Friday, March 18, 2011

Genrefication

Feels weird to get back to it, but it's about time, I think...

So my buddy Leigh posted last week about knowing where you fit: Knowing your Niche.

And don't tell anyone I am telling on her, but she confessed to *whispers* genre hopping!

And honestly, I'm not monogenred myself, though I do have a TYPE... I thought maybe we could talk a little about WHY we write what we do, how much flexibility there is in there, and whether the genres are connected or not... I'll go first, how's that?



READING Interests

BROAD (but not unlimited)

I love dark twisted stuff is what it boils down to.

That covers most thrillers (unless they are too technically detailed—think Tom Clancy—he loses me in the mechanics, or require previous understanding of fairly complex governmental inter-relationships—I find it all interesting, but that level needs to be easy to understand to a neophyte).

It covers most suspense (in fact this is probably my favorite, as it has more character depth than thrillers, and if I am diving into danger, I'd rather do it with someone I care about)

It covers MUCH mystery, but here too, I like the sub-genres where I get to know people and feel for them, so I am VERY picky on professional sleuths. I've read a ton I love, and I've put a ton aside unfinished because the person leading the story is one I just don't find compelling.

I love dystopian stuff provided there is that character connect (some, like Orwell's stuff, is way too detached.)

I love horror, done well... I want the kind with less gore and more ooky, freaky stuff... My favorite is Peter Straub. Mr. X is my favorite of his books.

I love family sagas—you know, where there is some dark secret that is tearing a family apart... or some grand event that makes them learn what is important...

I love historic fiction IFF the story and characters are compelling... I really prefer this to teach me history without it feeling like it's teaching me... I just finished The Pericles Commission and it is a SUBLIME example of and excellently done historic (in this case, murder mystery, so a double win)

I love fantasy DONE WELL. There needs to be a solid plausibility built in. Yeah, I know the CRITTERS and PEOPLES are often fantasy... I know there is MAGIC, but the rules need to be limited in a consistent way that amps the story. And honestly... these are often published without adequate editing... but when they are great, they are great.



What I sometimes Enjoy

Sci-Fi I am picky about but HAVE liked. I love... for instance... Ender's Game. I also love a medical sci fi. I think this is a genre I am limited for the same reason as some thrillers. I don't CARE about machines and technical crap, but the MEDICAL technical crap, because of my field, I can assimilate without feeling like it is that... The stuff though about relationships that happens to be set futuristically... that stuff is pretty cool.

Chick Lit... This is sort of a mood thing... I LOVED my first Jennifer Werner book and the second felt like an identical book and had no appeal. I really like a journey of self-discovery... I've LOVED a couple Anna Quindlan books and I think they fall here, though I guess I'm not sure... they seem to be family journeys more interesting to women though.

Literary Fiction:  I really love it if it isn't too pretentious, but it takes a lot more brain power on my end, so it is a more rare read.




What I Really Don't Read

Romance (and I don't mean to pick on this one—haven't read it... just was the first google image under romance novel): I'll tell you why. I don't buy it. There is not a premise in romance I can get behind. Happily Ever After bugs me, but my REAL problem is with the idea that ONE person can solve the problems of ANOTHER person. My fine friends... if you have problems, getting in a RELATIONSHIP is NOT the answer. If you meet a hot ASSHOLE, making him love you will NOT make him not an asshole. He will just be an asshole who loves you and so becomes YOUR problem because he is specifically an asshole to YOU. If YOU are insecure or confused or petty, a MAN will only make matters worse.

Non-fiction:  My life already has more reality than I care for...




There... so I've said it.

That SAID, I adore romance as the secondary plot to ANY of the above genres. It ROCKS as a secondary plot. You know why? It allows a romance to happen in a more realistic way if it isn't genre romance, and I LIKE LOVE. (note that chick lit romance usually involved personal growth—makes it much better, in my opinion.)



So how does that affect what I WRITE?

I'd love to write all the stuff I like, but I have some limitations...

I don't have the KNOWLEDGE (erm... or drive to learn) what is needed for historical, sci fi, or the thrillers that get into political stuff. Also on the more technical variety of mystery, though HERE, I can see myself progressing some. As I learn from the amateur sleuths I already write, I may decide to venture into slightly more knowledgeable sleuths. Probably I will never be a cop.

I don't have the IMAGINATION to write fantasy. This may be because I came to the genre late—I thought I was 'too mature' at much too young an age. I think I can say the same for horror... I just have a lot of trouble coming up with new, interesting awful stuff.


I have a couple ideas that are chick lit... I have a family sage (sort of mine) I KNOW I will write some day... but these are all sort of 'eventually' things.

For MORE thrillers... it is a skill issue, but also a character commitment... probably I won't get there.

What I end up with is the suspense, mystery, and the dark end of YA.



So how is the overlap of what you read and write, and what limits you (or does anything) for the writing end?

27 comments:

Jessica Bell said...

Hmmm ... very interesting! Um, hart, there's no literary in here! ;o) I'm starting to break out of my only reading what I write habit, and I'm quite enjoying it! But I've never tried to write any other genre. I haven't had my fill of MY genre yet!

Ca88andra said...

I admit I hadn't thought of the connection between what I read and what I write (shows you how my brain works at the moment), but I enjoy biographies and autobiographies, especially of strong women, and memoirs. I like reading about people who have somehow lifted themselves above whatever was holding them down. And I like writing about my life. Go figure!

Al said...

I read almost anything.
So far I mostly write historical fiction.
I have a couple of ideas for sci fi and fantasy. But given I have no idea when I might get to them.

Hart Johnson said...

Jessica- Ha! I DID forget literary fiction... I sort of feel like several genres can be done in a literary way but mostly I'd classify them as higher level family or chick lit and I love reading them, but know I can't write them.

Cassandra-And another category I missed! I'm not really a fan of non-fiction because there seem to usually be holes in the 'plot' though done well, there are exceptions. Makes total sense, though, that you like writing what you like reading!

Al, hopefully you'll get to that time when you can write the other books you like!

Madeleine said...

Suspense, mystery, and the dark end of YA sounds like a great combination. I'm going to be writing on this subject as one of my A-Z blogging posts. I agree about not feeling knowledgeable about the historical. :O)

Ted Cross said...

Yes, Ender's Game was great. Have you tried Old Man's War by John Scalzi?

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Odd that I grew up reading Anne McCaffrey (sci-fi and fiction) and then ended up writing realistic YA fiction. Not sure there is a connection...

Laura Eno said...

Hmm...I don't read or write literary. It bores me. I love reading and writing fantasy, sci/fi, paranormal, thrillers. One thing I've noticed in my writing - no matter the genre, my characters experience growth. I guess I write quest, as opposed to adventure.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I read and write science fiction, but I don't care about the technical crap either. Also read fantasy and thrillers.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Just FYI (and not like you have any extra time at all!) but I hear through the grapevine that dark family sagas (a la "The Thornbirds") are the next big thing coming down the pike...

jennymilch said...

I agree with every single one of your choices, and why you made them.

Right now I'm moderating a two part panel in our Writing Matters series about Literary vs. Genre Fiction--Real Distinction or No Difference At All?

I'm gonna reference this post, thanks, Hart...

Mary Vaughn said...

Mystery, suspense, thriller with a recent mix of sci-fi.
Mostly I'll try anything but I'm not a romance fan. And the classics everyone LOVES, I will leave on the pile every time.
I believe anything you read influences your writing even in ways you don't realize.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

i jump around to most speculative fiction genres, but not so much outside of that.
Though i do have a good idea for a romance i've been sitting on for years...

Sarah McCabe said...

I primarily read fantasy and I honestly couldn't imagine writing anything else. I'm glad some people feel comfortable with multiple genres, but it's not for everyone. Some people only have that passion for one genre.

Old Kitty said...

I love sci-fi (reading and watching on the telly and sci-fi films) but I would never dare write one!!! Ever!!! I just don't have the confidence to pull one off!!!

But I read most anything!!!!! Even Romance!!! Especially if there is lots of NAKEDness involved!! Yay! Take care
x

Hannah Kincade said...

My favorites to read are similar to yours. I adore things dark and twisty. I do appreciate violent horror if it's done well. There's a very fine line between gore for gore's sake and tasteful gore. Ha! That sounds funny but it's the difference between say, Pan's Labyrinth (beautifully violent) versus Saw (violence for shock value). Then there's the whole commically gory movies like, Shaun of the Dead and Army of Darkness which I love love LOVE!. My comparisons always end with movies...huh.

And I'd love to say more but this commment is becoming way too long. This would have been a great blogfest. If you REALLY want me to go on, you have my email. ;)

Hart Johnson said...

Madeline-I look forward to that! Is it G?

Ted-I haven't. Are you recommending?

Diane-HA! The exception!

Laura-Yeah--I love that growth piece. Sounds like I would like your books!

Alex-funny that you don't like the technical stuff!

Elizabeth--Oh, my idea needs to wait until I've outlived a couple people... at least for publishing. I don't want to hurt anybody...

Jenny-thanks so much for linking me! It sounds like a great topic!

Mary-I often LOVE classics, but typically find them as hard as literary--sort of depends on the author.

Sarah-so interesting that you stick in the speculative end almost exclusively.

Ha! And another fantasy-oriented Sarah! What are the odds, do you suppose?

Jenny, I bet when you get your writing legs under you you could...

Hannah-I can actually get along with that kind of violence, too. And I'd love to hear your full dissertation on it!

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

I like a fairly good range of things, but I am SO picky it limits the reader in me. I tend to stick to fantasy, mythicals, some sci-fi if done properly (in my eyes) and some dystopian. I can't read romance for the sake of romance. Like you, it needs to be a secondary plot for me to enjoy it because it is more realistic.

Does it overlap? The fantasy and mythical do yes. Obviously my imagination gets away from me (you saw that scary post about going into a forcfield bubble under the sea) but I've harnessed it for the most part. The part of writing I have the most trouble with is romance. My characters are gun slingin, steely eyed killers...no wonder romance doesn't come easy.

Yes, I tried to swim it, got about 300 feet out and realized Google was wrong ;) I should have tried the canoe

LTM said...

But you know what a blabbermouth I am... I already TOLD everyone! :D

I'm sorry... Love's Secret Sniper??? BAH HAHAHA!!! :D *snort* lurv it...

And what you do write is divine--but don't forget your garden cozies! :o) <3

Michael Offutt said...

What I like to read varies with my mood. Sometimes I like poetry, at other times I crave action and thrill, then sometimes I like erotica. It really is wierd but depending on the time and how I feel,I'll go looking for something to read that fits those cravings.

Cold As Heaven said...

Read: (Russian) Classics, thrillers, nonfiction

Write: Crime, nonfiction.

Not much overlap. It would be kind of difficult for me to write Russian classics >:D

Cold As Heaven

Lucy V Morgan said...

Read: most things, except genre romances and epic man-based fantasy.

Write: contemporary erotic, in all its guises. Sometimes literary and sometimes more commercial.

My last novel was a literary erotic chick-lit pastiche with some thriller and comic elements...

Rachel Morgan said...

The type of stuff you love reading scares me too much! Just the pictures on this post are scaring me...
*shivers*

erica and christy said...

Before trying to write I read mostly mystery, supsense, legal thrillers, chick-lit, but NO fantasy or paranormal. My first stab at writing? Paranormal romance. So now I read that. And I'm getting into dystopians. christy

Holly Ruggiero said...

I like books that have a little of everything contain within the over all genre – okay not every single thing – but suspense, mystery, romance in a historical fiction or horror, suspense, drama in a fantasy.

Laura said...

Hi Hart - Interesting post! I have read a tonne of chick-lit over the past 7 years, and this is what keep coming back to in my writing but...
I have become totally lazy with my reading habits so sometimes wonder if I got out of my chick lit rut whether I'd end up writing something else - any books you'd suggest? I posted today to try to get a list of suggestions together,
Thanks for the inspiration!
Lx

Adina West said...

There's a definite overlap between what I like to read and what I write.

I confess to being a total genre-hopper, though romantic elements and writing for a (predominantly) female audience are common to most of my stuff.

I liked your point about not wanting to tackle certain genres because the required knowledge makes them too much hard work. There are books I love reading because of the wonderful research that has obviously gone into them...but it's only in certain areas that I want to spend my energy on that much research.