Thursday, January 24, 2013
The word is all encompassing, and perhaps too much so. The various breeds comprising the majestic art of fictional writing are so diverse that I'm often left questioning whether some genres belong to a different species entirely. The rules of reality shift with each genre-- and within them. When transitioning from one book to another, our minds must accept new physics and relearn history. The sheer dissimilarity of each author's thought processes is palpable to an avid reader. Like an immigrant, an individual work of fiction comes from another culture, carrying with it a unique language and appearance starkly different from its cohorts'. Fiction transcends its simple word casing. It's more than a mere category; fiction is a multiverse.
Whenever I tell anyone I write fiction, they usually ask, "What kind of fiction?" as if it were a question capable of providing a concise, one word answer. What kind of fiction do I write? What kind of person are you? Right now, harness your very essence and tell me absolutely everything you stand for in one word. Can't do it? Neither can I (with proper justice.) To a writer dedicated to his craft, being asked to pinpoint his precise niche within the unfathomable space of fiction is just as absurd of a request.
Medieval fantasy, modern magical, military mystery, Victorian-era period piece romance...
These may seem like acceptable answers, but they really fall short by a significant margin. Sure, those tell you where you can expect to end up and give a hint to the style of plot, but -- and maybe it's just me here-- don't they make it feel a little cheap? I feel like a slave-trader rattling off a sick list of selling points for a living, breathing person. That's perhaps too bold of a comparison, but the question offends my identity as a writer. You wouldn't assign dehumanizing categories to to a human being, so why would you dehumanize a book containing what should be representations of them? I toiled countless nights to give my characters and worlds life, so why should I rip it away?
For me, my characters are alive-- so much so, that I actually feel their pain. I find myself apologizing for the ill I must inflict upon them in order to give their lives meaning and grounds for my characters to court a meaningful friendship with a reader. Writing isn't a job or hobby for me. Creating fiction is my life's meaning. My words are to be the manifesto of another. My plots and plans dictate and often end the lives of others. The word 'fictional' is the only thing separating my responsibilities from God's. Writers are the deities of their creations, tasked with forming ideal worlds for a stressed society to find refuge within.
Thiller, adventure, mystery, horror, romance, suspence...
A good story contains all these aspects and should not be categorized under just one. I write under the oath of no genre, and with each separate work I vow to uphold this philosophy and succeed in an entirely new way. My novels shouldn't be defined by concrete categories, but the outlooks, experiences and relationships they offer readers. Perhaps I'm alone. Maybe my fellow writers will not agree with the harsh expectations I have for my work, but it's my guiding principal nonetheless and I will never compromise the integrity of my art. But I'll be fair, I'll answer the question-- though perhaps only here to avoid sounding arrogant and overly idealistic.
What is my genre?