Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Genre Bending

At a writer's conference I attended earlier this year, there was some discussion about genres. Both agents and publishers made it quite clear that if you are a newly established or aspiring writer you have to commit to one genre of writing. To skip from one genre to another or even worse lay claim to a cross-genre piece of work is a sure way to get the reject stamp across your manuscript before the title page has been turned.
On the face of it, it seems fair comment. To clinch that publishing deal or get yourself a good agent, it's quite reasonable for them to identify exactly where your writing is at.
It seems that even quite established writers have to remain committed throughout their careers.  For instance, if an established sci fi writer decided he wanted to skip the light fandango, turning cartwheels cross the floor to turn his hand to say a good swashbuckling pirate adventure, would this leave his sci fi readers feeling kinda seasick? Or would he get new swashbuckling pirate readers, a crowd calling out for more?

Okay I'll stop waxing lyrical before we all turn A Whiter Shade of Pale.

There are, of course, exceptions to any rule, which exempts a writer from genre specific creativity. Alas, this is beyond the reach of most of us. If, however, you happen to find yourself at the  top of the literary food chain, then maybe, just maybe, (not guaranteed) your name can be put to anything. You have become canonized as a BRAND.

Yes Ms JKR has made her departure on the Hogwart's Express into the world of adult fiction. Adult fiction is about as genre specific as she needs to get. She is not just 'a' brand, she is 'the' brand, or is she?
I'm sure her new novel The Casual Vacancy will be an amazing piece of work. JK's talent is indisputable. The magic of Harry Potter enchanted both children and adults alike in books and on the silver screen. I think she succeeded in finding the child within us all.
I'm sure she will sell squillions of copies on the day that her new novel is released, but what are her follower's expectations? Will her readers miss the incredible fantasy world that she created for Harry P? Will adult themes such as sex, murder, or heaven forbid she may even say the 'f' word, sit well with her readers? Or will she retain the distinctive ebullience and jolly hockey sticks flavour that has served her so well, and can be quite refreshing?

I like to think I can write comedy. But I've said this before and I'll keep saying it, I don't think comedy necessarily is a genre. For me it is a style. Comedy is a voice, it is refers to the delivery of a good story. It governs narrative, characterization and plot, true. I need to deliver it in a particular manner. The characters either need to be either comic or find themselves in comic situations. The plot must take at least one character way out of his or her comfort zone to create the right level of absurdity necessary to please the reader. It must have a happy ending. However, the story needs to be believable and captivating and take the reader through more emotions than merely rib-tickling laughter.  
I think next time I pitch my work; I'm not going to say its comedy or humour. I'll come up with as broad a genre as I can like adult fiction something like chic lit or choc lit (whatever that is) but for both genders.

I don't know if the demand for genre is a modern thing. Dickens, Hardy and even Shakespeare were not confined to genres. But during those days before they became immortal, were they branded as brands?

In two weeks I will be going to Theakstons Old Peculiar Crimewriting Festival. I'm going to have an amazing time rubbing shoulders with some of the worlds best crimewriters and attending some workshops to hopefully improve the way I write. But hold on, I'm not a crimewriter. But I write and I may want to write  a crime story  in  a comedic style. And I may find I have an affinity with some of the crimewriters , because they are writers. But that is not my main reason for attending.  
I read most genres from non-fiction through to biography and most genres of fiction. But I'm a hopeless crime fiction addict when it comes to reading. I used to read Hank Jansen and Mickey Spillane as a boy, so I suppose it has stayed with me.
I love classic literature, Thomas Hardy and Dickens being my favourites but also went through a phase when I couldn't absorb enough Russian literature.

On my Facebook, Twitter and indeed this blog I have made connections with all manner of different writers. I recently purchased a 'YOUNG ADULT' novel Kiera's Quest: Awakenings by Kristy Brown. (Do buy it on Amazon, she has a second book out soon) I only bought it because I socially networked with the author, or I would never have given it a second look had I seen it online or in a book shop. I don't read much fantasy. However, I must admit this book intended for youngsters was a guilty pleasure for me as a reader and it was an amazing piece of work. I don't think I could do it. I can write about the world around me and even about how the world was before me. But to create a whole new world with a different civilisation with a unique eco system and mode of government is far beyond my capability.

What's your genre of writing and does it run parallel with your reading? Or do you think that a writer is a writer regardless of genre and shouldn't have to commit to just one?