Thursday, May 16, 2013

genre blending/bending

As a writer I like to draw outside the lines of genre. I cross the borders of sci-fi and fantasy and realistic fiction and mystery and literary fiction and comedy and drama because a mix of genres helps me find the spark(s) that drive my story and give form and structure to it. Genres are all well and good if that’s where your work naturally fits. Mine doesn’t. I have to wander. Good for me. Not necessarily good for marketing.

A lot of people call the kind of fiction I’m talking about genre bending, but I think of it more as genre blending. I end up wandering in and out of genres and taking what I can from each that helps me tell my story.

People who sell books, as opposed to write them, like genres. They want to be able to put fiction in a neat category for the purposes of drawing a particular audience. (More true of adult novels than YA) Completely understandable. It makes it easier to sell a book if the seller can identify the audience and then try to find ways to attract that audience to a novel.  Publishers like genre and bookstores like genre. But here's the thing about fiction. It's not cooperative. There's something inherently rebellious about writing fiction. And there are writers who find themselves, even if they begin writing in a certain genre they love to read, wandering. Sometimes they’ll try to restrict themselves or pull their story back a certain way so they don’t loose their genre place. I think this can deflate certain stories, allow a certain inauthenticity to creep in, rob them of a richness a mix of genres might give.

I think, even though it may make your work harder to sell, you have to tell the story you have to tell. You gotta be who you gotta be. Eventually, readers will find you.

I like to read in many genres. Literary because I love language and character driven stories.  Sci-Fi for ideas—especially the strange ones—fantasy because the world needs magic and is full of mystery, mystery for story and entertainment…Of course I’m most drawn to works that might be presented as belonging to a certain genre but that I see as blending more than one. Kurt Vonnegut, for instance, who mixed realism with science fiction and comedy with drama and social criticism and lord knows what else to create a potent mix. GG Marquez mixed fantastical events and realistic fiction so well critics decided to give him his own genre: magical realism.  Kate Atkinson’s mysteries have elements of literary fiction and her literary fiction has elements of mystery.  These are just a few. There are many.

I love to write. I love to genre blend. I am frustrated that the market often struggles to accept good stories that blend genres but I have to write what excites me. I know there are readers out there like me who love to read books that artfully blend and bend genre and make something different, unusual, unique. I like a lot of books but what I’m looking for are books to fall in love with. 

For me, that’s often a book that doesn’t neatly fit into any category.