Thursday, November 3, 2011

Genres on My Mind

I'm not a trendy person. Got to Twitter a few years late. Never did get on Facebook. Yet, anyway. My computer is still a desktop. This behind-the-times goes all the way back to days of yore, in which I never owned a Barbie (though my grandparents bought me a hula hoop), grew my hair long and center-parted two years after everybody else did, and didn't dream of ironing it because we lived in a small house, my mother's eyes were everywhere, and she'd've had a major cow.

I don't write or read to trends, either. (Digression: Studies show, or so I've read, that people resist jumping on a bandwagon that has been going for a while. Mostly, they either get in at the beginning or pooh-pooh it. I can see truth in that.) Trends in literature, though, seem to have more power now than they used to, and this makes so many of us worry that we are writing The Wrong Thing For the Market.

Let's pretend for a minute that you are the market. What genres, for you as a reader, are over with? What genres will never be over with as far as you're concerned, because you love them? What genres do you want to see make a comeback? What genres (MG or YA) wouldn't you read if they were the last genres on Earth?

My answers:
  • I've just realized, which is really the whole genesis of this post, that I am done with fantasy, animal fantasy excepted. Not for-the-rest-of-my-life done, but done for now. And I'm really, really done with witches. I don't do vampires or zombies, so those don't count for me.
  • What genres will never be over with as far as I'm concerned? Realistic historical and mystery. I don't care who says historical doesn't sell. I'll read it. But alas, I, the trendless, am not market enough. Funny that historicals are the award winners, isn't it? Also, I can read fresh, new dystopian for a good while yet, although I fear it's a genre quite susceptible to trends and could dry up.
  • Realistic historical and mystery are precisely the genres I'd like to see make a comeback.
But, regardless of genre, what I really want is a good story with relatable characters, important themes, and a plot that's got some get-up-and-go to it. Too much of what I'm picking up now seems overly weird and...dare I say it? Possibly over-crafted.



Vijaya said...

Good ruminations. I think fantasy and contemporary fiction are here to stay. Historicals too.

Tastes vary hugely. My kids love fantasy and I think it will always be one of the mainstays of children's lit because it can draw you into worlds that are so incredibly imaginative. And although it is not my favorite genre, I love me a well-crafted and richly written fantasy. Some of my favorite new authors in this area are Elizabeth Bunce and Laini Taylor, and of course, JK Rowling.

I remember reading that historicals are dead or don't sell well, but that is not true. Historicals are used widely in schools and they sell at a steady rate. So, yeah, since it is one of my favorite genres to read, I hope it becomes more popular.

I also like contemporary fiction, but again, what I'm picking up is not crafted beautifully. But like fantasy, I think CF is a mainstay because it speaks to kids about the issues of the day.

Right now it seems that half the books I see on the YA shelves have vampires or fallen angels. I doubt they will be there still in 20 years. But they do seem appeal hugely to teens and even grown women. I have students who adore anything with vampires. I don't know whether that's all they see or that is what they prefer.

Andrea Mack said...

Interesting post, Marcia.

I'd love to see more really good, clever mysteries for kids. Not ones where the endings are obvious or "dumbed down" so kids can figure them out. And more adventure-type stories (my daughters love Alex Rider).

I'm not a big fantasy fan either (it's hard for any fantasy books to compete with the Harry Potter books, in my mind). My daughters and I tend not to read paranormal (no vampires or angels or weird beasts), though I think spooky, scary stories are fun.

We also like to read dystopian stories (Life As We Knew It was really popular in my household, as was The Hunger Games). But like you, I'm worried that it's becoming a trend that will die out.

By the way, I'm not on facebook yet either. Or made it to Twitter.

MG Higgins said...

I think you nailed it with your last point. Relatable characters and a great plot will win me over in any genre. Although if it's in a genre I don't normally read (like fantasy) I'll need to be convinced with great reviews and buzz. I wonder what it is about dystopia that's so compelling? I'm still drawn to it, too.

Bish Denham said...

I'm with you! I'm done with fairies and elves and vampires and zombies etc. However I will always love animal stories. Dystopian...I'm not all that fond of because they can be SO depressing. I love a good historical novel and/or romance. What I would like to see more of is good scifi.

And I'm not of FB or Twitter either.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading less paranormal lately. I won't discontinue reading it, but I'm leaning toward more realistic fiction.

I'd like to read more mysteries and historical fiction books.

Ruth Schiffmann said...

I much prefer realistic contemporary above everything else. I've never been able to get into fantasy. Historical - I don't go for them, but if I do, for some reason, read them, I usually end up really liking them. Still, I won't choose to read historical. The only paranormal I've ever read was the Twilight series (which, I will admit, I completely enjoyed.)

Kelly Polark said...

I think if the story is well told, I don't care which genre it is from.

Laura Pauling said...

I"m with Kelly. If a story is well told then I'll read it. But I love many different things - the whacky, funny story to the heartfelt moving story. Depends on my mood.

I'd like to see more high concept commercial stories that have a literary bent. Sometimes these big buzz books feel like they were snatched up and sent out because of the trendy timing and sadly, not because of the writing. But I also realize there is a place for that and readers for that too!

MaDonna Maurer said...

I'm not a fan of fantasy, either. I don't do vampires and such. With that said, I have enjoyed a few fantasy books because the characters were really good.
This was good, as many times I get caught up in the "I need to write what everyone is reading" line of thoughts. Then I'm struck with, "No, write what you know and love. Write it well and hopefully it will sell."

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Boy do I relate to being a few years behind on just about everything. Facebook might be the exception and that's because I had a few astute young people telling me it was "the thing for authors etc". I am beginning to think twice about it but I'm in, so guess I'll stay for awhile. I do like the connecting opportunities there.

I have a hard time reading contemporary fiction. I probably just haven't picked up the right books. I read almost exclusively historical fiction and history related to my research. But the time factor is huge here. I just can't read nearly everything I'd like to or that I probably should be reading.

I've read none of the popular dystopian lit but have a feeling I could be drawn in to some of it. Zombies, vampires, and fallen angels? Not so much.

Mirka Breen said...

We must be twins, Marcia. I too sit behind a desk-top. I vote for realistic historical and realistic contemporary, and add just a touch of magical realism for variety. Never could stand those vampires, and not about to start now. (I'll exchange your twitter for my Facebook, but the same idea.)

Barbara Watson said...

I adore historicals, particularly the MG approach, and am confused when I hear that historicals don't sell when, like you said, they win many awards. And in the adult version, ummmm, THE HELP speaks for itself.

I'm done with vampires and werewolves, although I never did like them much to begin with.

And I don't love fantasy. But with that said, I'm open to a well told story with interesting characters and a great voice.

Marcia said...

Vijaya -- The industry seems to have a split personality about historicals. A friend of mine just got a critique from an editor who said, "Too bad it's historical." Yet that very editor edits historicals, currently. I guess it just means that with some genres, you have more to overcome than with others. The already great risk is even greater. It helps to be a big name, though of course it's not necessary.

Andrea -- Yes, both mystery and adventure would be great. Totally with you on not dumbing it down.

MG -- I don't know; dystopian just seems inherently exciting, I guess. It also tends to be plot heavy, so I guess the combo makes you ripe for a page-turner.

Bish -- I like romance, too, though I don't like the same book over and over again, as those written for certain romance lines. I could get into a good literary romance! Who's going to be a Jane Austen for our times? :)

Medeia -- American Girl used to publish hardcover MG novels called "history mysteries." I'd love to see both genres in the same book. All us historical fans must mean SOMETHING in the market...

inluv -- I find realistic contemporary tricky in that you've really got to be in touch with today's kids. I actually find historical research easier! Well,
what's NOT a challenge, right?

Kelly -- I too am not one to say I NEVER read a particular genre. If it's a good story, that does trump.

Laura -- Yes -- along with the market having its cycles in reading tastes, so do we! I am SO with you on literary high concept!

MaDonna -- I'm actually a little surprised that so many are saying they're not that into fantasy. I try to strike the balance between what I want/need to write and what will sell. Because I don't really want/need stuff that just ends up in a drawer, either.

Joyce -- Boy, so many books, so little time, isn't that so? The more I read, the more I realize how much I have to leave unread. When I get closer to a release again, I'll probably make a Facebook page for it, or whatever one does on there. :)

Mirka -- I agree that magical realism is still okay; doesn't fit in my big "done with fantasy" category. And another vote for historical.

Barbara -- And a REALLY big vote for historical! :)Hmmmm, with most of us saying, "I'm not that big into fantasy, but a good story can sway me," it seems as if fantasy faces its own market challenges. MAYBE the kids like it better, but I much preferred contemporary realistic as a kid. I though Alice in Wonderland was appalling. :)

Faith E. Hough said...

Hmm, interesting take on things being "over-crafted." I think I agree with you. While I think crafting is MASSIVELY important, I just get tired when every single sentence is so beautiful that it commands my attention.
I agree that I'd love to see more historical (I guess that's why I write it), and I'd also be in bliss if there were more Madeleine L'Engle-esque fantasies out there.

Marcia said...

Faith -- Yeah, I wondered if anybody would mention the "over-crafted" thing. Crafting is crucial, and comes way, way before marketing even if some people no longer believe that. But I think of stories in graduate writing programs (usually adult ones) that are spoken of as "workshopped to death." Certainly that can happen in writing for any age level. It can be a barrier, and I think feeling tired is pretty accurate. Oh, I too would love some L'Engle-esque fantasy. Or even L'Engle-esque realism.

Susan Fields said...

I absolutely loved dystopian for a while, but I'm afraid I've burned myself out on it. I can't see mystery ever going out of style.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I don't tend to read the current trends...I'm always a bit behind. I love historical fiction too! Have you read WITH A NAME LIKE LOVE? It just came out. It's a hf mg novel. I have about 10 pages left and I loved it!