Dreaming in Character

G.L. Jackson

On Genre

14 Comments

When I first started writing, the topic of genre confused me. It wasn’t that I couldn’t recognize a work of fantasy or of science fiction. I grew up reading JRR Tolkien, after all. The problem was that it was difficult to identify genre in my own work.

The more I write, the easier it becomes. I’m lucky that way: my latest work is young adult soft sci-fi. The one before that was a little more confusing. I thought it might have fit in the new adult arena, but my favorite beta reader assures me it needs to be categorized as literary (fortunately or not, that seems almost like a death knell for any story). The one before that was adult literary with elements of paranormal.

Part of me likes not being pigeon-holed into any one genre. The works I’ve had published qualify as fantasy, which is something I never thought I would be writing. One thing I’ve realized is that if I try to pigeonhole myself into only writing one genre, I miss out on a lot of possibilities.

I guess I don’t really have anything particularly concrete or insightful to say about this. It’s just something I’ve been considering a lot lately, because we all define ourselves by the things we do. That’s no different for me as a writer than it was when I was a massage therapist specializing in deep tissue work with a side branch of Reiki.

How about you? Do you like to stick to one genre, or are you a jack of all trades like I am?

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Author: G.L. Jackson

Writer, reader, amateur photographer. Mostly, I just like pretending to be a different person each day of the week.

14 thoughts on “On Genre

  1. In almost anything ever, I’m “Jill of all trades, master of none.” I’m starting to do some serious mental hacking apart of genres to figure out where they fit. New subgenres are getting born every month it seems, and Amazon just recently added a ton of new categories for literary. Plus San Francisco, Oregon, and surfing fiction? Those add more appeal. Mention them as part of the genre. Geographically rich fiction sells, a lot better than non-setting focused. I always wished I could capitalize on that, but I’m so inside my own head that I’m oblivious to the real world and probably couldn’t write strongly geographical fiction based on my own home city!

    I have discovered I still have the same strong preference for SFF fiction I always did, because I can do anything with it. Same umbrella genre, same reasons, but I still love and write maintstream, poetry, women’s fiction, literary, christian fiction, kid’s fiction, procedurals, and action/adventure and military. I just tend to mix them all up with each other. :shakes head at self:

    Love your SF Action/Adventure YA book, and your literary whether or not you sprinkle in the paranormal. Hm… Maybe I just love your work! ‘Cause there was this dragon story…

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  2. I like to call myself an “Art Slut” (phrase learned from southern artist- wish I had the guts to wear her shirts…). I’ll do/try any kind of art. Considering the variety of your writing- from published to fanfiction to gift stories- I’d admiringly call you a slut, too. A “Literary Slut”. 🙂

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  3. Hello! I just found your blog tonight and saw this post. I do not know if you have read any of Northrop Frye’s work, but he has written in great detail about genre. I had to read selections of his work for college English Literature class. He takes the sometimes vague and uncertain notion of genre and presents it in some concrete terms. There are interesting insights that I would have never thought of on my own that he brings up. He presents genre in very specific terms and suggests that different genres have specific characters, plot distinctions, and so forth. Definitely worth looking into!

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    • Thank you for the recommendation, and welcome! I was an English Lit major myself. I actually know genre fairly well, but I’m always up for reading anyone’s thoughts on what defines any specific genre (the obvious things like “spaceships=scifi” and “fairies=fantasy” aside). What really intrigues me in present-day genre definition are the boundaries between similar genres. Young adult versus new adult: where is the line drawn? Urban fantasy versus new-age fantasy. Things like that. Especially when a work has elements of more than one genre. These definitions are always shifting with the current market. As an author working in a variety of genres, it’s imperative that I keep up with the latest shift-and-flow.

      While I have your attention, would you recommend Looking for Alaska over The Fault in Our Stars?

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      • I am just dipping into the realm of genre and continually amazed at all of its subtle complexities. Marketing brings an entirely new context to genre, too. In today’s market, some things just sell better than others.

        As far as Looking for Alaska versus The Fault in Our Stars, I am very torn. I am sitting in my desk chair cringing at the thought of picking one over the other 🙂 I will say that The Fault in Our Stars is probably written better. It has also captured media attention in ways that Green’s other books have not. I would call it the emotionally wrenching book of the two, although they both address death and the temporary condition of living. Looking for Alaska is a book that appeals to me for very personal reasons, so I admittedly have bias. Looking for Alaska strikes me as having more comical moments. It also contemplates some typically adolescent questions, such as how to fit in, how to find value in life, and how to cope with stress and loss. All in all, if I had to pick one to recommend, I would probably go with The Fault in Our Stars. It seems to be favored by most Green fans, and it does reference Shakespeare. Who doesn’t love that?

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        • We-ell, I know I need to read The Fault in Our Stars. That’s one book everyone seems to love. I promise I won’t make you pick any more!

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          • Haha, books just have this way of gripping at my heart, what can I say? There is something remarkable in the way a book can affect a person. It’s like picking a favorite song or a favorite food… there are just too many fantastic ones to choose from and each one is loved for very different reasons. I do hope you enjoy The Fault in Our Stars when you get to reading it.

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