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Monday, May 23, 2011

Putting Stories Into Little Boxes . . .

I hate, hate, HATE picking a genre label for my stories. It's a necessary evil, of course, with an accent on evil.

I'm dealing with it more lately because I've been doing the Story-A-Day May challenge and writing a lot of short stories. Labelling the short stories is often more of a challenge than the writing!

Up until recently, I have been using the "category criteria" I learned long ago:
Horror fiction: fiction to invoke fear (which is why Twilight can have vampires but not be horror);
Sci-fi: the fiction of possibilities (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, et al.);
Fantasy: the fiction of impossibilities; (thus, Star Wars, while sci-fi-ish, is really fantasy).

Of course, the divisions are much more complicated than that these days.

Book Country has come up with an interesting genre map:
Book Country Genre Map
It can be very helpful for targeting which genre a story falls under, though I disagree with some of the categories.

For example, I just wrote a short story about life after nuclear apocalypse. There's a lot of science (the effects of radiation on people, animals, weather, etc., and the long-term environmental repercussions), but it also has lots of scary monsters. Is it sci-fi or horror? According to the Book Country labels, it's actually "weird fiction." But I don't think many readers are familiar with the term, so it's probably not a good idea to label a story that way (except, of course, to send it to magazine markets that are looking for "weird fiction;" then it's a handy label, lol).

Being a glutton for punishment, I decided to play around with the Book Country labels and see if I could tighten and improve MY label (since I'm supposed to be categorized so readers have an understanding of the type of writer I am). My "marketing spin" description was "writer of dark speculative fiction and humorous urban fantasy," but I'm not sure that speaks to the average reader (plus, according to Book Country, my humor work isn't "urban fantasy" but "comic fantasy.")

According to the Book Country breakdown, I write in these categories:
Supernatural Thriller;
Environmental Thriller;
Dystopian Sci-Fi;
Alternate History Sci-Fi;
Soft Sci-fi;
And pretty much every category of fantasy (with horror, weird fiction, and comic fantasy being the main focus).

I'll toss out the "Thriller" label right away, because I think it just muddies the water. That puts us back to "I write horror, fantasy, and sci-fi" (horror deserves it's own mention, since it is the main focus of my work).

So there we are. After all the fancy infographics and descriptions, we are right back to the simplest definition of all. The "KISS" principle (Keep It Simple Stupid):

I write horror, fantasy, and sci-fi.

Anyone else struggle with the box their work should go in? Or worse, like me, struggle with their "writerly" label?

I'd love to hear how you found your label!

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Story-A-Day Update

(notice I used the "KISS principle" on these labels, lol)
http://storyaday.org/brendakezar/2011/05/20/may-20th/

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Links for Writers

21 Excuses for Why Your Novel Isn't Finished Yet
(My writing laptop has a malfunctioning "J" key; I discovered this while drafting a novel in which the protagonist's name is Josh. Seriously).

Best Articles for Writers (archived)

Harry Potter on His Journey to Publication

Antagonists: The Alpha and Omega of the Story

Put Your Flabby Writing on a Diet

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