About Writers, Stories, Uncategorized, world-building, Writers Co-op

Useful Definitions of Genre

Hard Sc-Fi
The essence of hard science fiction is hope that given all we know, humanity will triumph in the end. Because the science we know is hopeful in that it presents no requirement for failure, we, certainly I, expect humans to outlast Earth. Reality is what actually happens, of course, but isn’t that what humans do, make things happen? In my fiction, the definition of intelligence is the ability to decide what ought to be and then make it so. To quote my own novel:
“The consequences of the Big Bang should have flowed like rows of falling dominoes; the physical universe should be predictable. But it ain’t, because intelligent life forms are messing with it.”
– Ambrose Phoenix, The Phoenix Diary

We all write our stories from some operational definition of our genre. The above is mine.
Let’s use the Comments section to add more definitions: How do you define your own genre in a way that helps you to write your stories?


21 thoughts on “Useful Definitions of Genre

  1. mimispeike says:

    I don’t assign my thing a genre, other than (maybe) literary humor. That means I’m free to write anything I want – which, in case anyone hasn’t noticed, I do.

    I load a magical situation down with all the reality it will take. That is the core of the humor.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Interesting question, GD. And if I had a writing career (instead of what I have now: a daily unpaid practice) it might even be pertinent. Since I am an all-but-unknown midnight scritch-scribbler, however, I have the luxury of concentrating on craft and ignoring genre. (That is a lament, not a sneer. For paid, publishing writers the question of genre is a very real concern: the public must know where to look in a bookstore to find your books!)

    I suppose I think of my writings, collectively (in whatever genre they happen to be classified at present) as “weird tales”. What I mean by this is: first-and-foremost a Carl E. Reed story should take you elsewhere in space and time–a place oftentimes strange, disturbing and, err . . . weird. That is to say: if the locale and time-frame of the story isn’t considered by the reader to be somewhat alien, discomfiting and/or vertigo-inducing; the tone, tenor and over-all perspective of the piece certainly must (to be of interest to this confirmed iconoclast and fan of the icy finger of the numinous, anyway).

    Not much more I can add other than to invite the drive-by reader to read me. Some of you may actually like the work; others arch a quizzical brow. (“Da f#ck . . . ?!”) Still others erupt in righteous scorn and/or contempt. (To this latter group I quip with a Mona Lisa-like smile: Well, at least you know who not to read in the future, eh? One down; 999,999,999 other writers to go . . . this century.)

    Liked by 5 people

  3. GD Deckard says:

    I don’t argue with those who point out that genre has to do with marketing, not writing.
    But when Mimi says, “I load a magical situation down with all the reality it will take. That is the core of the humor.”
    And Carl says, “…a Carl E. Reed story should take you elsewhere in space and time–a place oftentimes strange, disturbing and, err . . . weird.”
    Then I have to wonder if they might not be defining their own genre. That idea fits with my take on the writer’s art. I think true writers, like Mimi and Carl, do define their own genres. The marketers just come along later to sell the already finished product.
    Put another way, no true writer allows marketers to define their art.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. atthysgage says:

    “No true writer allows marketers to define their art.”

    Hear, hear!

    Alas, the marketers would disagree. They know best the desires of that tiny percentage of the human race that actually reads and buys books in appreciable amounts.

    On the other hand, I’ve yet to see a single benefit to hitching my wagon to the so-called experts of marketing. In my experience, they are no better at selling my books than I am. So maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe the true future of bookselling really IS what it should’ve been all along: authors writing the stories they are best suited to write, following their own aesthetic impulses, and their readers finding them by way of the vague currents that might, hopefully, be generated by a vigorous, bookish community.

    We can hope.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. atthysgage says:

    Personally, I’ve yet to find a comforable way of thinking about any kind of genre identification for my books. None of them fit nicely on the established shelves. Spark I call science fiction, but it could be fantasy. Flight of the Wren I call fantasy, but I think of it as magical realism. Whisper Blue? Well, it’s a sort of cyber ghost story, I guess. Mostly, I don’t think any of the labels fit very well, and I have a very hard time providing any kind of genre definition. But it’s an interesting question. Maybe if I could define my books as fitting somewhere, I’d have an easier time marketing them.


    Liked by 3 people

  6. GD,

    Maybe I am too simplistic but doesn’t it just boil down to Fiction or Non-Fiction? Either we write about something that happened or it about something we imagine might happen.

    After it is finished, then we can throw a label on it. If there are more Star Troopers than sex then it is probably Sifi. More love than sex, then probably romance. More of one thing and less of another then we can put it into the most appropriate category. I have been studying several major works lately, and I was surprised to learn that “The Hunt for Red October” was more of a classic mystery story but was classified as a techno-thriller because of the information Tom Clancy added to the story as an example.

    I think the label is more for the reader than it is for the writer. Our job is to write the best story ever and then slap a relatively accurate label on it and move on to the next project.


    Liked by 5 people

    • GD Deckard says:

      Cool information on “The Hunt for Red October” Rob. Thanks.
      & Yeah, you’re right. I mean, “techno-thriller?” Now, there’s genre-jargon made up soley to sell.
      Of course, it does help readers to find more books like it. In the end, writers need sellers to help readers find books.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Perry Palin says:

    GD wrote “Let’s use the Comments section to add more definitions: How do you define your own genre in a way that helps you to write your stories?”

    If I have to call my stories something, I’ll call them literary fiction. They are stories about people, and about relationships between people. My greater success has been with stories with a connection to the natural environment – fishing and hunting – and what helps me write my stories is that I think know my target readers, and like a standup comedian, I play to my audience.

    I’m asked every few weeks by somebody when my next book is coming out. My first novel was gently rejected last month by one of the premier regional publishers (this was expected; they have thousands of submissions every year and publish just a few titles), and I have to decide what to do with the book. If I self publish, will calling it “literary fiction” or something else pull in any more readers? I don’t know.

    Liked by 3 people

    • GD Deckard says:

      Perry 🙂
      You might want your literary fiction to be considered by readers who like [insert specific interests] and, if you self-publish, tag the book with key words that allow your readers to find your book. Genres are general categories that might narrow a reader’s search down to a few hundred thousand books but key words can narrow the search considerably more. The right key words might even make your book visible.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Hello All.
    Well, I guess I write science fiction, or maybe speculative fiction.
    Like Perry, I try to make my stories about people and use the setting as a catalyst for the story. Unlike a lot of modern movies, I don’t think the special effects (which are easy in sci-fi since the reader’s mind supplies the cgi effects) should replace plot and characterization. Of course having grand genre labels like sci-fi attracts a lot of folks who won’t really care for your product (I’ve had some call my novel “Agony of the Gods” boring and confusing), while others will really enjoyed it (one compared it favorably to the work of Alfred Bester which I took as a supreme compliment). Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone lists books under “literary science fiction”; but then again, I think I’d be intrigued enough by a book labeled “literary steam punk” to actually buy and read it.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. mimispeike says:

    I’m trying, GD. But it seems like everything I start is a rehash of things I’ve already said. I have nothing to report about Medium yet. I’m still trying to figure that site out. (Where best to post fiction.) The advice is: post within a publication. Which one? Some you have to apply to. Some you have to join and pay (yet another) monthly fee.

    My novella is ready but I’m not going to post without an illustration (of my own) to go with it. I’m working on one now.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. victoracquista says:

    I write both fiction and nonfiction. Speculative fiction is often described as the ‘literature of ideas’. I think that is broad and in that sense I like it. For much of my writing (both fiction and nonfiction) I attempt to include elements that help to raise consciousness. It’s a bit lengthy and amorphous to try and explain that in a comment to a post. I am generally opposed to trying to categorize writing into denominational boxes–mystery, military thriller, urban fantasy, etc. I think a lot of what is written is cross-genre. I would rather readers and writers focus on the content, not the label.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. mimispeike says:

    Victor, you try to raise consciousness. I try to write my characters so any reader can see something of him/herself in one or more of my creatures. My guys face the same challenges as we do: Who am I? What do I want out of life?

    Their individual stories, the mundane stuff, the day-to-day worries, that’s the most fun of all. Especially when my beleaguered souls include, let’s see – a cat, a frog, and a pig, in addition to a fine assortment of the human kind.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. victoracquista says:

    I am still thinking about your comment, Mimi. I certainly see the value in having characters that readers can connect with emotionally, experientially, or otherwise. I also think some readers want characters that feed readers’ aspirational desires. Some people want to explore life through another character’s eyes even though they would not want to be such a person themselves. For instance, I might wonder what it is would be like to be a Trappist Monk living in the 17th century. Wouldn’t want that per se, but want to go on a flight of fancy. Some readers want to role play through the characters we create. For example, James Bond is fun to pretend to be–outsmart the villain, play with cool toys, get the beautiful woman, etc. Contrast that with a character more familiar to oneself, just getting through the daily mundane stuff you mention.

    I think you have started some thought processes about character creation in my mind. I have not pondered this enough. What about a particular character makes that character important to the reader? I can understand what makes the character important to me as a writer, but I am shifting the POV here in my mind and beginning to get some new insights. Thanks for being the catalyst!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. GD Deckard says:

    “What about a particular character makes that character important to the reader?”
    Now you two got me thinking about that. It is a key question, isn’t it.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Nice question, GD. And the comments show there’s a limit to the marketers’ genre approach, since within each genre they create subcategories as if everything must fit somewhere. But each writer is unique and so is each reader, who ultimately decides whether they like that particular story (and style of writing) or not. We can’t escape classification but unfortunately it doesn’t go beyond the lowest common denominator, so any extras get ignored. Which is, I think, what prompted the playwright David Hare to remark that when put together, the two most depressing words in English are ‘literary fiction’ . It’s where they put everything that can’t be put in a genre and it implies that genre writing can’t be ‘literary’ – whatever that means.

    Liked by 2 people

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