Have you ever read The Brother’s Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky? If you ever read it you’ll probably be as surprised as I was to find that its part family drama, part comedy, part romantic story, part thriller, part mystery and part court room drama. I was amazed at how many varied genre’s were successfully attempted in one novel.
Could such a work be pulled off today? I doubt it. It’s rarely attempted in the mainstream, but when it is attempted, and when genre-less creations make it to the populace they are incredibly popular and yes, timeless. (Love it or hate it, Titanic was a chick-flick/action/thriller/historical boat biopic that made lots of money.) Is this coincidence?
I’m not sure it is. Shakespeare was the same way. The difference between comedy and tragedy in his time was only determined by the head count on stage by the end of the play. Other than that, each of his plays had more ingredients than a mole poblano. Slapstick comedy, tragedy, thriller, action, suspense, horror, fantasy, family drama, musical numbers and even drag shows. (On second thought, I guess every Shakespeare play was one big drag show.) He had them all and more. Sometimes all in one play. And I don’t need to tell you what going genre-less did for him.
I’m a big fan of looking beyond genre, because I think genre kills. Genre imprisons creatives into little boxes that creative people were designed to break in the first place. Genre kills because life isn’t lived in genres. Our lives have elements of every genre, so why shouldn’t the stories we tell be the same?
At least when we begin a work, we should not think in terms of Genre. That’s like deciding what career a child should pursue right at their birth. It’s unfair to the child, who in this case, is a story, or other beginning artwork.
In these beginning stages of my novel, I’m trying not to think of genre, even though I say “fantasy” to those who ask.
At the start, I think we have to allow the work to take paths no one else has taken. Paths maybe we as writers have not taken either. We might take many paths that go beyond Genre. I really do think that’s our duty as writers.
Only when the work is finished, then we’ll let the publisher stamp a Genre on it. But really, I don’t think we should do it to ourselves as writers, and most definitely not at the beginning.
Why? Because Genre Kills.
>>> Novel Update: I’m currently working on a sequence in Chapter 2 that is challenging me. Ugh… it’s one of those important points. Where something big happens for the first time. How do you capture innocence when you know what’s going to happen? That’s the trick. That’s the difference that makes a good writer. I hope I can pull it off.
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