Defining Genres

In the last few posts I talked about the literary genre.  I find the subject of fiction genres fascinating because so much of what we writers write and who we are as writers is defined by our choice of genre.  We may write without conscious thought of genre but many of our readers categorize our works.  By extension, that category shapes how they see us as people.

So how is a genre defined?  Here are a couple of wiki definitions:

1) A literary genre is a category of literary composition. Genres may be determined by literary techniquetonecontent, or even (as in the case of fiction) length.

2) Genre fiction, also known as popular fiction, is plot-driven fictional works written with the intent of fitting into a specific literary genre, in order to appeal to readers and fans already familiar with that genre.[1] Genre fiction is generally distinguished from literary fictionScreenwriting teacher Robert McKee defines genre conventions as the “specific settings, roles, events, and values that define individual genres and their subgenres.”[2] These conventions, always fluid, are usually implicit, but sometimes are made into explicit requirements by publishers of fiction as a guide to authors seeking publication. There is no consensus as to exactly what the conventions of any genre are, or even what the genres themselves are; assigning of works to genres is to some extent arbitrary and subjective.

I find these definitions interesting because according to one of the definitions, literary fiction isn’t genre fiction.  But writers of literary fiction themselves define their niche as a genre.

So perhaps no definition of genres is written in stone.  Perhaps the definitions… and the genres themselves… are subject to change.  If true, that fact is a good omen for a vibrant writing community.

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