Thursday, May 10, 2012

Why I Write Genre

As a quick and dirty side note to this post, I took the family to see The Avengers last night. It was nicely epic - and rather apropos given today's topic.

(Genre being what it is, I *do* so love me a good comic book movie.)

I'm not sure bringing the five year old to it was the wisest decision - she doesn't always get that questions carry in movie theatres. But that little voice sighing "Thor" the moment the Asgardian hit the screen? Made it all worthwhile.

(Yes, Lucy LOVES Thor and all his blondie-bear bicep goodness. She even sleeps with a foam replica of Mjölnir in her bed sometimes. I foresee a long and happy geek girl life ahead of her.)


Anyway, so I suppose I should talk about why I write genre. Or maybe the question should really be why I *don't* write literary fiction?

To be honest, I'm not sure I ever really differentiated between the two. Growing up, books came in two categories: 1) Books I liked to read 2) Books I didn't.

I've already mentioned in previous posts that I was fairly hard core into the sci-fi and fantasy books at an early age. It concerned my mother enough that she bought me the entire set of Mark Twain classics. (It was a set.) I was supposed to read them to keep my brain from rotting, I guess. And I did.

I slogged through almost every volume...and hated every minute of it. If I'd been raised to read nothing but those types of stories, I doubt I'd be a writer at all today.

In fact, I suspect the reason so many people hate reading is because they're reading the wrong books. My son had a hard time getting into reading...until he discovered that some of the movies that he likes had entire book series. He's only 8, but well into the Percy Jackson books now - and more importantly he's reading on his own. I'll catch him in bed at 11 PM sometimes, with a light on under the covers. He just needed something to set his imagination on fire. Though he did ask for a copy of Lord of the Flies too - so we'll see how that goes.)

Which is good. When it comes to literary fiction, I can't deny that it has its place. But I'll also admit I find most of it terribly dry or boring or just plain weird. Reading is my escape - the last place I want to try to escape to is one that disinterests me. I sure as hell wouldn't write in it. (I've tried...and it was a disaster.)

And it's not that I don't understand it. I took a course in high school that taught us to dissect literary books and stories down to their base archetypes. I  found that part rather fascinating and I was pretty good at it. (Impressed several of my college level professors, anyway.) But for me, that was *work* - certainly not something I did for fun.

A quick and  somewhat embarrassing anecdote - I've mentioned before that I did take a Creative Writing class in college. Within 15 minutes of the first class I became deeply disappointed when I realized I wasn't going to be allowed to write the things that I wanted to write. And I quit writing immediately after the class because I thought that writing the boring stuff was going to be my only choice.

What I didn't mention was HOW I realized within that first 15 minutes that this class wasn't for me. We were supposed to go around the table and introduce ourselves and mention who are favorite writer/story was. And I was all excited, thinking that I'd be able to share the stuff that made my heart sing.

But as we moved around the table and the writer names came out? Faulkner, Hemingway, Conrad, O'Connor, and so on. Names of authors and stories that I had long ago compartmentalized to "required reading" and "only if I had to." A little voice in the back of my mind went Are you effing kidding me?

I may have said that last one out loud.

Yeah. Okay, moving along then. Blah, blah, blah.

I've never understood why genre fiction gets the bad rap that it does. A literary book may be considered a higher form of the art by some, but if no one's reading it, is there a point? Yes, there is a fine line between cliche and tropes, but all those same archetypes I studied in the literary books? The colors, the Jungian mythology? It's all there in genre fiction too - but in a form that you don't have to be an English major to understand.

And sometimes? It includes pervy little unicorns.


  1. Truth! And I think I read Flies when I was around that age. He should be fine. Of course I also read Pet Semetary and Misery when I was twelve....

  2. I've always thought people lie through their teeth when asked for their favorite author, what's on your bedside table, what are you reading now. There is no way EVERYONE out there is in the midst of reading A Tale of Two Cities. People just say it to look good. Not that this annoys me or anything.

  3. I thought it was just me. I tried to read Willa Cather for an online book club once-- they were horrified at any of my suggestions--and it bored me silly. How many fricking descriptions of the Nebraska prairie can one read? I seriously never liked a single "classic", but why can't we consider sci fi or fantasy in that category? I usually stay out of "literary" discussions because I end up feeling stupid.

    My son is reading Lord of the Flies-- he's a senior in HS, and I seriously have NEVER been able to get him to read. The only other book he liked was To Kill a Mockingbird in Junior High. He's also reading Slaughterhouse Five and likes that too.

  4. I loved sci-fi growing up (still do). When I was a kid, those books fired my imagination more than the mysteries and reading lists that my teachers gave. One thing I've found as a result of my interest in sci-fi, is that the themes explored in the books I read as a kid, made me more empathetic because I was forced to put myself in others shoes reading those books.