Choosing a Genre


Monday night, I was interviewed on the Other Worlds of Romance blog talk radio show. Host Linda Mooney asked me if there was any genre I flat out wouldn’t write.

I told her I probably wouldn’t write science fiction, first of all because I’m not confident that I’d get the science part right, and second of all because my mother used to try to force feed me hard core science fiction novels, and so I developed an aversion to them in general. (Much to hubby’s displeasure, because that’s his favorite genre and he keeps trying to recommend books that I refuse to read.)

Linda’s question got me thinking, though, and I realized that when I sit down to write a story, I don’t really think, “Oh, I’m going to write a contemporary” or a paranormal or a menage or whatever. I have the characters in my mind, hopefully, and a general idea of the plot, and I just start writing. It’s rare for me to decide to write something based on a specific submission call or because I’ve been asked to, so I don’t have to stick to genre restrictions for those reasons.

I just write.

Which leads me to wonder whether I’m weird that way. I know that some authors do much more intensive plotting and planning before they write than I do, but do they decide in advance what genre they’re going to write? I’d guess that with historicals, it’s pretty vital to know you’re going to write one because of the amount of research necessary. Probably the same with fantasy and science fiction, because of the world building, though I’d argue that a certain amount of world building is necessary no matter what you write. Even in a contemporary, you have to set the scene and make the characters and the setting believable.

That’s another topic, though… As usual, I’m derailing my own train of thought here.

I set out once to write a paranormal romance novel about a demon who falls in love with the human she’s supposed to destroy. I had a lot of fun writing the character, and I think my world building was pretty solid. (We’ll see what the publisher I’ve submitted it to thinks…) The secondary characters are pretty well-done, and I really like the love interest.

The problem was, it wasn’t a romance. She didn’t even meet the human until chapter three or four, and they absolutely refused to kiss until chapter nine or ten. And nothing happened beyond a few kisses. Which meant I had to reconsider the genre of the thing. Paranormal, definitely. Romance, no. And since I didn’t feel like going back and adding in romance and kissing and sex to make it fit the romance requirements, I submitted it as a just-plain paranormal.

Has that ever happened to anyone else? You set out to write a novel in a specific genre and the characters just won’t cooperate? I hope I’m not the only one… otherwise, we’ll know I’m weird.

I’d be interested to hear from other authors here. When you sit down to start a new WIP, do you decide what genre you’re going to write, or do you just decide on the story? Readers–do you prefer a specific genre, or is it okay with you if the lines blur a bit?

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3 responses to “Choosing a Genre

  1. Hi, Karenna!

    I loved having you on the show! Let’s do it again!

    In regard to your earlier response about why you won’t write SciFi is exactly the same reason why I won’t write historical romance – another person ruined it for me. And to this day if I have to put any kind of historical bent to a story, my stomach ties up in knots.

    As for your first question, the genre comes third. I get a story idea first, and work out the details of the “who” and “where” second. Then I figure out what genre it belongs in. But, also like you, sometimes the story fits several categories.

    And, yes, I’ve started out intending a story to be one way, and ended up with it going to a different planet. I think every author has experienced it in one form or another. I’ve also written romances that, when I tried to go back and spice them up to be labeled erotic, they just refused to change.

  2. I began writing a story once and the sex scene (there was only one) felt added on big time. I actually had dreams about those characters. They refused to let their sex be open to the public! Quirky characters to be sure, haha. Anyways, that was the start of K. Starling- she writes sweet romance. I’ve written two more longer sweet romances since then and I’m working on another one. I’ve found that my muse, just like me, has different moods. Good luck on your submission!

  3. I read across a huge range of genres, and I don’t mind much if a story straddles more than one genre, so long as the world building and characters are solid, and any facts have been properly researched.

    In terms of writing, I have a fairly good idea when I start planning a story whether it’s going to be SF, F or contemporary/near-past. However, it might not be apparent at that point to what extent there’s going to be a mystery or romance element to the story as well.

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