Posts on Writing: Genre

I often wonder how writers choose the genre or genres they write in. Is it the idea that forms the basis of the work? Or is it the types of stories that the writer enjoys? 

I know from my own experience that it I tend towards the idea ruling the genre. I have, right now, sketchy plans for two epic fantasy projects. And guess what? I cannot say that I am much of a fan of epic fantasy. But I have ideas that would work wonderfully in an epic format. 

Largely, I think, because I could mix and match cultural elements in a secondary world. 

Is that to say I want to stay in epic fantasy? Hell no. I have an urban fantasy in the works. And some steampunk. And I have a few science fiction ideas running around in the back of my mind. 

And here I come to the danger of genre. 

Yes, genre is a great tool for two reasons. It provides a means of organization. This organization allows readers and publishers to know what they have on the shelf. Genre also provides guidelines for the work.

But, genre also causes problems. And no, I’m not talking about which genre is better than others. For writers, genre can become a prison. Especially for successful writers. Examples: Daniel Abraham and Iain M. Banks. Daniel Abraham writes in several genres, but he uses various pen names for each genre. And Iain M. Banks writes science fiction while Iain Banks writes literary fiction. I really don’t like this. I don’t want to hide behind countless pen names because I don’t want to limit myself to just one genre. 

And that extends, obviously, to form (which is also a type of genre). This is where I struggle.  What form works best with the idea? In what circumstances is a novel more appropriate than a comic book or a movie or a television series or a video game? I always come back to this. Each form/ genre has its own strengths and weaknesses. And challenges to break in. 

Now, I have the suspicion that the idea may inform the format of the project. Though, perhaps, more work is needed before a final determination is reached. 

So, back to my two epic fantasy ideas. Both will be novels. Why? Because once I finish with them, I will never return to those ideas. I’m not the kind of writer who will bloat a work to make a standalone a trilogy. Or a trilogy into a septology. 

When it comes to longer works, I am more inclined to comics. I don’t know, but I just like the idea of comics and longer works. There are exceptions, though. 

The urban fantasy idea I mentioned has gone from being a comic book to being a twelve book series (yes, I was inspired by the number of Fleming’s Bond novels). Now, I’ve lowered the number to about three. Or an omnibus. 

Damn, writing this post has been helpful. It has cleared up so many issues I’ve been dealing with. Now, it’s back to work. And fighting this damn cold I’ve got. Ugh.

Next time, the Bard on Film. And something else. 



Posted on April 25, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I agree with you. I don’t see the point of multiple pen names. I think as long as you clearly label each book with the genre, then readers shouldn’t be confused.

    Keep smiling,

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