“Oh, what types of stories do you write?”
I was recently ask this question, and would you believe– it stumped me!
For any writer, when it comes to communing together with family and friends over the holidays, it’s almost a guarantee that the subject of one’s writing career will be brought up.
When’s that book coming? Post anything new on your blog lately? And the ever-depressing, Do you get paid for it at all?
They show just enough curiosity to make it look like they care, but not enough to actually go and look up what you have out on the interwebs, share it with their friends, increase your readership– you know, a Christmas gift a writer can actually appreciate, apart from a brand new journal, of course (which was my present to myself *pats back and smiles humbly).
There are some who do, and you make sure they get the tight bear hug, while everyone else gets that “I couldn’t be bothered” side hug.
One must always be prepared for these types of questions and have an answer ready. A quick answer, three sentences, five tops. Nothing too elaborate; don’t go on babbling about your current work in progress, because they really don’t care, just making small talk to fill in that “awkward silence” lull that occurs between every seven-minute conversation. (My cousin said he read that somewhere once; it has plagued us ever since.)
So I was ready for the book question (I’ve won NaNoWriMo so many times, remember?). I was ready for the new blog post question (Hello! Twitter party all Christmas Eve long, catching you up for the final chapters of Countdown coming this week!). I even had my death stare waiting in my back pocket for any questions related to my writer income.
None of these questions came, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
But for some reason, I was not expecting the one question I did get, and it left me with my jaw dropped, my eyes looking everywhere but at the person asking, as I tried to figure it out…
What is my niche genre?
I don’t think I gave an answer. Eventually, I did mention something about dabbling a bit in thriller/suspense. I love to read these books. Last night I binge read The Girl on the Train, which I’d put down some months ago after giving in and watching the movie (totally ruined the book for me, but both were still really good, and if I hadn’t watched the movie first, I know those plot twists would have hit me hard).
I also love paranormal/ghost stories. That’s the closest to fantasy you’ll every catch me reading. Raised in a Christian home, I was not allowed to read Harry Potter, or any books about witches, warlocks, demons, etc. I was never a big fan of “creatures from other realms” stories—I’d read them, but the feeling was always… meh. I had my vampire phase when I was about 12 or 13. That’s the main reason why I couldn’t get into the Twilight books, which came out much later.
My dystopian/Young Adult phase ended in high school, but there are a few series I’d like to finish. I put them down because they took an unexpected turn that had “publisher wants more books, author doesn’t know how to end the story” written all over it. Still, I’d like to know what happened to the characters I’d grown to love (or hate).
The ironic thing is the three genres I hate (that’s not a typo; I absolutely abhor) to read the most are the three genres I would categorize my writing in: Romance, Women’s, and Christian.
I’ve talked about my disdain for Romance before. My biggest complaint has always been that Romance Fiction has no plot. Apart from an unlikely couple getting together, nothing else happens, and I need something a little more interesting than a simple love story to make me want to read anything past the cover synopsis.
Call me cynical.
And while we’re on the topic of unlikely couples, the two lovers are so different, one has to wonder what exactly brings them together? It has to be more than just spilt coffee at the local bakery. Why does he want this train wreck? (Because the female protagonist is always a train wreck.) Is the author just forcing this? And once you read the sappy happy ending and close the book, you realize, the author did just force this.
I don’t like happy endings. Do I write them in my stories? Yes, but not always, which is why I would label my writing as Women’s Fiction so I’m not confined by the Romance restrictions (Romance Fiction must always have a “happily ever after”; there’s no getting around it. If the couple doesn’t get together, your readers will burn you at the stake in the Amazon reviews.)
Women’s Fiction and Christian Fiction have many similarities. There’s always a redemptive arc, and the plots tend to veer toward the melodramatic (just imagine any of Tyler Perry’s movies written as a novel). Everything bad that can happen to our main character does happen to our main character, and she (or in some cases, he) is left nearly broken.
And yet, somehow, they find hope in the end. How? I mean, yea, sure, that’s good… but how? Why haven’t they had a mental break yet; why aren’t they cursing their family, shooting up the work place, kicking the cat? Why doesn’t the book end with them walking out into the ocean (in a manner to hint suicide by drowning) like Kate Chopin’s Edna in The Awakening?
Not only is this “hopeful” ending unbelievable, it doesn’t make any damn sense! Real people don’t respond so (for lack of a better term) chipper to that kind of pain. There’s anger, there’s depression. Sure, the silver lining comes, but not so soon—they need time to grieve, to understand their emotions (reasons why I axed the original ending to Love Poetry, because I saw that same problem). But there’s also the possibility that the silver lining doesn’t come. It happens, and I wouldn’t fault an author for showing that; for some books, I’d even expect that.
Another problem I have with Women’s and Christian Fiction is that feeling of familiarity one gets when reading. You swear you’ve read this before, and in fact, you have. They’re ALL. THE. SAME.
This isn’t to say I haven’t enjoyed books written in these genres. I have. Unfortunately, not enough to willingly go to a Romance, Women’s, or Christian section of a bookstore to find my next read, or to read an author whose work I’m not already familiar with.
Which makes me wonder why I write in these genres. Or why I follow bloggers who also write in these genres. There must be something I like about them, right?
Because deep down, I really am a hopeless romantic?
Or maybe it’s because I think I (we) can do better.
Cocky, Nortina, very cocky. Especially since you haven’t published that book yet…
Whatever the reason, these are my niche genres, I suppose. I wet my pen in suspense, paranormal, even dystopian and young adult/coming-of-age, but I am primarily a Romance, Women’s, and Christian fiction writer. I love it and I hate it at the same time.