Genre. Ugh. The subject gets more coverage than alien abduction, and it probably always will. The Internet is full of advice urging writers to pick a genre and then write to it; this before the opening sentence gets any thought. Writing to a genre gives the author a clear marketing path. There are warnings against cross genre work because it is hard to market, and then there are the arguments about what exactly, qualifies a story as belonging to a particular genre. Makes the head spin so I surprise myself, but I want to advocate a new genre.
I appreciate that genre categories help readers find a book – readers know what kind of story they like. I use those categories when I’m looking for a fresh read. It’s the best tool for digital browsing. Problem is, the categories are often restrictive. Amazon has denied several of my clients publishing their work in the genre category they’ve chosen. And they don’t explain what factors the decision was based on. Does that mean if your Regency era tale of love involves Aunt Middie, the humble poor relation whose secretive potions are powerful and move the plot along, you have a Romance – or a fantasy? You could publish in both categories but it would still be unseen by readers who didn’t check both those boxes.
Can a gripping good story feature a sexy vampire who steals the crown jewels, thwarts a terrorist plot, redeems the fallen countess as he exposes government corruption and solves the murder, all while meeting and winning his one true love? Of course it can. To me, the best books always have possibilities beyond what the author may have intended. I love genre-blending books, the mixed bag plots that weave in a load of improbable possibles and make it all work because the world building and plotting are strong enough for the necessary suspension of belief.
It’s a given that genre categories are necessary. I accept it and am glad that the categories themselves have expanded to include more contemporary fictional worlds such as Dystopia and Magical Realism. Still, that doesn’t cover those books that defy categorization by mixing literary elements. A.F. Scudiere, whose Nightshade series involves werewolves, the FBI, forensics, action and adventure and a developing love story is Amazon-ranked in thriller, suspense, fantasy, occult and mystery. That’s a pretty wide reach and each category fits in some way but I have to wonder how many readers browse all of them.
Ashley C. Gillis’s Detach & Target is a military thriller and a romance and neither element trips the other up. She is on Amazon under romance, war & military, and war. I wonder how many readers missed this exciting and well written book because the genre categories don’t exactly fit. I think a lot of readers may be missing a really gritty and realistic story of a special Marine unit’s action and interaction. If we had a genre category that spread a wider net, including any mix of literary devises in a cohesive, well written whole, it would be a great place to browse when a reader is hungry to taste something outside the conventional.
I propose calling this genre Salmagundi. It’s not just a salad anymore, it’s a new literary flavor.
This is the first (and sometimes only) chance to grab a reader and compel them to buy the book. And so, like click bait, you need to lure your reader with an honest but irresistible snap shot.
In these times of pandemic lock down we’re all searching for something that will absorb us, entertain, teach–challenge us.
Every writer is subject to the influences of their time, influences that shape their work in some way. From Stephan King’s brand of horror—which he’s said was influenced by the pervasive fears of the cold war — to the oh so mannerly and delicately choreographed plots of Regency era literature, a reader can feel the spirit of the author’s era.
“All stories are about wolves. Anything else is sentimental drivel.” Margret Atwood.
That’s a strong statement – lots of ways to interpret it. I love it because to me, it says that all stories should have a villain.
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