Friday, May 11, 2012

Why Genre

Everyone's heard the stories from authors, right? No matter what any of us writes, there's someone asking us when we're going to write something different. If it's romance, you get asked when you're going to write a real (insert book type of your choice here). If you're writing literary novels, you're asked when you're going to change it up and write a thriller - you know - something fun. Ehem.

I could go off on the fact that I'm writing the stories I love, the kinds of stories I grew up with - though I like to believe mine are a tad more optimistic than the 1960s versions of The Omega Man, The Incredible Shrinking Man, or The Fly. But really? I suspect what I write, what anyone writes, boils down to a matter of wiring.

You're either wired to write genre or you're not. Oh yes, there are the multi-talented overachievers among us (Jeffe :D) who can change writing hats with relative ease. I am clearly not one. If literary novels are the Masterpiece Theater of the book world, then I am comfortable with being the Looney Tunes of storytelling. There's a place and a role for both, right? When you have the flu and your brain feels like a load of goo oozing out your ears, do you really want to parse a Masterpiece Theater episode? Please don't say yes. You'll give me an inferiority complex.

At the risk of insulting an entire genre's worth of novelists, I've never read a literary novel, closed the cover and said, "OMG, that was SO much fun." Which isn't to say I haven't been awed, blown away or otherwise impacted by literary novels. Joseph Conrad. Albert Camus. A number of others I won't take up your time listing. But I have no earthly idea how to go about writing one.

I guess, for me, it's always been about the b-movie action-adventure. In genre, especially in science fiction, I can get away with SO much. My characters can be anything or anyone. I get to shirk the confines of reality, all in the name of having a really good time. There's some statistic out there in the world talking about how much play children indulge in versus how much time adults spend recreating. Oh, look. Re-creating - as in play = rebuilding yourself and your sanity. Kids do lots. Adults do very little. Can you tell? When I'm driving I-5, I can. Ultimately, I suppose, I never aspired to write any one thing. Stories show up. I write them down. It's not as if I'm given a choice in the matter. Characters kind of grab me by the throat, shove me into my chair and say sweet things like, "You'll write my story, or I will make your life a living hell." Ooookay, then. At the end of the day, though, if what I've written can remind a few adults who pick up my books what it's like to have fun, if only for a few hours, I'm happy. Really happy.

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