1. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why do we have to write in a genre?

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by Hubardo, Jun 15, 2015.

    Today someone told me they would have an easier time critiquing my story if they knew what genre it was. Then my friend who just attended a big writer's conference said she got that a lot from people. We understand the publishing and marketing importance of genre, but this seems overall bothersome. My two favorite authors are are Chuck Palahniuk and Haruki Murakami. When I look for their books they're in the fiction section. I really don't think either of them sat down and asked themselves which genre their stories would fit into. Personally, I find most genre fiction to be corny precisely because of how limited it forces itself to be. I'm aware that these are amateurish sentiments but I think this will generate some interesting conversation. If I have to, I'll start thinking more about what box my work fits into. However, at this time, I find that approach to be stifling.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You don't have to write in a genre, but the publisher may well decide to stick your book in one for marketing reasons.
     
  3. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    ...I like spaceships :p
     
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  4. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Well ... I'm not sure how it'd be easier to critique something if you knew its genre - honestly I would think the genre would become apparent in reading. So I'm not sure about all that.

    Obviously having a genre to stamp on something will make it easier to market but you don't so much have to write 'in' a certain genre, I think of it more as you write something and it falls into some genre by coincidence. If you're writing about robots and space it's probably sci-fi. If there's elves and swords it's probably fantasy. Not definitely, though: Star Wars's classification as sf just by virtue of being in space can be a bit contentious since it follows traditional fantasy tropes. (Contentious in very specific circles, but still, hahah.)

    You might wanna check out the difference between genre fiction and literary fiction. You might be writing or intend to write the latter.
     
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  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Genre is no more than a description of your work. It's not anything you have to write in, rather it's something you should know about your story, like asking boxers or briefs.

    Your story dictates the genre it's in, not necessarily the other way around.
     
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  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    This is a fun read:
    How Genre Fiction Became More Important Than Literary Fiction
     
  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Like you said, a big reason is marketing. Publishers like to make it easy for readers to find books. For example, if I like books with dragons and magic in it, I'm more likely to find a book I like in the fantasy section than anywhere else. So while your book certainly doesn't need to fall into only one genre, labeling it as fantasy or romance or whatever makes life easier for everyone.
     
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  8. Masked Mole
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    Masked Mole Contributing Member

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    I really don't see why a reviewer would want to know the genre (unless it's a publisher). I didn't see a mention in your post that the person who critiqued yours was a publishing person though. If it's well-written and compelling, so be it. The genre should have nothing to do with a book's quality.
     
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  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I like'um too. [​IMG]
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think genre limits you. At least, SF, fantasy, and horror all have a lot of diversity. Limitations are rooted in misconceptions of genre.

    I'd say Murakami falls into SF with some of his work. 1Q84 and Hard-Boiled Wonderland, for example. Soft SF, but still...

    They're in fiction because they're considered literary. Literary SF/F is often shelved in general fiction, and horror usually is as well.
     
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  11. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    It can be hard to place some works in a genre. My first work, for example, is set on Earth in the 23rd century. Technology is somewhat more advanced than it is now, as you would expect, but there's no mention of aliens or space travel.

    Just because it is set in the future, and there's mention of advanced artificial intelligence, many people I've asked tell me it's a science fiction story.

    Genres can be seen as labels which can be used to advertise your story to its intended audience. Sometimes a story can fit into multiple genres. You can even use aspects of genres not usually associated with the primary genre of the story.
     
  12. nrextakemi
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    nrextakemi Member

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    >why do we have to

    We don't. /thread

    You write the story, and then let the other people label and genre it the way they see fit. Most good fiction doesn't fit into a single genre anyway.
    Thinking in genres is probably the most creativity-killing, harmful thing you can do to yourself.
     
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  13. Vrisnem
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    Vrisnem Member

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    It's not just about the quality of the overall work - the advertised genre of a book sets up the readers expectations and what they want to gain from reading the book and this can have an impact on how they interpret the story.

    Readers like to know what they're getting themselves into. They have different expectations depending on the genre of the book: they have preconceived notions about genre and have their own personal likes and dislikes pertaining to it. If their expectations aren't met then they can be left disappointed.

    I started reading a book series about a week ago under the illusion that it was a romance (based on it's publisher, blurb, and reviews) and it turned out to be a crime novel. If it weren't for the fact that crime is actually one of my favourite genres I would have been hugely disappointed in the story because it's not what I hoped to get out of it. Even if I hadn't been a fan of crime, it's not that the book would have been any worse because it turned out to be something different - but as a consumer it's not what I thought I was paying for. As a romance novel, like I went into it believing it was, it failed to meet my expectations by a long shot. However, as a crime novel I loved it - in fact, as soon as I finished the first book I went straight to the publisher's website and bought the next one in the series. :D

    It can be hard to tell sometimes, especially if something isn't written well. I'm guilty of mistaking badly written horror as comedy.
     
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  14. Reilley Turner
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    Reilley Turner Active Member

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    Here's how I see it: writing in a Genre is easier, but detrimental to the book. Writing and letting the book "choose" the genre is much better.
     
  15. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Doesn't make sense to me unless you have some strange misconceptions about genre. In any event, if you're publishing traditionally the publisher will make the call, ultimately.
     
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  16. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Ooh. Oh dear. I did not think about that, hahah.
     
  17. Reilley Turner
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    Reilley Turner Active Member

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    What I'm trying to say is if the book is good enough, it will fit a genre without you trying.
     
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  18. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It may. Or maybe it'll end up just being general fiction. If you know it is something that is going to fit within a particular genre, I think it is helpful to know that as you are writing (and to be familiar with the genre), and not limiting.
     
  19. Reilley Turner
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    Reilley Turner Active Member

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    That's true as well. Shall we agree to disagree?
     
  20. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Sure, no problem :)
     
  21. Reilley Turner
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    Reilley Turner Active Member

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    Thanks, I just don't don't want to get in a big argument. :)
     
  22. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I hear you. I am supposed to be working right now anyway!
     
  23. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Once upon a time, David Fincher tried to make a film. His marketing team had to set up test audiences, so they asked for people who had liked 1) Driving Miss Daisy because Morgan Freeman was in Fincher's film and 2) Legends of the Fall because Brad Pitt was in Fincher's film. After one such test showing of Fincher's film for the Driving Miss Daisy + Legends of the Fall audience, Fincher overheard one of the audience members telling her friends "Whoever made this movie should be shot."

    How could Fincher (and his horrifyingly unlucky test audience) have had this problem if genre truly didn't matter?
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2015
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  24. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think genre matters more than people think. Go ahead write a book, write exactly what you want the book to be. Then try fitting it into a genre. Good luck.

    Some genres are more forgiving than others ...sci fi or fantasy, for example. But others are not.

    Romances have certain requirements. (The romance itself has to be central to the story, and the story ends when the two romantic leads finally get together.) A story with a romance in it, is not really a 'Romance' unless the romance is the whole point of the story. Historical novels need to be about a historical character, or about fictional characters dealing with real historical events (preferably major ones.) Set an ordinary human-interest story IN a historical setting, but the events of history in that setting are not the focus of the story? You're in some difficulty already. Write a book that is too long or too short for the genre, and you're in trouble. Put in frank sexual scenes (which are necessary to your character development) and boom, you're locked out of certain genres right away.

    I have written a book that I simply can't fit into any genre at all. I've spent years trawling publishers/agent requirements, and NONE fit my book enough to even make an approach. So rather than change my book to fit, I'm publishing it myself. It was an eye-opener. I used to think that if you wrote a decent book it wouldn't be hard to get an agent to look at it. But read their preliminary requirements, and you find it's not easy at all. Agents are really focused on genre, although I think they don't want to admit it. But genre sells. People don't want to take a chance on a book that doesn't 'fit.'
     
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  25. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Why is your book not literary fiction, @jannert? I'm just curious.
     
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