Monday, August 14, 2017

Genre: Not a Dirty Word

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Nonsense, right?

Part of how we understand the world around us is by categorizing things. I have a background in education and have worked with young children with learning challenges. I've spent more hours than I care to count working with children to help them group things by association. The cows go with the farm animals. The dog goes with the pets. Dresses are clothing. Hammers are tools.

We use letters to represent sounds. Those letters are assembled into words that we learn. The words are organized into sentences that have a subject and a predicate. The sentences are organized into paragraphs...

And so on.

This is how we make sense of things. If you're a linguist or translator you may know things about the structure of different types of language so that you can look at words and identify the language. Ciao. Mes amies. Auf wiedersehen. Grüß Gott.

We would say it's completely ridiculous to try to write a novel without using sentences. I can't imagine trying to read a book without paragraphs.

We need structure. It's how we organize information. It's how we make sense of things on multiple levels.

Choosing to write genre fiction is like choosing a particular framing device for how you want to explore the world with language. ~ Clea Simon

I'm not going to dignify the latest author who denigrated genre fiction with a mention of their name or a link to the article. Any genre author who's been around for a few years knows there's a long list of authors who have criticized all genre writing as a whole simply because the works are classified in a genre.

Genre isn't a dirty word. It's simply a structural system used to help classify material so that people know what to expect. Genre does not have to limit your work. It's a foundation. On that foundation you can build a shack or you can build a cathedral. That's up to you. Genre is simply a constructive device that helps people form associations so that they can understand it, and it helps guide writers as they construct their stories.

As long as there are newspapers who run author profiles there will be authors spewing discriminatory crap about lesser writers and genre, the black sheep of the literary world. These authors come off as pretentious and half out of their minds, and they simply perpetuate the outdated notion that authors are some sort of mystical beings who channel insight that the average person doesn't have access to. Like they're special.

That's crap. I write fulltime for a living. Much of what I write is non-fiction, and I understand fully that whatever I'm writing, I write for a purpose. I'm either informing or entertaining. I have a job to do. Sometimes that involves researching information and conveying it in a way that will make sense to a specific audience. Sometimes that means building a world and characters I hope readers will care about.

In all honestly, sometimes writing genre fiction is the hardest stuff I write in my day. It's work. It takes skill.

Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Especially someone with their head up their ass.

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