I am a lover of all things literary. For fun, a lot of the time Jei and I will wander through bookstores to peruse the stock of new or used inventory. Over the years, we have both found ourselves in large franchise stores and the small hole in the wall places that collect tomes to find a new home. One of the interesting truths that we have found as we have gone up and down the rows of what is the equivalent of our favorite eye candy, is that every store has its own way of categorizing and filling their shelves.
This observation of varied organization throughout the many shops we’ve seen has brought up a conversation about how flexible genres can be. While we may intend our stories to be under one genre, there is no actual telling where it will end up when it comes to the shops. How do we guarantee that our books end up in the right section? What do we do to make sure what we write ends up with the right reader? All of these questions led to a long conversation that had one conclusion: it doesn’t matter.
While in the post production of your manuscript there will be a genre assigned or given by your publisher (or by you if you self-publish), it is not a necessity during your creative process. I have personally found that attempting to stay within the arbitrary rules of my intended genre restrained my imagination in a way that slows down my progress. This experience along with observation of my peers struggling with their own genre woes brought about this topic.
There are over two dozen literary genres and nearly three times as many sub-genres now in existence. From historical fiction to fantasy, the wide variety has grown over the years as literacy and education have become a common commodity. As writers, we should not be attempting to compete with or fall within something so fluid and adaptive as the genres or subgenres that have defined our predecessors. Instead, we should simply focus on the narrative we wish to tell and find the genre that best fits when the product is finished.
A story should not fit within a genre, but a genre should find a way to fit the story.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree with us? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!