sort it out. If they like it, great, who cares what genre it is. If they don’t like it, don’t read it. I know, the publisher just wants to know what to put on the cover and what shelf to put it on in the store. I’m all over the place on genre, too. I write whatever I feel like of a moment. I suppose if I wrote longer, more involved pieces, knowing the genre might be more important to me.
    Bob Jasper recently posted…Cannot Love Prevail?My Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      Right! You have to figure out where to shelve it in the bookstore or library. That’s a must. Less important when searching Amazon, but still important because that it how we’re conditioned to think about books. And it makes sense, to a point. But I don’t want to think about it while I’m telling a story. I don’t think our caveman ancestors gave a damn about genre while they were regaling their neighbors with tales of their heroism on the hunt; I doubt the ancient Greeks and Romans thought about where to shelve their creation stories and myths. Genre is for Marketing to figure out. 😉

      Reply
  4. Red

    I <3 this SO MUCH!
    Although I was once driven out of a book after 100 pages of not knowing if it was to be time-travel, mystery, romance, or steam punk. That much genre schizophrenia in one book was hard on my brain.

    I used to say I write "chick lit" but I don't write romance and found that, by description, most of my stuff would be "women's fiction". Which sounds boring. I write strong female protagonists, who go through some s*** and come out stronger (or more self-aware) at the end. That's about the only similarity my stories have.

    Except my flash fiction. That changes a lot. My husband is doing a different genre every day of #AtoZ, if you can imagine!

    p.s. You left me a prompt on my C post, and it's taken me until U to figure out how to use it. It's finally up. So thanks!
    Red recently posted…Uninterrupted Quiet #AtoZChallenge UMy Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      That definitely sounds like “women’s fiction” but I agree, as a genre, that SOUNDS boring. When I was a kid, I didn’t know a thing about genre. But I had a favorite: I wonder if you can guess the name of it by what I called it? “Girl running away from the house novels.”

      Reply

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