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:
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.
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.