Genre, Which Genre?

ImagePhoto Credit: Erica Senecal

Just off the top of your head, how many genres or sub-genres can you name? Let me try. Mystery. Thriller. Young adult. Erotica. Ew to that. Literary fiction. Historical fiction. New adult. Sci-fi. Fantasy. Romance. Crime fiction. Detective fiction. Okay, the list can go on and on but the point is that there are A LOT of genres to pick from. There are plenty more I didn’t name because who wants to just sit here and read the different genres over and over?

Now let’s talk about you or me. We’ve both decided to be writers or authors or whatever you want to call yourself, but we haven’t done a whole lot of thinking about story ideas. We’re sitting there brainstorming and we come up with a few that we MUST write. Let’s talk about me for a second. You all should know by now that I had my first story idea in my head for nearly 18 months before I ever put pen to paper. And even before that I’d started writing a different story. But before I ever wrote any fiction, I always knew I wanted to write crime fiction around a private detective. How did I know this? Because my bookshelf is filled with these books.

I’m not sitting here saying that I have any idea whatsoever how to write a decent mystery. I don’t think I have a clue. But when I think of other genres out there like sci-fi or YA or really any other genre I don’t write in, I’d be lost. I don’t know anything about world-building or writing a love story (though my two main characters are madly in love.) I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Seriously. So when I started writing for real I did the whole “write what you know” thing, but in truth I don’t know anything about mystery or suspense novels, besides the fact that I’ve read many great ones.

But this post isn’t entirely about me. I want to know how you decided on which genre you should write in. Maybe you have a creative writing degree with a specialization or maybe you did the same as I did and just started writing in your favorite genre. OR you write in different genres because you’re special like that. No matter how you decided, I want you to tell me. Right now.

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97 thoughts on “Genre, Which Genre?

  1. For me, I decided to write about the things I enjoyed as entertainment. I grew up on comic books and pro wrestling every Sunday, so that’s what I began to write about. At the same time though I hate to feel confined by genre categories. I understand the human need to categorize, but I like to mix my genres to a degree, just like I love to mix my sodas at a fountain machine.

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  2. For me, there was never any doubt about which genre to write in. I studied YA lit way before I started writing. It felt natural to make the next step and write my own YA novel. I enjoyed writing it just as much as I enjoy reading YA books.

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  3. I am a lover of all things scary. I also grew up in a home filled with sci-fi everywhere. I wrote my first “scary” story in the 4th grade after reading Stephen King’s “IT” and never stopped. I have several stories lined out in both horror and sci-fi/fantasy. I do not think I could write anything else. Its not just because its what I know but also what I truly enjoy. Other genres don’t hold my attention very well. I will enjoy other ones from time to time but always go back to my favorites. If I can’t stay interested long enough to finish reading a book out of my genre, I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to write one.

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    • Then you’re like me. Though I don’t have any particular book that got me wanting to write. I also don’t think I could write anything else. Just because I so hardly read outside of my favorite genre.

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  4. I write paranormal thrillers and although it is one of my favorites, it’s not the genre I enjoy reading the most. I like romance and some science fiction but I write thrillers and horror because that’s what comes naturally when I sit down to write. I guess I have a morbid mind. I tried to write romance and other genres but I can’t even manage a few pages.

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  5. My stories tell me what to write. My first book was MG. My current WIP is YA, though it stewed around in my head as adult for awhile. As far as genre, once again it is whatever inspires me. The stories that have to come out will win, no matter the genre.

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  6. I began writing my mystery-thriller because I watched the “plot” happen to someone in our church. It gave me the idea, and from there, I just started writing like crazy. Participating in National Novel Writing Month helped me write it too. I had started a book a few years back, but I didn’t fall in love with it the way I did with this one. I’ve always loved a good scare, and I’ve always loved a twist ending. This book delivers both.

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  7. When I’m not working my way through the classics, I’m usually reading thrillers, mysteries, or fantasy. I never read sci-fi but I am writing one right now. I usually don’t read love stories (especially not romance, yuck) but I’m also writing a love story.
    My next novel will be a thriller/suspense.
    So I guess I just write whatever ideas I come up with. I don’t try to write in a certain genre. If I get an idea that’s a mystery, I write the mystery. If I get a good love story idea, that’s what I write.

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  8. Everything I write falls under the large umbrella of speculative fiction, and that’s as genre-specific as I honestly care to label myself. Most of the stories I’ve written/am writing/am thinking about writing probably fall under sci-fi or fantasy, but I don’t think I personally would want to be known for just one genre.

    Examples of things I’m writing or developing? A post-apocalyptic western, a modern-day urban fantasy that’s turning out to be more of a romance the more I write of it (and I don’t read “romance” novels myself), a set of military sci-fi stories set in a posthuman future that I’m starting to think of more as mysteries, a and science fantasy adventure story that draws lots of inspiration from old sword and sorcery pulps are some of the things I’ve worked on sometime in the last two years.

    I’ve never limited myself to one genre in my reading. I think very few people do. So I think genre considerations are something you shouldn’t worry about until after you at least have a first draft.

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    • I’ve heard the term speculative fiction, but honestly have no idea what it is. And I guess I understand not labeling your books as genre-specific, but readers and publishers will absolutely do so, right? And I don’t think I can write a draft not knowing the genre. You know it, whether you choose to label it or not.

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  9. I do read romance and enjoy it, and I write in this genre. I’ve started a couple of novels but they stalled. I have written a few YA short stories, although that’s not my genre of choice. I taught middle school for many years, and this has helped me understand the voice and the audience for children’s and YA literature. I once wrote an edgy, dark flash fiction piece. There are many genres and everyone has a preference, or two or three.

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  10. Now I shall reply to your post instead of just comment. I started writing when I was 14 with the idea that I could write a nice clean romance. I blame my mother introducing me to Emilie Loring, who’s books she found at our library, and yes, Loring is a VERY old author. Since then I’ve dabbled, and I do mean dabbled in writing romance. It was on a lark, about five years ago, I wrote a children’s picture book, sans pictures, and I’ve written several more since then. Having grown up enjoying lots of picture books, working in a library and semi specializing in the children’s section, it was bound to happen. Yes, I’ve pretty much known what genre I was writing in from the moment I started. And I’d love to write a mystery, but I don’t have enough backing. I’d love to do a mystery writing course, but don’t have the time right now.

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    • I read the children’s picture books at my store. All the time. They’re funny. I’ll never try my hand at anything outside of mystery. I don’t want to and I don’t think I could.

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      • Which is perfectly fine. I think you write what you can. I dabble in poetry as well, but I’m not a poet, nor do I really think I could ever be one. I think each person has a natural genre in them. For my father, it would be westerns (which he was trying to write a novel about…) and I had a girl friend who wrote more fantasy and pretty much only that. To each his own. But that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate reading the picture books. 🙂 Never grow up too much to not be able to read PB’s.

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      • I think so too. Everyone has their choswn genre where most of their work will be done. Oh I don’t want to grow up at all. 😉

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  11. I suppose I am writing New Adult because of my characters age, and hopefully it reads smarter than some of the YA books I hate because of their writing. I got into it because I didn’t want to write historic fiction, but I wanted to explore major themes of history in a new way. I feel unless you study history beyond High School people really don’t learn about the big picture of history and its effect on culture.

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    • I don’t think I’ve ever read a New Adult book. Or historical fiction. I don’t care much to read books set in the past. Especially really old stuff. Just not interested. But I LOVE history. I actually declared a minor in history but then switched to sociology. I took a couple electives though.

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      • I had to google what New Adult was because I didn’t even know! Basically what I gleaned from my quick search is that the only difference from it and YA is that the characters are a little older and their story a bit more mature. I feel like “The Bone Season” by Samantha Shannon, and maybe even the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Myer could be considered New Adult. They have a lot of the same themes of YA, but it’s just more mature all around.

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      • Oh I know what it is. But since I rarely read YA, why would I read New Adult? Slightly older characters and more nature story isn’t enough.

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      • Ya I don’t really get why they are separate at all, but whatever!

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      • Probably the work of publishers.

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  12. I’ll try to keep this a short comment, but you know me! 🙂

    The basis for my writing preferences probably does base itself in my childhood, but I read a variety of fiction as an adult, as well. Which means my brain wants to explode from all the genre-hopping it does.

    I currently have projects in MG fantasy, Christian fiction, Christian RomCom, dystopian future (I suppose that would be sci-fi or fantasy?), historical fiction, murder mystery, satires, children’s, post-apocolyptic satires, and… I think that’s it.

    I don’t think I could ever write a thriller or high literary fiction. Although people call me “grandma,” I still am young at heart and so I’m a big scaredy cat and I dislike books that try too hard to be “literary” ya know?

    I grew up reading older books. I don’t think we ever bought new books because we couldn’t afford them, so we got whatever was at garage sales and thrift stores. So I really love historical fiction and books by writers from years past. I love the classics, so that has some influence on how I write, but not necessarily what I write.

    I can’t honestly pinpoint one thing that makes me write the types of stories I write. I guess I’m a little odd??? (Like we didn’t know that already).

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    • How do you have 47 projects at once? No. Share.

      And even though your comment was lengthy, you didn’t even have an answer to my question. GREAT comment. Answer the question next time, would you? Sheesh. 😉

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      • What? How did I miss the question? I’m too lazy to re-read the post. What did I miss?

        And I’m greedy!!! MWAHAHAA!!! So no sharing!!!

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      • You didn’t say why you write in the genres you do. You said you can’t pinpoint any one thing.

        Great. What if I could turn one of your stories into magic? But no. I don’t get the opportunity now. You’re nice.

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      • I know I’m nice. No need to tell me. 🙂

        Ah, right. I must have been half asleep when I read the post. I write in those genres because I mostly read those genres. Except mystery. And the satirical stuff. Don’t know where those came from. I think most people write what they know, and they know what they read. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

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      • They think they know the genres they read. But they don’t. Then there wouldn’t be 97000 rejections for every one published novel.

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      • I only said they know what they read and they write what they know. I didn’t say they were GOOD at writing what they know. 🙂

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      • So since I pretty much do that, I must be a bad writer? Just leave me alone. Hahaha 😉

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      • Gah!! Of course I didn’t mean you, you dork!! You should know I don’t at all think that.

        Sometimes I feel like I like your book more than you do. And am more confident in you as a writer than you are.

        I’m feeling violent…

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      • Eh. Maybe. I like it.

        I’m confident I can take you. So bring it.

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      • You may be stronger, but I know my anatomy and pressure points, bub. I could take you down with one hand.

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      • Good. But I’m still angry about you not taking me to Florida. I’d just tackle you.

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      • You can try… 🙂

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      • Don’t underestimate me.

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      • Haha!! I’m not. Just teasing. I’m sure you could take me.

        And I’m mad because I had this long reply a couple hours ago and somehow my phone deleted it. 😦

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      • Better not. 😉

        My app does that whenever someone new comments or follows while I’m typing. Literally happens ten times a day. Oh well. Probably just more threats for me to laugh at. 🙂

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      • Ha! You were getting all antsy because you thought I was underestimating you, and now you’re calling me chicken??? Them’s fightin’ words, pardner.

        And they weren’t threats. Just an odd analysis of my random bouts of bloodlust even though I’ve never hit another person in my life.

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      • 🙂 I actually typed accidentally because someone else called me chicken on here and I was replying to that one. BUT it worked for you too.

        And you were talking about taking me down with one hand? Nuh uh.

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      • It’s all about hitting the nerve pressure points. I think I’m going to take up karate. Just to prove you wrong. Or maybe I’ll start body building…

        Hmm… Okay probably not body building.

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      • Karate, perfect. Bodybuilding, please don’t.

        I’m sure you look great and can defend yourself just fine. There. No more talk of bodybuilding. 🙂

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      • Oh, I won’t do bodybuilding, trust me. I don’t think girls look right with all those ginormous muscles. No offense to my gender, but it just doesn’t look right.

        Plus, I’ve treated far too many bodybuilders who’ve hurt themselves.

        I’ll stick with my swimming and such. Though my delts do get a little big from swimming, but that’s normal.

        And I know you’d beat me, but I couldn’t resist giving you a hard time. 🙂

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      • Good. We agree there. Women who train the right way look great, but women who are legit bodybuilders look gross.

        EXACTLY. To your last point. 🙂

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  13. I always knew I wanted to write, but it’s taken me years and years to finally work out I want to write contemporary fiction. When I was younger I was obsessed with reading the classics and then it was like I was trying to replicate that kind of high literary style mashed into a modern story with my own writing. Surprise surprise, the result was terrible. For me, it has and still does involve a lot of trial and error. I’m so envious of everyone who knew right from the start what genre they wanted to write.

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    • Hmm. I’ve only read maybe one or two books that I think are considered classics. And I’d never try to replicate the writing because I’d probably fail miserably and become depressed and stop writing. Ha. But I think knowing the genre and being able to actually write it are two different things. So perhaps your experience has helped you there more so than someone who just jumps into their favorite genre.

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      • Ha, well let’s just say it’s taken a long time for me to feel good about my writing style. It was weird though, I didn’t even realise I was trying to replicate a particular genre. It wasn’t until my uni teacher pointed out the disconnect that I finally saw the problem & the correlation to what I was reading. Two classics?! Obviously not your thing then, but some of these books are still my faves. And BTW, great topic. So interesting seeing how everyone has approached genre.

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      • Lucky. My degree has absolutely nothing to do with writing so I didn’t have anyone give me insight about my writing before I really got started. Yes, I know. But you’ll see the Amazon List of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime on my blog. I’m going to work my way through that and it includes a number of the classics I haven’t read before.

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  14. I think I like to write YA because I love reading YA. I think I would enjoy writing New Adult which is more mature content than in YA. I just write and what I put down fits best in the YA fantasy(ish) genre than anything else.

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  15. I had an idea for a story but at first I had no idea what genre it belonged to. It took some research on my part before I learned that it would probably fall in with urban fantasy/horror.

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  16. How about Southern Mormon Gothic Horror?

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  17. Pingback: Take Your Pick: Hardcovers v. Paperbacks | Write me a book, John!

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