“Oh! You’re a writer? Cool. What genre?”
*insert blank look*
And this is where I usually reply with something like, “Um, the answer to that question is kind of a novel in itself.”
For a while, I just said, “Christian Fiction.” But who knew that opened up one confusing can of worms? I didn’t.
Picture it. I’m sitting there, typing away at Denny’s, when someone stops at my table, being friendly. Ridgecrest is a friendly sort of place. “Doing homework?”
If it wasn’t a lie, I’ll admit it right now. I’d just say yes or make a vague, “Well, yeah—all that work I didn’t get done at home…” and hope it “cut it” so to speak.
So, I just answer. And, like I said, I used to say “Christian fiction.” It would then go something like this:
The man blinks at me, expression blank. “So like… the Bible as fiction? The story of Mary and baby Jesus?”
No, I didn’t do the facepalm thing, but I won’t pretend that I didn’t want to.
One guy asked Angela the wonder server if that meant I wrote lies about Christianity. Snort.
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Let’s just say that got old.
So, I decided to choose a genre. Most of my books have an element of romance, but no self-respecting romance author would consider what I write to be “romance.” So, I left that out. Especially since for many people these days, romance is a shady topic, and I like to avoid grey areas.
Out of desperation, I started saying, “Well, this one is…” *insert current genre here* So, when I worked on Madeline, it was a mystery. When I work on The Vintage Wren, I’d say, “Contemporary issues with a dash of humor.” Suspense, historical, mystery, fantasy, family saga—I’ve probably said them all at some point or another.
But now and then, some astute questioner will hear the “this one” and pounce on it. “So… it’s not your usual genre?”
And then, because they opened themselves up to it by not letting what might have been just a polite question drop… I answer it.
It goes something like this:
“I don’t really have a ‘usual’ genre. I write in several.”
And so I list them. *insert confused expression and an obvious request for more info*
Look. For me, it’s kind of like back when we first got married and people asked us how many kids we were going to have. I didn’t know how to answer that. I mean, why have one and not two? Two and not four. Four and not just one? How do you pick an arbitrary number? Because, you see, for me, it was absolutely arbitrary. I had no idea.
It’s like that for me and book genres. And then I happened onto the perfect answer—for me, anyway.
So, what’s the best way to choose a genre?
No, seriously, don’t. Choose a plot, a character. Don’t stop there! Choose a story idea that you are dying to write.
Look deep into the heart and soul of that story (just bear with me now…). Where does it belong? Is it suspenseful? Are you left wondering, page after page, what’s going to happen next? Is it romantic? Will the readers’ hearts patter in unison to the pitter of the heroine’s?
Does someone have to discover something to solve a crime or a burning question? Then, maybe it’s a mystery. Does it include historical characters? Well, historical, here we go! Does it involve princes or princesses, kingdoms, and a definite happily-ever-after?
Yeah. Then you know, don’t you?
You know, authors ask me the best way to choose a genre all the time.
And I tell them this—every time. I say it and I mean it If you don’t know how to choose a genre, then choose a story. I guarantee if you take your story element and explore it to the full depth of what it can be, you’ll find a perfect genre for it. Because, much like the wands in a popular magical children’s novel, the genre chooses the story—not the other way around.
It really is that simple—and complex.
Look, it’s so much easier to say, “I want to write a mystery.” There. Genre chosen. But to say, “I need a story idea… and then to flesh it out until it’s living, breathing, and demanding to be a mystery… that’s a whole ’nother can o’ worms.
Oh, and for those who know what this week’s prompt SHOULD have been, I’ve already written “Why I Write” over on THIS post. So, I went with more of a “why I don’t write in one specific genre.”
Sue me. No. Don’t. I can’t afford it. Besides, that’s one life experience I don’t want to experience again.