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Thread: Genre Stigma

  1. #1
    @LeaveItToIan IDGS's Avatar
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    Angry Genre Stigma

    As most of us here choose to work in one genre predominantly, I thought it might be interesting to hear if anyone has had something similar happen to them.

    When it comes to writing novels, I'm a horror writer through and through. Yeah, I've sold some short stories that are more lit-fic or suspense, but they're still pretty damn dark. I write horror because I like horror - also because I find I can't seem to find a way to find a lot of my stories interesting besides throwing in something scary, or something meant to get a reaction.

    I'm not a big flaunter of my trade - I don't exactly announce to people I'm a writer. Usually it's to avoid the, "Oh, you write books?! OMG I TOTALLY WRITE TOO!" and then have to hear about the stunning novel.... they've thought about once or twice in the last ten years. You know the kind.

    However, when it does come up and people ask what I write, I tell them horror. It's the truth - it's what I do.

    Then comes the predictable glazed stare, the cautious step back, and the "Oh... cool. I like Stephen King and the Walking Dead, too," before they run out of the room.

    Or, in another case - my mother, who's a huge supporter of what I do, constantly asks when I'm going to write 'something serious.' She likes to suggest I write mysteries, romance, or other subjects I know less about than the surface composition of Venus.

    In short, it just seems like everyone has this stigma about horror writers, like we can't hack it as 'real writers' and choose to do the next best thing instead.

    I bet some YA writers have tales about when they've been asked when they're going to write 'grown up' stuff, and erotica writers with all kinds of real horror stories - I'd love to hear them!


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  2. #2
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    I'm told that, on one occasion when Stephen King was asked why he wrote horror stories, he replied, "What makes you think I had a choice?"

    I write what I write. Yes, everyone gets those "When are you going to write a serious book?" questions (possibly except literary authors, who are probably asked "When are you going to write something popular?")

    It comes with the territory. And it comes from folks who aren't in the business not knowing what to say to an author. They're fumbling.

  3. #3
    _ SomethingOrOther's Avatar
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    Literary fiction isn't a genre--it's a category--but the misinformed definitions of it kind of bother me.

    "Oh ho hoh DERPDERPDERP I don't read literary because it has a lot of description and flowery prose and no plot and chapters that are 20,000-word dialogues about Hegelian rocket calculus hyookhyoookhyooook."

    "."
    Stop what you're doing and give me some short story recommendations in this thread.


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  4. #4
    @LeaveItToIan IDGS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SomethingOrOther View Post
    Literary fiction isn't a genre--it's a category--but the misinformed definitions of it kind of bother me.
    "
    My mistake, I'm not well-versed in lit fic. I have read some, and do enjoy it though!


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  5. #5
    _ SomethingOrOther's Avatar
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    I wasn't directing that part to you; in the context you used it, it's fine; I just wrote it so it wouldn't look as if I was calling it a genre.
    Stop what you're doing and give me some short story recommendations in this thread.


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  6. #6
    is watching you via her avatar jjdebenedictis's Avatar
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    SF/F has a stigma too, so maybe it's all speculative fiction!

    I don't worry too much about it. If someone doesn't think my books are "real" books, then they're a snob, and I can't be bothered caring what they think of what I do. If they suggest I write different books than the ones I write, just to please them, it's weird and entitled. (Although, when it's your mom doing it, it's more likely that she really, really wants to support you but honestly doesn't like the kinds of books you write. It's a conundrum for her, and she's dealing with it as best she can.)
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  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW LJD's Avatar
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    Romance writers get this an awful lot...

  8. #8
    I used to worry about such things when I heard them, maybe even at some point turned my back on fiction I preferred to write because of those comments, but I hope I'm over it. I feel worse for romance writers than for you (sorry!), particularly male writers of category romance, who must get Some Looks, if they ever come out of that particular closet. I've written and had published several literary stories. I write mainstream/commercial too; I find it more of a challenge, honestly. How to keep readers engaged, turning pages? It's fun to try and figure that out. Plot is a discipline. Erasing my pretty lines because they don't add to the excitement rather than basking in them is a discipline. I like to read a beautifully written poetical novel with not much of a plot, but I don't want to write one.

    Literary seems a genre to me--or a publishing category. It has its own formulas, tropes, conventions, even if it sometimes denies that it does.

    You could always tell your ma, "oh, this one is a serious horror story. Like Dracula or Shirley Jackson." Would that work?

  9. #9
    Retired Illuminatus dangerousbill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IDGS View Post
    ... it just seems like everyone has this stigma about horror writers, like we can't hack it as 'real writers' and choose to do the next best thing instead.
    Try being an erotica writer...
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  10. #10
    Lurker, now activated. :-) Smiley0501's Avatar
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    I write young adult and I get such a bad rep for it. My mom used to tell me/ask me when I was going to read and write "grown up books". (She just recently picked up the Hunger Games so I think *that* has finally quieted down)

    Despite what many people think, YA is not "mindless." Sure some of it is, and yes I went to the library the other day and picked up some books that I thought were easy, breezy with no a lot of thought process. But most of YA are page turners and deal with issues that teens may (or may not) face in their own lives. I think there's such a stigma against it (anyone remember that Joel Stein article a month or so back? He said "adults should read adult books"), and it makes me sad.

    I write YA because I love YA. And that's that.
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  11. #11
    Hissing Roach Chasing the Horizon's Avatar
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    Everyone gets this from time to time. Just come up with a really smart-ass answer and leave it at that.

    "When are you going to write something serious?"
    "You don't take getting chased by monster seriously?! You're weird."

    (here's a popular one for fantasy writers like me)
    "When are you going to write something about the real world?"
    "When people in the real world stop being such idiots."
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  12. #12
    Still confused by shoelaces Once!'s Avatar
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    Those who can, do. Those who can't, criticise.

    I wouldn't worry. No, really, I wouldn't. People criticise what they don't understand. They criticise what they cannot do themselves. They criticise to feel better about themselves. Anything different, anything new, anything challenging.

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW
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    Writing Young Adult I've had a lot of negative comments mainly sexist comments like 'oh women write it because it's easy and not challenging. is it any wonder why women mainly write it?' and 'lol all those young adult authors look the same'.

  14. #14
    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    Oh I hear ya.

    Even within a genre you get it too. I was following a discussion recently about a certain genre-specific award. The winner is voted for by fans. Cool, no? A balance to all the critical awards blah blah

    Only, it seems, readers aren't doing it right. They are voting for stuff that is 'just entertainment'. Not anything that is worthy, or adds to the genre or...So because readers can't tell the difference between a book they like and one they don't (insert sarcasm smiley right here), the award should change how it's run.

    Because a reader getting pleasure from a book isn't a worthy goal. Apparently. (ETA: the worst part is, the people saying it are authors/reviewers I like. I'm sort of going off them now.)



    Head, meet desk.

    This is now my official 'thing what I will discourse on in my genre, using much sarcasm'. Until a new one comes along.




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  15. #15
    Horror Man seun's Avatar
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    A few weeks back, I posted a free story on my site partly because it wasn't the sort of thing I knew where to sub, partly because it was different to most of my other stuff and partly because I liked it and hoped others would, too. Since then, my mother has told me roughly 800 times I should write more stories like that one and that writers all get started writing short fiction.

    The fact that I'm a horror writer and actually enjoy writing horror doesn't appear to come into it. Nor does the fact that I'm not 'getting started'. I've been writing seriously for the best part of twenty years.
    Last edited by seun; 05-29-2012 at 03:37 PM. Reason: Typo

  16. #16
    Woof! MetalDog's Avatar
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    I think it's just human nature.
    I have a hard time not feeling snotty about chick lit, daytime TV soap operas and a good chunk of literary fiction, but I know it's only because I have zero interest in these things and that I'm being a moron.

    It doesn't matter what you do - someone, somewhere will tell you you're doing it wrong, you're wasting your time and/or that it has no value. The trick is to recognise the occasions when that arsehole is you and keep your trap shut.
    If it's never, ever you, you're doing better than 99.9% of humanity =D

  17. #17
    The Ineloquent Writer Vicorva's Avatar
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    I write in the higly established genre of Fantasy (and YA), but anyone who hears that I write fantasy is instantly switched off and classes me as 'weirdo'.

    Not that that's so very inaccurate, but fantasy deserves more love than it gets. Ditto Sci-Fi, which I also dip into (inter-related genres and all that).

    Trying to explain to people that sci-fi doesn't equal star trek and fantasy doesn't equal LoTR gets difficult. Not that those aren't great examples of the genre, but the genres are much wider than just those stereotypes.

  18. #18
    The Anti-Magdalene KellyAssauer's Avatar
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    Someday maybe I'll have a choice... but right now I can't write anything else but 'serious' books. I'm afraid I don't understand non-serious, and I don't read for entertainment.

    I guess I'm not a very 'fun' oriented person... instead, I see all these things around me, all this 'human condition' and feel a great need to explore and uncover all these things we do to each other and constantly ask why...

    So, yeah... I get what your saying.
    Actually, I get it a lot more than I'd like. =)

    Quote Originally Posted by SomethingOrOther View Post
    Literary fiction isn't a genre--it's a category--but the misinformed definitions of it kind of bother me.
    ^ thank you for this.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Once! View Post
    People criticise what they don't understand. They criticise what they cannot do themselves. They criticise to feel better about themselves. Anything different, anything new, anything challenging.
    This is certainly true. But people also criticize what is technically poor, derivative, superficial, boring and artistically lacking.

  20. #20
    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Orchestra View Post
    criticize what is technically poor, derivative, superficial, boring and artistically lacking.
    Not quite the same as '[insert genre] isn't serious writing'.




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  21. #21
    Dorothy A. Winsor dawinsor's Avatar
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    I've seen casual comments about YA or kids' books along the line of "it was YA (or for kids) so it didn't have to be great lit or anything."

    Quote Originally Posted by IDGS View Post
    Or, in another case - my mother, who's a huge supporter of what I do, constantly asks when I'm going to write 'something serious.'
    Just as aside, I was a tenured, full professor of English and my mother was still asking me when I was going to go to law school and get a real job.

  22. #22
    DenturePunk writer bearilou's Avatar
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    I've been really lucky so far. Very few have tried that on me. I write Fantasy/UF.

    Then again, when people ask what I'm writing, I don't get all vague on them. I practice my logline/elevator pitch skills with the utmost seriousness for the current thing I'm writing.

    If, on the off chance, someone says 'why don't you write more 'serious' stuff' (or any of the derivations above), I simply respond with a polite, but obviously indulgent, smile and 'you don't read much, do you', not as a question but as a clearly obvious statement.

    Tends to stop that pretty quick.
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  23. #23
    Whatever I did, I didn't do it. Phaeal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KellyAssauer View Post
    I see all these things around me, all this 'human condition' and feel a great need to explore and uncover all these things we do to each other and constantly ask why...
    Genre writers, on the other hand, have no interest in the human condition and never, ever ask why.

    I don't really need a sarcasm alert here, do I? Well, except for the genre writers who won't notice, being too busy slouching around on their knuckles uncovering (not deep truths) but grubs.

    Nevertheless, I have a dream that someday a genre/literary discussion will go on for more than one page before explicit or implicit arrows are shot over somebody's bow.
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  24. #24
    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    Have to say, am kind of tickled the OP's Mum considers romance 'something serious'.




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  25. #25
    me too

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