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How To Choose A Genre? (And why you shouldn’t care)

Writes often feel a strange confusion while choosing a genre for their story.

Generally, the time to choose a genre comes after the idea for a story is formed. Very few writers actually sit down and choose a genre before having an idea for a story.

The definition of a story is born only after some of it is breathed into existence by a writer.

The task of choosing a genre doesn’t come easily. Something feels wrong when a story has to be put in a box. Writers don’t think about genres when they’re writing. Why would they do the same to then define their story?

And yet, it is important to know how to choose a genre to write.

Also read: Plotting a fantasy novel: Some hard lessons for writers?

Why is choosing a genre important?

Labels may not matter to writers in the inner sanctums of their mind. However, the world of literary fiction does not share the same ideas.

Walk into a book store and you’ll find books classified on all kinds of factors. The same is true on online stores like Amazon. Great authors write themselves into specific genres. Murakami is the ‘magical realism’ behemoth and Stephen King is the ‘horror-thriller’ guy.

Genres wield considerable power in the literary world. They are essential to how writers bring their work to market and discover their readers.

Also read: Why Indian literature must shoulder the blame for cinema mediocrity?

How to choose a genre to write?

New writers generally have this question. There are many genres out there and the fear of missing out on a good one is real.

Here’s a simple way to answer the question – don’t think about genres.

Genres are important, yes. They help organize and classify the infinite possibilities of literature.

And yet, it is vital for writers not to wed themselves to a genre before writing anything.

As mentioned previously, genre identification must come after some part of the story is formed.

New writers should not think about writing something as a marketing exercise. There is no point in finding the most popular genre and writing a story on it to attract a larger audience.

Have a story idea? Don’t think about all the genres associated with it. You’ll have a lot of time later to identify a genre for it.

Also read: No, you don’t need creative writing courses to learn writing.

How to choose a genre for something I have written?

Boxing a story into a genre is always difficult writer. Take A Song of Ice and Fire for instance. Most people like calling it a fantasy epic. However, it much more complex than a typical fantasy novel. It’s not wrong to call it a political drama either. So which one is it – a fantasy or a political drama?

This decision comes down to the creator.

One method that works often is choosing the genre from which the story is inspired. For example, if you’re novel is inspired from a James Bond movie, it is probably best to call it a spy thriller.

You may not feel that calling your story a ‘spy thriller’ does it justice. However, it is important to reach a compromise in such situations. We use genres to define stories so that writers don’t have to write page long summaries of their story.

Genre as a research tool

Let’s say you have a great story idea. The best way to describe the story is somewhere between a fantasy and futuristic drama.

In defining a genre after forming the idea, you suddenly open yourself to new possibilities. You can start reading and watching work that best defines the genre of your story. Don’t just find good examples. Find poorly written books and bad movies as well. This will help sharpen your process and make you aware of the standard you need to set.

You can think genre as a great tool for research. However, remember to think about it only after you have a clear story idea in your head.

In conclusion

Genres are important in some situations and not so important in others. It takes a wise mind to make a distinction.

This piece provides a take on the question of choosing a genre to write.

Also read: What is Speculative Fiction?
Also read: Indian Fantasy Novels: The Best Fantasy Fiction From India
Also read: Ten Speculative Books You Should’ve Already Read

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