As I’m writing a genre novel for the NaNoWriMo, it seemed a good time to look at genre. The Oxford Dictionary defines genre as 'a particular kind or style of art or literature'. Since Aristotle people have discussed how creative writing falls into different categories, and today we generally group writing into the three main divisions of fiction, poetry and drama - with each group containing many subdivisions.

The genre novel versus the literary novel, and the blurring – or not – of the lines between the two is a discussion I’m sure will continue, and which I’m not going to address. Literary fiction or genre novels, the writers of both have one thing in common - they want people to read their books. 

When someone chooses a book, they often have a particular idea in mind of the kind of book they want to read, and genre performs an active role in meeting those expectations. Readers are smart and know the codes inherent within a genre, and writers can use these to increase anticipation. However, it isn’t incumbent on the writer to meet all of those expectations – and this play between reader and writer enhances enjoyment of the story. Genre should be viewed as a great tool for writers with distinguishing features they can deliberately use to their advantage. 

Many stories are what is termed cross-genre, where themes and elements from two or more different genres are blended together. For example, a spy novel may have a romance element (Bond always manages an affair or two), there are futuristic thrillers like Philip K. Dick's  Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and crime novels do very well set in the past, as demonstrated by Lindsey Davis, author of the Falco detective series set in ancient Rome. So which genre a story belongs to is not always clear cut.

Knowing the codes of a particular genre can present a risk in that if you stick too closely to the prescribed formula, you may end up with a story lacking in originality that isn’t the one you set out to write. On the plus side, if done well, you’ll find there are readers already out there, eager and waiting for your story.

Writing Update

My attempt to complete the NaNoWriMo challenge of writing 50,000 words during the month of November continues, and my life revolves around achieving my quota each day. My brain is a bit of a mud pit first thing in the morning, but a few megajolts of caffeine clears the sluggishness, allows a thought or two to surface, and I start writing.

I have to admit, without an outline, I would struggle to maintain the pace (I am managing the quota - and a little bit more) but I’m hoping this month will give some long term strength to my writing muscle. I cut a chapter deciding I didn’t like, or need it, then couldn’t think of anything to put in its place, and put it back! 

When I wrote my outline, I decided I to have a battle – which is coming up in the chapter after next. A battle! What was I thinking of? And although it’s not the climax, it’s an appropriate increase in the dramatic arc. But battles really aren’t my thing, and although I know there is writing advice for battle scenes out there – I’m going to read a little Homer, (the ancient Greek, not the modern TV one) as The Iliad has some great battles – not a lot of interior monologue – but great detail on the action.

So with a bit of luck, if I keep my head down, and my fingers tapping those keys, I might even be finished next week! Yeah!

suits drink coffee, talk
profit – outside a homeless
man sits with his dog

Useful Links:

This is a comprehensive list of genres:
And for anyone wishing to find out more about the NaNoWriMo:

Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku

To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.

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