November 9, 2010

What Genre Chose You?

“Most writers have very little choice in what they write about. What is in evidence over and over again is a certain set of obsessions, a certain vocabulary, a way of approaching the page.” 

I’ve been reading Lerner’s marvelous book, which looks at the makeup of writers before delving into what actually goes on in publishing. Time after time, she astounds me with her insights, particularly when she addresses why writers write.

But it was the above claim that got me thinking about my genre in a new way. Did I really choose to write fantasy, or was it inevitable?

I’ve always been drawn to books that deal with the magical, the fantastic, the supernatural. You might say it’s an escape, but isn’t all literature just that, something that draws us out of the ordinary world into one the author creates?

When I decided to switch from journalism to fiction, it just seemed natural to write fantasy. Lerner puts it this way: “ . . . a writer gravitates toward a certain form or genre because, like a well-made jacket, it suits him.”

I love the analogy to tailoring. We start out with raw words, patch them together into designs best suited to our tale, fiddle around with alterations until we have a custom fit (call it voice, if you will), and –voila!–a book is born.

So, tell me, did you choose the genre or did the genre choose you?


  1. I love that quote! I may have to go get that book!

    I think a writer definitely gravitates to one genre or another, but probably just as much because that's what she reads and is interested in. I don't read a lot of MG or YA, fantasy or science fiction. I read literary fiction and women's fiction, which is why I think I like to write it.

  2. Heidi: Exactly! I think Lerner hit it on the nose. The best writers explore what interests them and their passion comes out in their prose.

  3. I love that quote, too :-) And the genre I write--MG historical fiction--reached out and grabbed me initially because of setting--a pioneer's hollow tree here, a barn built in 1861 there. I've explored the eras, now the characters are wrapping themselves around my heart!

  4. currently struggling with similar genre related issues. Good post.

  5. Your post got me thinking if most writers write in the genre they best like to read?

  6. Love that quote! :)

    I read pretty widely, so that's probably why I write in a few different genres as well!

  7. I grew up reading a lot of sci-fi, so I guess it chose me.

  8. Wonderful quote. Sadly, my writing crosses genre. I think in large part it's because I read widely. I suppose you could say by choosing what I read, I've by proxy chosen what I write, but that almost makes it sound like a conscious decision.

  9. Kendra: When I was teaching MG, I was always on the lookout for historical fiction. It's definitely a niche that needs filling.

    Wendy: Hope your struggles bear fruit.

    Stephanie: I think it's a huge, but not solely determining factor. I love mysteries but doubt I could ever write one.

    Jemi: I admire your versatility.

    Michelle: That's one genre that never really grabbed my interest. Maybe I just haven't found the right SciFi book.

    VR: Isn't conscious action always influenced by the subconscious?

  10. nice share, good article, very usefull for me...thanks

  11. I'm not sure because I read and enjoy all genres.

    But I tend to read dark books, whereas I write light stuff.

  12. My genre definitely chose me because I chose mysteries from the time I could read. I think we write what we loved to read, but it has to go with personality. I loved funny books, but I'm not a funny person. I can't write in that genre at all!

  13. Medeia: But is the genre you write the one you read most? Fantasy, e.g., can be light or dark.

    Catherine: From you bio, I guessed you grew up with a love of mysteries and went from there. I love funny books, too, and wish I were clever enough to write one. ;-)

  14. I read plenty of horror, mysteries, thrillers and paranormal, which isn't at all like what I write. :)


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