In my endeavours to write better, I’ve recently been reading this book on Dialogue by Gloria Kempton.
As I’m only part-way through, I’m in no position yet to review the book, but it’s opened up a can of worms I’ve long avoided. Kempton states that there are different types of dialogue for different types of novel – cryptic for the literary novel, magical for romance and sci fi, descriptive for literary or historical, etc. For now, I’ll ignore the questionable legitimacy of this assertion in favour of the question it raised for me. It’s a question I hate being asked: What’s your genre?
Everyone who knows anything about publishing says you have to know your genre before you try to get published. It affects which agents / publishers you approach, how you approach them and what happens after you do. Not to mention who your target audience is and therefore how you write in the first place.
And in many cases it’s obvious – without hesitation I could identify the genre of 80% of the books on my bookshelf. The problem is, most of what I write falls into the 20% I can’t identify: books by the likes of Jodi Picoult and Lionel Shriver. “Mainstream fiction” is the closest I’ve heard to an identification, but it’s a tough category to nail down and feels like a bit of a catch-all.
And then there’s the secret romantic in me. Of the stories I make up and don’t write down, the vast majority have at least one foot planted in the Romance genre. Not Mills and Boon / Harlequin romance, not even light Summer Read chicklit, but definitely a healthy dose of boy meets girl. Why don’t I write them down? Lots of reasons, and probably some you’d need a psychoanalyst to dig out. Whatever the reason, I don’t. The stories I write are grittier, often have male protagonists and rarely involve romantic love. People who’ve read a lot of what I write claim I always kill someone off and tackle the darker side of life.
But Kempton says we should look where our dialogue falls, and identify the genres we are strong in, then try them out. So maybe I should have a bash at typing up a romance sometime. It would certainly makes that question at the top easier to answer, and it might even be my lucky break!