We’ve got a great new class to finish up 2017 from Pat Hauldren. If you are interested in that class then this article will introduce you to Pat and her wonderful class on Tricks and Tropes! ~ed.
All of us reading this post write, in one form or another, genre fiction. Whether it’s romance, fantasy, paranormal, science fiction, horror, mystery, literary, etc., we write fiction that fits into some type of category or blend of categories and is marketed via the bookstore and advertising as a particular genre or blend of genres.
Fiction wasn’t always sorted by genre. Back in the day, not so long ago really, when I was just a whiz-reading sprig, fiction was sorted into two areas: adult and children. Imagine walking to a large chain bookstore and having only three areas segregated by signs touting “adult fiction,” “children,” and “nonfiction.”
How did anyone find anything back then?
Today’s definition of genre, a category of fiction each focusing in differing areas, to put it in general, developed over time.
The novel took centuries to develop, but the different areas of types of novels didn’t begin until about the 19th century with stories like Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Melville’s Moby-Dick. These were often also called “romances” as according to Sir Walter Scott, a Scottish historical novelist, playwright, and poet (remember Ivanhoe? See the movie Rob Roy?) but not like the romances we see in the bookstores today. His romances were “fictitious narratives in prose or verse; the interest of which turns upon marvelous and uncommon incidents.”[i] Sounds a lot like today’s fantasy and paranormal, doesn’t it?
In fact, Scott could be said to be the “father of the novel.” A world-renown poet, Scott loved Scottish stories he’d heard all his life. In his time, these stories were oral traditions and Scott wanted to keep them alive, so he wove stories, from traditions and his own invention, creating something rather new in literary terms, the novel. Scott wrote stories about the Jacobite Uprising, about Scottish regional life, the ballad cycle of Robin Hood, etc. Scott took real events, added some “romantic” fictional tales of love, politics, adventure, and so on, and created something new and popular for his time.
Some say, as far as genre classifications go, fantasy has the longest and richest heritage. Of course, it wasn’t called fantasy when the Epic of Gilgamesh was created as an epic poem in ancient Mesopotamia. Regarded as the earliest surviving work of literature, these five Sumerian poems date from about 2100 BC. Gilgamesh is one of my favorite all-time stories, as it has many elements that interest me: history, politics, adventure, romance, mythology.
As genre classification developed, publishing and marketing for genre developed.
Today, fiction has become a little more complicated in how it’s classified—relationships go in the romance section, space travel in the science fiction section, past events in historical, unnatural events in fantasy, and some mixed and mingled.
Nowadays, I walk into a bookstore or browse online bookstores with never enough money to spend on all the different types of books I enjoy and never enough time to read them all, as my “to be read” pile woefully reveals.
And yet, as many current books and types of books I enjoy, few come to mind that impact me with such powerful emotion as “the classics” of my youth: The Swiss Family Robinson, Ivanhoe, Wuthering Heights, The Three Musketeers, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Conan, the Barbarian, and so on.
What makes stories like these weather the test of time (that’s a cliché, by the way, but an apt one)?
What makes a story a good story still holds true all these centuries since the time of Gilgamesh, regardless of classification. And always, story trumps everything else.
In Generating Gorgeous Genre, we’ll learn:
- what is genre and in what genre are we writing?
- what are the most important elements of our genre?
- how do we use these genre elements to rivet our readers to every page?
- what are appeal elements?
- how do we use appeal elements to best effect?
- what are crossovers and am I writing one?
- how publishers market genre fiction
- and much more.
Come join us December 11th for Generating Gorgeous Genre for some genre fun with lessons, games, prompts, and freebies.
I write speculative fiction short stories and novels and nonfiction freelance articles, blogs, etc. Because mythology and religion have such central themes in my work, I like to call myself a “mythologist,” because when I world-build, I have to create the legends and myths of my world. Even when writing contemporary fantasy, I must delve into human history, legends, myths, and fables to niggle out those intriguing nuggets that suggest gem of possibilities for a fantastical world or culture. Writing is a non-stop learning adventure!
I teach writing workshops both live and online and very soon, will have ebook of my classes available for sale here on my website and in other fine establishments. I’ve taught writing workshops in The Netherlands: Amsterdam and The Hague, at Tarrant County Community College, at local writing workshops and critique groups, and online for Romance Writers of America (RWA), SavvyAuthors, and others.