So far, we’ve discussed the Who and What of Genres. Now, we move on to the Where. Where are Genres needed?
Genres are at their core, labels. In my opinion, they serve little to no useful purpose in telling a story but they are useful after the story is finished when it comes time to publish and market them.
But, Wallace, where are they needed?
If you remember from our earlier discussions, a Genre is a type of literary classification. Classifications help us to place particular items in particular groups for identification and easier selection. Some items can be easily placed while others have characteristics that allow them to inhabit more than one group.
A story with spaceships and aliens dealing with the near or distant future would go into the Science Fiction category, for the most part. Yes, there are exceptions I.E. Dystopian, but by and large Science Fiction would be the way to go.
However, a story involving thatched huts, magic, a dragon here and there, or the like would be more suited for the Fantasy Genre. Why? Because the story characteristics indicate that it’s not The Future, not Advanced Technology, nor following what is commonly known outside of Fantasy. Add an alien, spaceship, or something else and you’ve just taken the Off-Ramp out of Fantasy. The details matter.
Have I answered the question yet? Probably not, so let’s go at this from another angle:
You have a finished story. You love that story and want to share it with the world, but you’re not sure where you should show it off. Here is where you need to know the Genre that it will fit in. Ideally, Fiction is Fiction and classifications shouldn’t matter to a good story. However, the world we live in is a world with labels and the labels will determine who and what is reading and being read.
Earlier, I mentioned Publishing and Marketing, so let’s discuss those items now:
Publishing: To a degree, the Genre is important because a publisher is looking for a type of story that they can sell to make money. I didn’t make the rules, I’m merely commenting on them. To Date, I haven’t seen a single publisher who didn’t place some kind of preference on what they will consider. Even if one said that they would consider anything, Anything just became a Genre. It’s a never ending thing.
Marketing: This goes along with what I stated above. Marketing at its core is Sales and in order to sell something, you have to be able to define it. A product defined is a product that is potentially sold to a demographic. Again, I don’t make the rules, I merely comment on them.
Do you as a writer need to worry about Genre? I don’t believe so at the beginning. Write the best story you can and figure out where it belongs when you are ready to put it out there. Research the market that you want to approach to determine if it is the best fit. In the end, you have the final say.