So, unfortunately it seemed like my experiment to get people talking about genre on Twitter didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. I had a fair few number of people favourite and retweet the material I posted under the #AndTheGenreIs, but not so many replies. I’m a little disappointed by the lack of interaction, but at the same time not too surprised. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so anything was a bonus really.
In case you aren’t on Twitter, or you haven’t been able to follow the various books I tweeted about asking others to label the genre they believed it fell into, I thought I’d do a run down here. It also gives me a chance to summarise any feedback I got and to ask some of the questions I had hoped might come up. So, here goes (click on the image to see the book cover and blurb):
The Accident – CL Taylor
I chose this novel because it is one I’ve recently read and I thought it would ease people into the game of guessing the genre. Perhaps unsurprisingly, because this was the first tweet I posted after my initial blog post, this is the one that got the most replies.
Mostly the response was a ‘Thriller’, some went for ‘Crime Thriller’ and it seemed like it was the cover art that mostly marked it out. The blurb had evidence of a secret and the word ‘suspenseful’ gave it away.
The Humans – Matt Haig
This one I chose because when I read it I remember wondering what genre it would fit into. Someone did actually tweet back to say that it was such a wonderful book it was difficult to classify, and I think I agree.
Research suggests that it can fall into Science Fiction or Fantasy thanks to the alien angle, but then the content does have a humorous edge and the quotes on the cover suggest that is partly the intention. The other side of that argument is that it is a commentary on human nature, which might place it best within the contemporary and modern fiction genres.
Verdict: Contemporary Fiction
I loved this novel, and the result television series. It didn’t seem to receive much of a response on Twitter, however. Some places describe this as ‘Fictional Biography’, which I suppose puts it in the same class as Adrian Mole, others deemed it Historical Fiction for the setting it creates across a generation. But, I have to say I agree with my colleague on Twitter who deemed it Literary Fiction.
Something about the way the character is built up, explored and developed means that this novel is focused entirely on the progress of one man and his interaction with the world. Which, as I understand it, defines Literary Fiction.
Verdict: Literary Fiction
I purposefully chose this novel because the author is well known for writing novels of another genre and has crossed the genre barrier. Unfortunately, no discussion came out of this which is a pity, because I’ve heard Joanne Harris speak more than once about how difficult it was to convince publishers she could switch genres – mainly because she doesn’t really believe in them and just writes what she writes.
This could easily be labelled Fantasy or Adventure, but over-riding both of these is Young Adult Fiction. I find it strange that an audience alone can define a genre – because I am certainly not within the target market for this novel, and yet still I read it and enjoyed it. Still, this the the genre it is set within.
Verdict: Young Adult Fiction
I had two reasons for choosing this: 1) I really enjoyed reading it 2) It’s often viewed as a ‘classic’, and I wondered if this would supersede genre. I suspect when this was first published in 1818 genres weren’t really very dominant in the market. So I was interested to see where people would put it now.
Again, few commented but those that did suggested Horror, which intrigued me. I’m not really a horror reader, but if you examine the novel in the context of it’s time period and the content of the core concept – then horror it may very well be. Still, Science Fiction was also offered and Gothic Literature comes up in a few searches. But, ultimately, I think the gut tells us what it should be classed as.
I purposely chose this novel because of the conflicting concepts that might cloud an ability to classify its genre. It has a definite grounding in history, allowing it to skate near the Historical Fiction genre, and yet the elements of the story are linked with time-travel meaning it could be grouped with Sci-Fi or Fantasy. There is also a strong link to character, which connects it with Literary Fiction.
Apparently it confused others too – which is possibly why people stayed silent on this topic. I found a very interesting article that classifies this novel as a ‘Genre Novel’ – which is described as a ‘catch-all’ category that would suit this novel. Still, if you compare it to Haig’s The Humans, which share some of the melding of genre concepts I think that the best place for this novel to sit in a bookshop (other than in the bestseller/award charts) would be…
Verdict: Contemporary Fiction
I’d love to hear if you dis/agree with any of these genres. I picked them from my book shelf so that I had enough of an idea of the content that I’d be able to defend my choices, but this doesn’t mean that I’m ‘right’. What this week has taught me is that I actually read a lot more across genres that I thought I did. I especially didn’t think I enjoyed reading Crime novels, but my books disagree – although, if you break it down further it does appear that I prefer Psychological Crime Thrillers over Detective novels or Murder Mysteries – are these genres in themselves? I’m not sure.
Despite my week of experimenting, I’m still not 100% clear on how best to classify all novels into genre. Some can be straight forward, others can be a mine field of questioning and pondering. It seems to me that Contemporary Fiction can embody those novels where genres may be crossed – what the Chicago Tribune called ‘Genre Fiction’. I have also come to the conclusion that this is likely where my own novel sits; perhaps on the barrier between Contemporary and Literary Fiction, mainly because I don’t think I have the strength of language or singular focus on one character to deem it fully Literary.
What are your thoughts? Do you choose books by their genre, or is just a marketing tool that readers don’t necessarily need to concern themselves with? How important is it for writers to understand genre, and should they be able to identify all genres, or just the one they’re writing in?
Let me know what you think in comments, or Tweet Me.