♦Welcome to another edition of the Open Book Blog Hop!♦
Is ‘genre-bending’ and ‘genre hybrid’ a reality or a fallacy?
Has plot changed since Shakespeare or the Bible?
Welcome back to another Open Book Blog Hop! The authors included in this ongoing series wish to thank you for your reads. We appreciate, even more so, when you share our writings with your friends. If you’re new to the series, welcome aboard. The authors engage and impress weekly. Prepare to become a regular reader.
Genre exists. It’s a defined term decided long before I ever came on the scene, and respected for many decades since. That said, does it matter as much as people think? Are there absolute rules? How has genre evolved over time? Do we still write like they did in ancient times, or even the more recent Elizabethan times? And, if not of it matters, why are there degrees in the study of writing and literature?
Artists have always defied consensus on the words used to define their respective works. Pushing the boundaries of acceptability is often where we find the magic. It isn’t just tempting. This is how we become great. Not everyone will be able to make it, though. Our perceptions of what is worth defying and exploring are individual, based on every intertext of our lives. Whatever we come up with not hit with the kids. But, trying teaches an artist a great deal about themselves and their work. That is the entire point.
These journeys can’t be taught in school. Yet, we study literature to enrich our lives and teach us skills we can’t learn elsewhere. For instance, human empathy greatly improves with reading. This might be why people respond to ignorance with: read a book! There’s much to say about ignorance and bigotry as the purview of the not-so-well read.
Although reading improves our understanding that others have feelings about their experiences and lives, does the study of literature matter? It does. Just like other artforms, studying literature teaches us a great deal about the human condition: experience and thought. However, how much does this matter to the individual looking to create literature?
Literary theory exists to explore all aspects of literature, including genre and plot. Genres help organize written works by type. It sets expectations for what the book generally contains. Genre also guides a writer in the elements of what to include in their work.
Writers often go to college and university to learn how to write well and understand the art of writing. Very often, others don’t respect the learning undertaken in this journey. What they forget is that these individuals learn how to analyze material and suss out meaning. This is integral in problem solving, leading, administration, and management. It’s integral to life (think about the empathy factor).
What writers also learn how to do in this study is how to creatively push the boundaries of accepted writing convention, by looking over what others have done before them. They often get to test out their theories about it in papers and discussion with peers before they send a work out into the world. It’s an advantage because it’s done in a short period of time with the guidance of writers that have experience. Skipping this step could make the journey exponentially longer and less effective.
This kind of opportunity costs money, whether you go to it through a higher learning institution or via independent workshops. I’d not trade a day of college. I only wish I could have afforded some of the workshops out there to add to my journey. Great benefits are gained from organized study. For one, you gain the advantage of better writing from reviewing great writing with mentors.
Figuring out what the boundaries are and how to push them in interesting ways is the single most important thing that we writers do. The reason being: all of this has been written before. We could get caught up in tropes and risk wasting our time. Although the story sounds great to us, we may not realize that it’s been dredged for all it has by hundreds of other writers.
When I first started writing, back in high school, this was where I was at. I fell in love with an idea and wanted to make it my own. Writing of that kind at that time wasn’t yet called fan-fiction, but that’s essentially what it was. Fan-fiction isn’t bad. It serves the writers of it in multiple ways, the most important being making them happy, the next is that it teaches them what to write.
We learn to write well by failing to write well and getting feedback from multiple sources on that bad writing. Fan-fiction, for instance, connects people to an existing fanbase in which they can test out their skills and hone them. Some people might wish to mock that journey, but it served me quite well. I’m still writing, after all, and I’ve been writing my own stuff since my early 20’s.
This points to the idea that really getting to know an idea is the best way to dismantle it. Why would you want to dismantle an idea? Well, stretching the boundaries of writing (i.e. genre and plot) requires knowing the boundaries and what they contain thoroughly. The more you know about genre and plot, the better you’ll be at hybridizing and defying them.
If you don’t know what parameters genre contains, how can you include it into your writing in anyway (changed or unchanged)? If you don’t test out your theories and get feedback, how can you figure out what will work? Do you just go ahead and write the thing, and think that those who don’t like it just don’t understand you? Or, do you listen and adapt?
There are rules for genre, but writers should know that bending them can create immense joy. The more experience in writing we gain, the more we realize this. David Bowie says it best in this interview from the 1990s. To summarize, go out into the water just beyond where you can touch bottom.
Yes, writing has rules and genre is defined. It all exists. However, we exist to bend the rules and stretch the definitions. We paint with words. How we mix them, the mediums we use must compliment one another, but that doesn’t mean that the process is as rigid as it sounds. Genre-bending and hybridization are reality. It’s been done for many decades.
My series is the best example that I have of hybridizing or bending the conventions of genre. It is a dark fantasy, but it also contains horror aspects in the paranormal vein. Beside that, there is technology that could be defined as science fiction (nano-tech armor and weapons, aliens, space travel, wireless bio interface machines (BIM), and interdimensional travel). The world building is immense, yet contains historical elements. Because I have to apply a genre label to the series for marketing and sales, I go with Dark Fantasy, but that doesn’t do the work any justice. None at all. It also leaves me confounded on how to define it amply to a would-be reader. That’s a tough place to be in.
It’s Sci-fi-ish, dark paranormal, fantasy horror. Genre-ish. I’m not alone. Of that I am absolutely certain. There are others out there writing the same as me. I’d be interested to hear what they call their works!
In the end, remember: the things we write now could be studied by literary students later. Regardless, our works will grow their own lives and inspire ideas beyond our intentions. If we do our jobs well, they will have amazing lives. Just remember not to let the critics slow you down. They might have something you can use and, then again, they likely won’t. Again, I refer you to the wisdom of Bowie…
Hop through the other writer posts by clicking on their links below. They have insights on this topic and more…