Genre: Why do writers write in a certain genre?

When I thought about writing about book genre I didn’t realise that the topic was so complicated and interesting. I just thought, my genre are children’s books, poetry, short stories and historical fiction. Those were my own interests and what I like to read, I also enjoy memoirs, biographies, autobiographies, family sagas and legend; but children’s books can be divided into age group, fiction and non-fiction, and different subject matter, fairy tales, fantasy and so on…

So what is genre?

People have different views on this:

  • To categorize a book to make it easier to find. Sellers do this so readers in their store can easily find a thing they are likely to buy. The Seller makes money. Libraries do this to make sure their information can be predictably found by both readers and researchers.
  • To categorize the book in order to understand or say something about it, either in the hope of spreading that understanding or forming a new understanding. The primary point here is to group types of knowledge together and label them. This may be a researcher who wants to find books on insects or a writer who wants to know about mysteries. Or it may be more politically minded: an activist trying to gather viewpoints they want others to read; a organization (church, government, business) trying to get their target audience indoctrinated by reading something that brings them closer to the organizations world view.’

‘The first thing to observe is that a genre is not a rigid mould which works must fit into, but a group of texts that share certain similarities – whether of form, performance context, or subject matter. For example, all the texts that make up the ancient genre of tragedy share certain ‘family resemblances’ (they are theatrical texts written in a particular poetic language, they reflect on human suffering, they show gods interacting with humans, and so on) that allow us to perceive them as a recognizable group. But although certain ‘core’ features characterize any given genre, the boundaries of each genre are fluid and are often breached for literary effect.

As can still be seen in modern literature and film, a genre comes with certain in-built codes, values, and expectations. It creates its own world, helping the author to communicate with the audience, as she deploys or disrupts generic expectations and so creates a variety of effects. Genres appeal to writers because they give a structure and something to build on, while they offer audiences the pleasure of the familiar and ingenious diversion from it. The best writers take what they need from the traditional form and then innovate, leaving their own imprint on the genre and changing it for future writers and audiences. In other words, genre is a source of dynamism and creativity, not a straitjacket, unless the writer is rubbish, i.e. unimaginative and unoriginal.’

Elemental Genres

It was in exploring this topic that I came across, Elemental Genres…

‘Elemental genres are the things that make you read, the emotional resonance that drives a story. Not bookshelf genres, but elemental genres.’

‘The concept behind elemental genres is that a book can be constructed out of several different elemental genres. Instead of just being a fantasy novel for example, a novel can have a fantasy setting, with a plot that includes elements of mystery, horror, and romance woven in as separate plot threads.’

‘In particular elemental genres are the common themes that evoke specific emotions in a reader, such as dread (horror) or curiosity (mystery).’

Why some authors write in the genre they do…

I asked some fellow authors why they write in the genre they do and these were their answers:

‘ I write in two different genres, and they are the two I enjoy reading most.’

‘I’ve just always been interested in thrillers , factual or fictitious . I do like them to run at a fast pace and have a couple of curve balls.’

‘Yep, I write in the genres I enjoy reading and watching, but I also like playing with things a bit, like bringing “traditional” stories and pulp together and that sort of vibe.’

‘I write Military Romantic Suspense, because those are the stories my characters give me. I see the stories played out like a movie in my head and write up the incident report.My husband is a 32 year US Navy Veteran, so I have lived a military life for many years and I love to read romantic suspense.’

2 thoughts on “Genre: Why do writers write in a certain genre?”

  1. Thank you Eileen for this informative blog. It is sometimes difficult to know which genre a book, or author, fits into best, but these categories definitely do help readers find books they’d like to read.

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