Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Insecure Writer and Deciding Your Genre


Today is March's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I don't know which genre I should use to describe my story. 

I mean, that’s kind of weird, right? Not knowing what genre my story falls into? It’s not as if I’m writing some sort of weird crossover that’s never been done before. It’s straight fantasy about a college freshman who suddenly finds herself thrust into the middle of an alchemical war that’s been secretly raging on Earth for nearly a millennium. There’s no magic, but these alchemists have the power to manipulate chemical elements. 

My original thought was that it would be considered urban fantasy. However, these days it seems that urban fantasy falls into one of two camps. Either the protagonist is female and she’s a demon/vampire/werewolf/etc slayer in a world full of paranormal creatures or he’s a male warlock, usually with a checkered past who needs to fight some terrible evil to redeem himself. And I’m a little concerned that if I call my book an urban fantasy, people will be expecting something my book is not. 

My story does have subatomic-sized creatures (the ones responsible for the manipulation of elements), so some writers might classify my story as paranormal fantasy. In fact, according to this post, the main thing that differentiates urban fantasy and paranormal fantasy is the presence of magic. Since there is no magic in my story, that would make it paranormal fantasy. 

Heck, I’ve even considered just calling it science fantasy, since I basically take one fantastical element (the subatomic beings) and weave a story around them using science to work out most of the rules and consequences. But I’m not sure if anyone uses the term science fantasy any more. 

This may seem like needless worrying, but book covers these days are highly dependent on the genre and if my cover gives the readers the wrong impression, they won’t be happy. 

Let's move on to the IWSG question of the day. 


How do you celebrate when you achiever a writing goal / finish a story? 

Since I haven’t finished a story, I can’t answer that part of the question yet. As far as smaller goals are concerned, every time I finish a submission for my critique group, I consider that a victory. I celebrate by allowing myself a little time to work on my fan fiction. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine, and as such, feels like a reward. 


ChemistKen

So how would you classify my story? 






27 comments:

  1. I definitely don't think your book is paranormal because I think of that as vampires, etc. I think of urban fantasy as set in our time. Why not just call it a fantasy? That encompasses a lot and you don't have to put it in a sub category. Alchemy may not be magic like in spells but it is a form of magic in the world of fantasy. Hope you figure it out.

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  2. If you are weird so am I as I still can't really figure out what genre my stories fit in. It can be complicated!! Natalie's suggestion sounds like a good one.

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  3. I write urban fantasy and it definitely doesn't sound like urban fantasy to me. I would stick with just fantasy.

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    1. Yeah, when the definition of urban fantasy first came out, my story would have fit, but the genre has changed so much over the years, I wasn't sure if it counted any more.

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  4. Finish it and then worry about the sub-category. I didn't even know mine were space opera until the first book had a contract. (Although I would be partial to science fantasy.)

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  5. I agree with Alex, until it's finished the category is a moot point. Get it done!
    And then call it "contemporary fantasy." That's the new UF. ;)

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  6. Decisions, celebrations, genres, and the cycle continues. I'll leave it to the experts. But I've no doubt you'll find the right one - or create a new one!
    Fan Fiction sounds like fun.

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  7. I think it's science fantasy, but I also don't know if that genre is used much anymore. It's just my best way of describing a story where chemical elements are manipulated that way - it sounds really cool, actually, but I'm not sure there's a "cool" genre.

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  8. Unfortunately, it's marketing that drives your decision, but I'd just write the book, first. Telling the story is the most important thing. Of course, booksellers hate that and agents and publisher go dervish without a category. Pick the broadest category and say that's where you see it fitting. The "pro" marketer will adjust it if necessary.

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  9. I have one I've called 'scientific fiction' (not science fiction). It made me happy. You'll come up with one that makes you happy.

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  10. Sounds like speculative fiction to me, which is a broader umbrella for sci-fi and fantasy.

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  11. I agree with M. It's spec fic first, and then paranormal. I love that you work on your fan fiction as a reward. :)

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  12. I really wish science fantasy was a genre we could use because yours does sound like a blend of the two. Unless you're really science-y with your world, then I'd call it fantasy (maybe contemporary fantasy).

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  13. That is an interesting question. I have a similar one with mine as my hero is male and not a wizard. My is definitely paranormal as it deals with the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse yet I do NOT think it is Apocalyptic novel per say, but guess I should wait until the end before fully deciding that, but it is not typical Apocalyptic like the current genre and it would be misleading for mine too. Great questions to ponder. I wish there was a genre classification tag for speculative fiction but I guess that would be too board an area for genre targeting.

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  14. My first thought was plain fantasy. That covers a lot. But then you have the scientific element. Science fantasy sounds good. Why can't we make up our own genre? But, as Alex says, don't worry about categorizing the story until it's finished. I'd be happy to celebrate that occasion!

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  15. I still can't even figure out if my book is Adult or Young Adult, so I don't think I'm a genre expert!
    I think guilty pleasure writing is a good reward. Usually I'll let myself work on a project that I shouldn't be working on just for a little bit.

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  16. I like that kind of reward! May have to try that one!
    I find the various SF subgenres endlessly confusing, so I'm no help :)

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  17. Someone else expressed the same concerns today but for a very different genre. Fantasy is a tough one to nail down with a genre. I have a work in progress that I used to call romantic-suspense then paranormal romance because of the paranormal aspects, and now I’m actually calling it urban fantasy. My female character is in the crime fighting business and has powers. There’s characters like gods and angels. And there’s ghosts. In the course of the story, she falls in love.

    Yours does sound like urban fantasy to me.

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  18. Classic Sci-Fi IMHO. Forget fantasy. My daughter writes fan fiction and loves doing it! Glad to hear you like it too!

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  19. I would have to read it, but, based on your description of the premise, it sounds like the closest fit is science fiction. Don't know about sub-genres that might categorize it better, but something might. I guess I wonder how people can manipulate chemical elements and not be using magic?

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  20. Science fantasy is still a thing, so I'd go with that. I know two authors personally who have science fantasy books. And the struggle for genre is real. You are not alone!

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  21. I think I'd call that science fantasy. I still use that term, and I know a lot of other people who do as well. Whatever genre it is, I'd read the hell out of that. That book sounds amazing!

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  22. I really like the term science fantasy. It sounds like it fits your story well. Maybe you'll be the one to bring that genre back into style.

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  23. To me, paranormal is always about ghosts. I do like science fantasy, though. As long as your description is accurate, then you should be alright. And the story sounds awesome!

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  24. That is a great question, and I'm not an expert at all in anything non-contemporary. If you're looking for a stronger descriptor, would low fantasy work? Is that a thing?

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