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Archive for July 18th, 2021

Once upon a time fiction was fiction and all the genres fell in line with a simple list of who is who in a basic list of genres. Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, textbooks, newspapers, it looked like a simpler time. That was well before my time and probably yours.

Now there seems to be an endless list of sub-genres and cross-genres and sub-genre-cross-genres.

Even the word length terms have evolved from a few simple terms for a few blocks of word lengths to a different name for word counts broken down, in some cases, to 500 words; 100 or 50 words, and even by character count.

Each term even has multiple names for it. Flash fiction, for example, is also called sudden fiction, micro fiction, immediate fiction,  and nano fiction, among other names.

Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

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Even after all these years writing and being involved in the online writing world, I still come across the odd term that for me is a new variation of an old writing term, new to me, or just new.

It’s like there are so many people out there trying to be original that they feel the need to keep coming up with new ways to express every bit of writing in new names for the genres and word counts.

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Genre Tags Are In Overkill

How many books have you seen listed online with a string of genre tags and how many of those did you think actually matched the story?

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find it exhausting and impossible to keep up with all the new variations of genre tags. I find the listing of a few genre tags better gives a feel of what the story is about than the old basics of single genre fiction, horror, fantasy, and science fiction; but also find too many genre tags are overkill.

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Please, Don’t Call It What It’s Not.

It also leaves the question: If a story is flagged as action, apocalyptic, crime, drama, fantasy, fiction, historical, horror, romance, science fiction, thriller,… how much of the story is relevant to each genre and how relevant are each of these tags?

I totally get it. When you put your books up on places like Amazon, you want to maximize your reach to potential readers by plugging as many genres as you can to make it come up in as many search criteria as possible. There are endless articles out there recommending doing this as a means of spreading your reach. At the same time, don’t lie about what your book is about. Lying about your product is not cool and will turn off readers from trusting you again.

This is, in my opinion, likely the reason why when I do a search on a genre I often get an endless list of what appears to be books that are not that genre at all.

Do yourself and your potential readers a favor and don’t lie about your genre. If a secondary or lower level thread of the story involves a crime or something bad happening, don’t tag it as crime or thriller. Every story involves drama to keep the reader involved, but that does not make it a drama by genre definition.

Readers tend to be particular in their genres and are not going to be fooled. When someone tells me at a book event they only like true crime nonfiction, I know I’m wasting my time and theirs if I try to sell them a fictional crime serial killer thriller or a small town mystery with a paranormal twist.

When I do a search for horror, thriller, or apocalypse and am paging through screens of 80% of covers looking like they are probably romance or erotica, I stop looking. I am not going to buy something I don’t want just because it showed up in my search. This has actually happened to me, by the way. The two genres I have zero interest in reading, and for some reason seemed to glut the search for something I would actually read in a genre they definitely are not.

It’s almost comical considering the romance genre is probably the best selling genre on its own without tagging it in others it does not fall into.

I like a variety of genres, and have even read in the war genre, although I found most of those too focused on spending pages describing the technical details of guns (boring).

I tend on the obsessive side when I want to find something. So, if I give up after four or six or twelve pages of irrelevant books, many others give up much sooner.

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Simplicity is Sometimes Best.

To break it down, simplify your genres to the two or three main threads of your story maximum.

If your story is an Elizabethan era romance encompassing your main characters that happens to have a crime drama as a subplot between two characters, then you have a historical romance. If it’s primarily an Elizabethan era crime drama as the main focus that just happens to have a romance as one of the lower sub-plots, it is a historical crime drama, and don’t tag romance.

Tagging every subplot and minor storyline is more likely to make a reader question the validity of your tags than to make them embrace them. If you tag it as ‘Crime, Drama, Historical, Romance”, then every one of those should be the main focuses of the story plot.

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Definitions and Genres Abound.

There are too many genre tags and other literary definitions for a single blog post. So we will leave it at this introduction for now.

Where will this lead? Let’s see what the next blog post hits. Genres, word count definitions, it’s all devolved into a confusing mass of constantly evolving terms we can’t all keep up on.

Besides, It’s been a busy work week and I’m out of time.

Keep writing my friends. And remember, there are no stories without at least one genre and the stories don’t always follow the rules you want them to.

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