People are always trying to categorise other people’s stories. I suppose that’s why the genre thing is such as big deal. People want to know what box your story fits into – is it a detective story or a romance or a science fiction fantasy.
I suppose it makes sense. People who read books like to have some kind of idea about what they’re going to find before they make a decision to purchase. Which makes it definitely in the interests of people who sell books to make this information as plain and simple as possible.
So what does that mean for me? How can I look to categorise my stories given that they don’t necessarily fit into the standard genres?
One way that I like to describe my stories is as conventionally unconventional. What on earth do I mean by that?
In many ways, my stories are strange. They combine conventional genres in unusual ways (e.g. fantasy mixed with comedy mixed with detective noir). Their plots are filled with unexpected twists and turns, and characters that try to break the constraints of those you’d find in more conventional books. They’re set in the most unexpected places, from an asteroid field to an underwater world made entirely of words, with a quick detour to the afterlife for good measure.
Yet, in many other ways, my stories are highly conventional. They tend to work off fairly standard ideas of plot and structure (even if those plots and structures can be a bit odd). I’m not into complicated narrative tricks like multiple split perspectives or unreliable narrators or random timeshifts. I have little interest in playing the kinds of post-modern, intertextual games that mean you need to have a Masters degree in literature in order to make sense of it all. No matter how strange the elements of my writing are, ultimately I still want to just tell a good story, with strong characters and a clear beginning, middle, and end.
So maybe that’s my genre. Maybe I should just classify my books as conventionally unconventional. Then again, it’s possible that they’re actually unconventionally conventional. In the complicated world of genre, who can really tell?
All I know for sure is that I hope people enjoy reading them.
For an example of one of my conventionally unconventional (or possibly unconventionally conventional) stories, you can download a free copy of my novella Doodling at http://www.jonathangouldwriter.com/doodling/.
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