I’m deeply suspicious of the writing tool called “genre”. My favorite book in the universe combines romance with gender politics, politics in general, mystery, thrills, and both science fiction and SFnal realism . . . and I might be missing a few genre-type areas. If Lois McMaster Bujold had tried to pare her fiction down to some sleek genre archetype, I think she would have quickly gotten bored and stopped writing. And from a purely selfish viewpoint, that would have been a tragedy.
Genre is a tool, though, and can be useful in shaping your story. But more importantly, there’s a point where you will want to send your story out into the wide world. Genre can help you find a good home for that story, with kind and loving readers who will treat your book with respect.
Anyway, allow me to present a slightly tongue-in-cheek guide to choosing a fiction genre. Imagine your ideal reader, finishing the last page of your book. She closes the book, and what’s her reaction?
Reaction: What a great story! Genre: All of them. Let’s take this as given and narrow the field.
Reaction: I know this couple is going to live happily ever after! Genre: Romance
Reaction: I know these couples are going to live happily ever after! Musical Theater
Reaction: I came six times: Porn
Reaction: I almost came six times: erotica.
Reaction: Justice prevailed thanks to a clever detective! Mystery
Reaction: Justice prevailed thanks to superior ass-kicking! Superhero comics.
Reaction: Oh, I felt just like that when I was a teenager! Probably YA.
Reaction: Magic! Squee! Fantasy
Reaction: Isn’t science cool? It saved the day! (I want to live on Mars.) Old School Science Fiction
Reaction: People are just like that, aren’t they? I think I want to go live in a cave. Literary.
Of course, that doesn’t begin to cover the topic as broad and deep and treacherous as “Genre”. But it’s worth thinking about: when you reader finishes your book, what do you want him to take away? What do you want her to tell her friends?