So many great literary meetings have been lost to time. Here’s a fascinating one that wasn’t: Ian Fleming (master of the spy novel) discussing craft with Raymond Chandler (master of the hardboiled detective novel).
This is believed to be the only recording of Raymond Chandler’s voice.
Sit back, pour yourself something shaken not stirred, and enjoy!
Yesterday I posted about the Magic of Storytelling. Yes, I got a full head of steam going on that one (it happens!), and we definitely achieved liftoff. Fortunately, Wonderful Reader Rain, Rain was there to keep the post anchored in the comments.
To make one of my points, I asked readers to fill in the blanks in this dialogue:
Reader: Genre? I don’t care about genre. I’m just looking for__________.
Author: Genre? I wasn’t trying to write in a particular genre. I was just trying to_________.
I then filled in the blanks and challenged my readers to try to top me:
Reader: Genre? I don’t care about genre. I’m just looking for a good story.
Author: Genre? I wasn’t trying to write in a particular genre. I was just trying to tell a story.
QED, right? Well, along came Rain, Rain with this topper: Continue reading
Any writer who heads out into the marketplace soon realizes that the marketplace is carved up into sections, organized by genre. Is your book science fiction? Fantasy? Steampunk? Women’s fiction? Literary fiction? Romance? Creative nonfiction? Biography? Historical fiction?
Roughly you can think of this as “Where would you look for this in the bookstore?”
This can be frustrating. Many authors of science fiction will claim, rightly, that their books have the same devotion to character and language that “literary fiction” does. And authors of literary fiction will say that their books have enough mystery, or romance, that they shouldn’t be lumped in with the highfalutin’. Most if not all authors believe that their books have at least a couple of these elements, and can appeal to readers accordingly.
Aha, you say. Bookstores are no longer physical spaces! We don’t need to choose one shelf on which to place a book. Online, every book can be in multiple categories!
But that’s not how it works. Online bookstores organize things into lists. Forums dedicated to books and reading focus on particular genres. Reviewers have preferences for genres they like to read. And most importantly, readers look for books in their genre (or avoid ones they don’t like). For an author, declaring a genre serves a purpose in a) getting readers to consider your book and b) setting their expectations for what they will find.
I don’t know if this will ever change. I’m just saying that it hasn’t yet.
All of this is a lengthy prelude to what I really want to say. Because there is a different way to think of this. There is hope, people! Continue reading