Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Request for a discussion of genre


I was asked to discuss genres -- how a writer would decide which genre to write a particular idea in -- how a reader can figure out from the publisher's labels what books they really want to read (or avoid!).

This is a big topic and I'm way out of time for today. But I do have a great deal to say about genres - where they come from, what they're good for, and why the commercial establishment adopts them then defends them beyond all reason.

We are, as I noted last week, in a vast seachange in the Fiction Delivery System - paper publishing melting down.

And genre barriers that have been absolute and rigid are finally starting to melt down too.

Now is the time for writers to jump in there and create new genres -- and readers need to help.

If you're interested in this area of discussion, please drop a comment here and ask your questions. It's a huge topic - I'd like to carve it up into small pieces.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Anonymous10:19 PM EST

    I was just involved in similar discussions at Romancing the Blog and Dear Author. Huge learning experience! Wonderful! I'm a speed-reader. As a result of our discussions, I've decided to blog every Tuesday on books I've sped-read without regard to labels. Instead, I'll review by factors, so the readers can be find good books despite any mislabeling. I never would have bought my favorite book of 2006 if I had known its genre! If anyone's interested, I explain my plan in today's entry. I could use recommendations!

    Also, figuring genre and subgenre was a major frustration for me during the Final Polish of SCD. Drove me out of my stark, raving mind! Then, I found an interview of Linnea Sinclair on Sequential Tart and screamed, "Ahhh! That's it! That's what I write! I knew I couldn't be the only one!" Now, I point all my writer-friends to that interview too. And to this blog. Much thanks to all columnists here!

    It's the 21st Century. Girls really do like science. And science fiction. ;) I think I'm going to blog about Majel Barret soon, my favorite Star Trek actor. She and others like her really paved the way for the rest of us.

  2. Anonymous10:51 PM EST

    Jacqueline, I would love it if you could tell us how the publication process and the genre and subgenres have changed since you first began.

  3. Anonymous4:14 PM EST

    Combinations that were originally considered daring cross-genre experiments sometimes become recognized new genres (or at least subgenres) in their own right. The one I know of is paranormal romance.

  4. Even in the automotive world, everyone now talks of cross-overs (a term my dh first used publicly in 1991)

  5. Jacqueline,

    Interesting question.

    I have often thought that books should be categorized differently, too, maybe depending on how a reader reads.

    I've seen books praised as "a good, fast read" or "a beach read". It seems to me that there are books to be enjoyed in Fast-Food mode, and books to be enjoyed in Fine-Dining Mode... and maybe there should be Grazing mode, too!

    I don't mean to suggest that a bookstore would use gustatory metaphors! They could just as well be Train, Plane, and Take To Bed reads.

    I assume that the Fast-food reads would be plot-driven books, page-turners, full of events in a logical order, and the humor would not require the reader to pause and reflect on the nuances of words, or to look back.

    Grazing... antholologies would be perfect.

    Ronald B Tobias in "20 Master Plots" suggests that there may be two very different categories of novels: plot-driven or character-driven.

    Novels/Plots of the body vs Novels/Plots of the mind. Tragedy vs comedy. I especially enjoyed Mr. Tobias's analysis of Dante's Inferno.

    I'd also be very happy as a reader if books were separated into Permanently Happy Ending and Open Ending.

    Best wishes,
    Rowena Cherry