Genre Rules Ugh

Wikipedia
Wikipedia

Back in the olden days when we sat with our tribe around the campfire listening to the elders tell stories, no one, and I mean no one, interrupted the sage storytellers mid-sentence to say, “Stop, You’re not following the genre rules.”

But today is another matter.

Each genre, and then sub-genre, and then sub-sub-genre has its own rules, and if they are not followed marketing your work in that genre becomes difficult, if not impossible. Mosely, who writes in several different genres, in his interview with PBS this spring said that he stays within the genre he’s writing in. Well, good for him. So sensible. I wish…

The Indies (self published writers) are laughing at me by this point in my post, because they don’t pay attention to “the rules.” Their stories sell regardless of the rules. They do, however, have to develop a talent for tagging their work appropriately so they draw the right audiences. They say readers don’t really care where your book “fits on the shelf.” They just want a good story.

So what am I griping about this fine Monday morning?  I like mixing up the genres. Lets look at some basics that I play with:

Jane Austin
Jane Austin

Romance: A hero (h who preferably is a kind hearted but tortured soul) and a heroine (H who is flawed in a forgivable way)  meet early in the story, flirt a whole lot and find fulfillment in more ways than one in each others arms and other body parts. It must, must, must have a happy ending referred to in the biz as an HEA. So H +h= HEA

Murder Mystery/Suspense: Clues are set forth for the reader to try to figure out “who dun it.”  It’s like an intellectual puzzle and the main rule is: play fair with the reader.

Sherlock Holmes Wikipedia
Sherlock Holmes
Wikipedia

Romantic Suspense: Has two arcs in the plot, one romantic and one suspenseful. The market prefers a heavy dose of Romance with a sprinkling of suspense.

Thriller: The reader is taken on an emotional roller-coaster by chase scenes, psychological drama, or  whatever it takes to get them flipping the pages late at night and forgetting their problems. The higher the stakes the better.

Now, I find a story that fits into only one of these categories a trifle dull, or over stimulating, or silly, or…a range of adjectives. That is to say it doesn’t feel totally real to me. I like to develop an intriguing mystery, add suspense and a thrilling scene here and there, and  touch the heart with romance. But I don’t always want to end with a marriage proposal. Please, it just doesn’t work for me.

So I’m griping over the question: learn how to play by the traditional publishing rules or play in the sand with the Indies?

What do you think? Is it time for us to throw away the genre rules? redefine them? Or go Indie? Any advice would be appreciated.

Author: Jo-Ann Carson

Jo-Ann Carson writes a saucy mix of fantasy, adventure and romance. Her latest stories are in the Gambling Ghosts Series: A Highland Ghost for Christmas, A Viking Ghost for Valentine’s Day, Confessions of a Pirate Ghost and The Biker Ghost Meets his Match. An anthology of the novellas will be coming out this summer. Currently she is working on Midnight Magic, A Ghost & Abby Mystery, the first book in a spin-off series from her Viking ghost story. Jo-Ann loves watching sunrises, playing Mah Jong and drinking good coffee. You can chat with her on social media: You can find all her links on her website - http://jo-anncarson.com

14 thoughts on “Genre Rules Ugh”

    1. Welcome Michael
      Ugly expectations. And I can think of a few other descriptive words for the genre demons.
      I’m frustrated with trying to define my work for the market. Can you tell? lol
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      Best Wishes
      Jo-Ann

      Like

  1. I agree. I think it’s partly the influence of TV and movies, many of which lay it out, week after week just like you say. Castle comes to mind. And we are not the only one who feels this way. Apparently Donald Maass is now on the mixed genre bandwagon. Maybe we should go to his masterclass at SIWC this year and hear what he has to say.
    And maybe it’s our roots showing. We were the hippy/ follow-no-man’s-rules generation. Sure we’ve mellowed, but that rebellious spirit still lurks beneath this middle-class exterior.

    Like

    1. Gmorning Judy
      Not sure what SIWC is, but I am interested in Donald Maass. He’s giving a full day workshop in Houston at the Lone Star, but that’s kind of pricey.
      I laughed at your hippy comment. So true. Guilty as charged. I thought artists could do their “own thing” and be loved for it. So naive.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      Best Wishes
      Jo-Ann

      Like

  2. Bottom line, Jo-Ann, the reader (emphasis needed) chooses what to read. I’ve told you I always want a happy ending. That being said, it doesn’t mean the author has to provide a wedding and 2.3 kids as part of an epilogue. Certainly with series, you don’t see that. But most things have been resolved.
    I don’t fit with the big folks, I kind of blend genres. I’ve got much more than the story between the H & H. I have substantial (at least I hope they are :)) supporting characters. Not to mention my H & H are older–40-55 range. There’s no point to send to Harelquin or some of the other larger pubs. (Though I did.) They’re not gonna buy what I write. Now, I was fortunate to find a small (but growing) Canadian e-pub. MuseItUp Publishing treats us as family. I love that. Do I wish I’d gotten a print book at same time as the b-book came out. Yeah, but the other will come out and it builds anticipation when folks hear others talk about it or hear of one of the reviews. LOL Anyway, MIU is open for submission in September. They’re open to a wide variety of genres. In September, Jo-Ann! Give them a try. I have ten other e-pubs I tried, too, I can send you. The agent and the big company isn’t the only way and sometimes not the best way. I WANT TO READ YOUR BOOK! Lets find someone to pub the thing. (I’ve skipped over indie pubbing only because I think it’s easier to go there after you have a bit of a following, but authors are selling their indie pubbed books like hotcakes! (cliche alert! ). I’m just glad I don’t have to juggle all parts of the process.
    Good post, sweetie. Keep ’em coming.

    Like

    1. Marsha
      Thanks for your kind and thoughtful comments.
      I think I’m getting there, but I’m not sure I’m there yet. I’m reluctant to put out a product that will later make me wince and lose sales. I figure within a year I’ll get out there somehow. I’m having a great time with my new story with a teacher as the heroine.
      Hope you’re enjoying your writing.
      And again, thank you.
      Best always
      Jo-Ann

      Like

  3. Hey Jo-Ann. In January this year, I was exactly where you are; frustrated with the hurry up and wait that is Big Publishing. So, I went indie and I’m more excited about my writing than I’ve been. If you go indie, do NOT do it without a good freelance editor. She’ll be worth her weight in gold.

    Like

    1. Hi Joan
      Love your, “…hurry up and wait,” line. How true.
      I wonder how long you worked at your craft before you put yourself out there. I think I’m getting close, and I will definitely find a good editor. I have this on-going issue with commas.
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience.
      Best always
      Jo-Ann

      Like

  4. It may be time to come over to the dark side Jo-Ann. I think you have to build your audience anyway unless you get a remarkable first contract. And if you build an audience you’re more likely to get a traditional publisher anyway.

    Like

    1. Pat
      The dark side! Love it.
      It’s such a big leap of faith. I’m crawling up to the edge. Won’t be long now.
      I see what you mean about building an audience. When I have a few more stories ready to back up what I’ve got, then maybe I’ll feel ready.
      Thanks for sharing your humor and experience.
      Best
      Jo-Ann

      Like

  5. I’m for redefining the rules in a way that would give the author a lot of
    freedom but would still keep the reader happy. How? I’m floundering a little here, but how about an HEA in romance with a lifestyle change? The heroine could be HEA- ing with a menagerie of pets and the hero is invited for an occasional weekend. They are not together in the traditional sense but both are ‘happy’. Oops! Have I swerved them into Womens’ Fiction??

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s