Mike and I were talking about genres the other day. The conversation went something like this:
"I was thinking about writing a post about genres," Mike said. He sat at his desk at work. We work at a concrete and soils lab, and his office is a marvelous room with a large desk. The desk faces the door, but the chair that I sit in when I stop in to chat faces a huge window. The sunlight waned on the cold afternoon.
"Good idea," I said, or something like that. "What do you want to talk about?" Mike and I often have these conversations about blog topics.
"That's the problem," Mike said. "People just choose the genre they like to read and write in that genre."
"Yeah, you're right, but that's not necessarily the best way to do it." About this time, I saw an African-American man walk outside to smoke. I have seen him before, and the cold temperature of the brutal Indiana weather drove him inside his car.
"People just write the genre they like." I watched the man sit in his car. Mike and I talked for awhile, and the man outside continued to sit in his car. He was talking on a phone, leaning against the window and putting his hand to the side of his face. He stroked his rough face. I couldn't see his expression.
I wondered if the man outside was saying sweet things to his girlfriend. Maybe he was making last minute arrangements with a hit man to off his wife. Maybe he was ordering parts to build a time machine.
Here I sort of went off on a stupid tirade about genres. I do this a lot with Mike, and he has the patience to listen to me babble. I said something about how I don't think this is the best way to choose the area to write in. Sure, we all have genres, and we all have the types of books that we tend to read, but we can get stuck in the formulas of the typical genre.
This may be one of the hardest lessons I have learned: to break away from what I am most comfortable. I started with the strangely undefinable (and yes, all genres are generally undefinable and stupidly generalized, but that is a discussion for another post) experimental fiction. After I realized how much I needed to expand my skills, I wrote a sort of urban fantasy. Then, I wrote a couple more fiction and went to science fiction.
My point is this: the expected parameters of a romance are not something that appeal to me much--the woman, needing something more, finding what she needs in love (and probably sex), and conflicting relationship issues. I'm a bit of a cynic and realist, and the lines of sensibility and the novels of manners are more intriguing to me--but I'm about to go on a tangent. Pulling the sensibility and manners into a modern romance are challenging and interesting, and I believe that writing in a different genre allows you to visit this world with fresh eyes and a new take on the traditional expectations.
The man outside still spoke on the phone when I left Mike's office. I smiled. I wondered what kind of genre his story might be.
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