Thursday, March 3, 2016

Honest Thoughts: What's in a genre?

March is my Exploring Genre's month and I'm so excited for it! I've got some awesome guest posts lined up but I've also got some thoughts about genres--who knew?

First off, what is genre anyway?

Well, as someone who loves to sort and organize things (particularly books...) I get it. We need to be able to categorize books. I mean, what would a library be without categories? Or Barnes and Nobel without their little section signs? You get the point...but I've realized the rational, sorting portion of my brain is in direct opposition with the creative "what if" side of my brain.

Obviously, anymore, there large exceptions to the broad genre categories. In romance alone you'll find Romantic Comedy, Romantic Suspense, Historical Romance, Contemporary Romance...and well, you get the idea. I like this because I feel like it opens up the playing field of sorts. It breathes room into the "anything can happen" possibility of a book. But, sometimes, there's some big resistance--especially from those who are dogmatic about their preferred genre and don't like to see it "profaned".

But there have been some unlikely genres that have gotten crossed successfully. Like Amish Zombies From Space by the talented Kerry Nietz, the sequel to his Amish Vampires in Space. Or like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which is super popular right now. (And can I just say the movie was awesome? Matt Smith as Mr. Collins = brilliant). Then there's the slightly less drastically crossed genres like Ted Dekkers Hacker or Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles that combines well-known fairy tale stories set in a futuristic world. Hum, I guess that's still pretty dramatic...

By nature writers are creative and inventive, it's no surprise we like to "blur the lines" where possible. 

But what's in a genre--really? I mean, how important is it that you can categorize a book? I've found myself feeling stifled. What if I want to write a romantic suspense that involves super powers? Or what if I want to have a mysterious/thrilling romantic comedy? I'm sure there are examples of books with this so obviously it's been done ;-) But, in all honestly, I don't like the fact that authors often get pegged into a genre and they get stuck there.

I know, I know, I hear you all--but "Insert My Favorite Author" writes "Insert My Favorite Genre" so well, I don't want to read anything else by them! That's fair. I get that way with some authors too and find that some authors write a particular genre better than anything else (that is, if they branch out at all). Also, there's the fact that the publishing world would say "Pick a genre and stay with it" (most of the time). creative mind rebels.

I realize I'm not "every author". I don't pretend to speak for them, but I will speak for myself saying that I love a lot of genres. Personally, I'd be happy to write Science Fiction, Romantic Suspense, Dystopian, Historical, Fantasy, Romance, and even a few combinations of the above :D Alas, I'm afraid I may need to be pegged into a genre for a time...It's not the worst thing and as a reader I appreciate being able to understand what I can expect from an author...but it still feels limiting.

Like Shakespeare's quote, we pick up a genre because we like it, but I have to wonder if we're missing out by limiting ourselves. In the world of self-publishing I think there are more options than ever to break out and to "name" what we write just a little differently. Then again, there are categories for a reason too. *sigh* What do you think, dear readers?

It's your turn for Honest Thoughts: How important are genres to you? Do you like a book to stay within a specific genre or do you like it when they "cross" into other genres? What's your favorite genre? What genres would you like to see "crossed"?

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