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jjdebenedictis
06-09-2013, 04:56 AM
Hi, all! I was just musing about this and I'm really interested in hearing your thoughts.

Everyone's got their own tastes. We all know that a book might thrill one reader and leave another cold. We also know that many of us have a few genres that we strongly prefer.

What inner qualities do you think make a person partial to a particular genre? Or, conversely, what drives them away from another genre?

For example, I love dark fantasy but I avoid horror. There's a lot of overlap between those two flavours of speculative fiction, but for me, the crucial difference is I don't enjoy feeling frightened. The better the horror writer does his or her job, the less I like the book.

It's less clear to me, however, why I love fantasy and science fiction so much. I'm a science nerd and have always had a wild imagination, but are those the only traits required to make me so happily susceptible to the charms of these genres? It seems like the resonance I feel when I read those genres has more to do with my inner yearnings and personality than with my interests or imagination.

What do you think it is, about you, that makes you love a particular genre? What do you think the common denominators are for people who are into romance, horror, historicals, science fiction, thrillers, etc? And, if you're an omnivorous reader, what is it about you that makes your tastes so flexible?

blacbird
06-09-2013, 05:42 AM
I like puzzles. I like trying to figure things out. Probably from that, I find mystery fiction entertaining.

I don't much get entertained by the formulaic and predictable, and therefore the Romance genre doesn't appeal to me. Similarly the technothriller genre.

Some people hate puzzles, hate the unknown, and therefore won't like mystery fiction. Others find comfort in the known and predictable, and go for genres that exploit those qualities. Nothing wrong with either choice.

caw

SomethingOrOther
06-09-2013, 05:42 AM
... And, if you're an omnivorous reader, what is it about you that makes your tastes so flexible?

Fairly omnivorous reader here.

I get bored easily. After reading one too many books featuring AK47-wielding horses nibbling people's ears off and pooping on their bellies I sure need to change the pace up and read a few books about AK47-wielding horses sitting down to crumpets and tea. Also, as a reader, I'm less attached to the sort of Big Structural Elements you'd disproportionately find in a specific genre — types of worlds, plot patterns, and other conventions — and more attached to skillful use of language & detail, specific authors' awesomeness, and the like.

These are excellent questions, by the way. Lots of stuff to think about. I'm pretty sure the web of reasons for the average person's genre preferences is pretty involuted, and this question might not be the domain of simple explanations (although simple post hoc explanations are def possible). Possible factors:

(1) Outlier reading experiences (very good, or very boring or horrific) could lead you to seek out (or avoid) a certain genre more actively.

(2) As you suggested, the emotions you prefer to feel definitely play a role. I like stuff that makes me feel either very uncomfortable or super comfortable, which influences my preferences accordingly.

(3) The nonfiction analogs you're interested in. Examples: my interest in SF in any given month correlates with the number of futurism-related articles & essays & papers I've recently read. People who are into specific areas of history &/or anthropology might have a greater interest in fiction that deals with that subject matter. Etc.

I could go on, but I have work to do. Nice thread. :)

[Speaking of this, I've been half-assedly searching for a good tennis novel (taking recommendations, if anyone has any), and I'm pretty sure I can trace that interest back to reading IJ and starting to follow tennis more actively. (I'm aware "tennis novel" isn't a genre.)]

Siri Kirpal
06-09-2013, 05:59 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

We all have different tastes, and the routes to those tastes include everything from our genetics to our childhoods to our education.

Personally, I like puzzles, so I like mysteries. I like deep thought and elegant word choices and piquant characters, so I go for literary fiction. I find erotica intensely boring because the action stops the action of the plot. For that reason, I like much children's literature...but not stories of horse girls as I don't care much for horses. I love architecture, so I like books where the building is part of the plot (Hogwarts). Etc. Etc. Etc.

Oh, and like the OP, I don't like being scared, so no horror, though I can stand a dark literary novel. (The Brothers Karamozov is my favorite book.)

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

DeleyanLee
06-09-2013, 06:26 AM
What inner qualities do you think make a person partial to a particular genre? Or, conversely, what drives them away from another genre?

I think it has to do with the experience of the novels, honestly. The mix of conflicts (internal, interpersonal, external), the mix of light and dark, of hope and despair, and an ending that satisfies.


For example, I love dark fantasy but I avoid horror. There's a lot of overlap between those two flavours of speculative fiction, but for me, the crucial difference is I don't enjoy feeling frightened. The better the horror writer does his or her job, the less I like the book.

There's a lot of overlap, but in my reading experience of the two, Dark Fantasy still has a general genre promise that Good will win in the end, and Horror giggles madly at the suggestion. (I could be wrong now, it's been a long time since I've read a lot of Horror.) If you have or want some optimism in your entertainment as I do, then your preference makes total sense to me.


It's less clear to me, however, why I love fantasy and science fiction so much. I'm a science nerd and have always had a wild imagination, but are those the only traits required to make me so happily susceptible to the charms of these genres? It seems like the resonance I feel when I read those genres has more to do with my inner yearnings and personality than with my interests or imagination.

I think those of us who are attracted to speculative fiction are the ones who keep asking "Why?" and "Why not?" and aren't satisfied with standard answers that other forms of fiction provide.


What do you think it is, about you, that makes you love a particular genre? What do you think the common denominators are for people who are into romance, horror, historicals, science fiction, thrillers, etc? And, if you're an omnivorous reader, what is it about you that makes your tastes so flexible?

Depending on my mood, I enjoy reading Romance, Historical Fiction, Mystery or Fantasy when I want fiction. I enjoy Romance when I want high interpersonal conflicts and the guarantee of a happy ending. Historical when I want to dive into the cracks between the facts I think I know and into possibilities of who people might have been and I'm OK with an ending that may not be happy, but should satisfy. Mystery when I want to try to solve a puzzle, be dazzled by the MC's brilliance ('cause I really suck at such puzzles) or just plain want to see how many cars Stephanie can destroy in this book. But Fantasy's my main love, because in Fantasy I can get lost in the "Why not?" of imagination and still have that hinted "Good wins" ending that I want.

Without some promise of the Good guys winning, I won't allow myself to become emotionally invested in the story. If I have that (from whatever means), I'm more likely to read and enjoy it. Not everyone wants or needs that. *shrug*

Lyra Jean
06-09-2013, 06:26 AM
My dad was an extremely avid SF reader. He even got my name from an SF novel he read. He tells me it's from Edgar Rice Burroughs but I'm not sure. I grew up with SF and I think that is one of the reasons why I love it so much now. It reminds me of family.

I'm currently getting into romance and I think its finally because I am happily married myself. When I a younger adult and single romances just pissed me off and depressed me. If that lifeless twit Bella can find love why can't I? Then depression and Ben and Jerry's banana split ice cream with a 12 hour marathon of anime with romantic themes. But those were so over the top that it was hilarious.

I think it has a lot to do with my personal relationships in real life.

Rereading this I think I need therapy. lol :)

blacbird
06-09-2013, 06:35 AM
He even got my name from an SF novel he read. He tells me it's from Edgar Rice Burroughs but I'm not sure.

You Tarzan? or Jane?

caw

Lyra Jean
06-09-2013, 07:04 AM
Actually Lyra...I have yet to come across it but I haven't read a lot of ERB.

CJ Knightrey
06-09-2013, 08:31 AM
Hmm, good question. I absolutely love fantasy, whether it be urban, epic, whatever, I just like the supernatural/paranormal. I love things that are unreal, something different from the day to day life I live, something where the stakes are so high. I tend to not read contemporary or literary for the most part, though there are a few books (like Fifth Business and Crow Lake for example) that I love. It might be because I have an insanely over active imagination and I'm always asking 'why?' 'why not?' 'what if?' and I'm not satisfied if there isn't magic or monsters. ;)

The one that throws me off is horror though. I love to write horror, all my stories no matter how seemingly innocent at first have scary stuff creep up in there. Yet I can't watch scary movies for the life of me. I'm that obnoxious girl in the movie theatre watching the movie through her fingers crying like a baby.:Shrug: I don't get it.

JulianneQJohnson
06-09-2013, 09:31 AM
I'm fairly omnivorous when it comes to genre. It started when I was very young. My dad read me a story pretty much every single night at bedtime. I had a small bookcase full of children's books. I couldn't wait to learn to read, and picked it up easily. (Spelling didn't come so easily in the whole "sound it out" era. I got really puzzled when wash wasn't spelled warsh.) My young life was at times unpleasant, and books were a good way to get a break from that. I tend toward genres and books that have happy endings, or at least endings where something is accomplished and it isn't awful. Sci-fi, witty romances, fantasy, thrillers, some mysteries, some classics. Books gave me a break from both boredom and anxiety, so I was willing to read almost anything available to that end. Little wonder I got so omnivorous, really.

jjdebenedictis
06-09-2013, 09:37 AM
I love to write horror, all my stories no matter how seemingly innocent at first have scary stuff creep up in there. Yet I can't watch scary movies for the life of me. I'm that obnoxious girl in the movie theatre watching the movie through her fingers crying like a baby.:Shrug: I don't get it.That doesn't seem strange to me. I find it a lot easier to take violence in books than in movies. Seeing or hearing it makes it a lot more "real" to me than what I experience in my imagination.

I'm the one who will happily read gruesome, bloody fight scenes but will be crawling under my chair whimpering if someone in a movie so much as gets their finger broken.

Lexxie
06-09-2013, 11:45 AM
This is very interesting, and I don't really have an answer. I'm pretty omnivore myself when it comes to fiction. SF, Fantasy, Paranormal, anything with romance - contemporary or historical, erotica, steampunk, high fantasy, thrillers, mystery, YA/NA/Adult - I don't really care, classics, and probably something I forgot.

I read depending on my mood, and I want to have some kind of emotional response while I'm reading, I don't mind reading something that makes me sad, or even angry, just as I don't mind feeling happy or giddy while reading either.

To me, reading is like entering a different world, making some new friends, and trying to figure out why they do what they do.

gothicangel
06-09-2013, 12:06 PM
I have seemed to moved through stages. When I was a teen all I read was horror, and then in my twenties it was crime fiction (preferably noirish.) Now in my thirties its HF, and I also dabble in literary.

Why do I like historicals so much? I don't think its escapism, and I'm quite happy to read I, Claudius as well as the sword-n-sandals stuff. I suppose its the same as why I study archaeology, looking for voices that make the museum artefacts come back to life after 2000 years.

Kerosene
06-09-2013, 12:12 PM
I like Fantasy because it can create interesting story ideas and scenes that wouldn't be possible in the normal world.

A five year old taking over the world? Impossible in our world. Could happen in a fantasy one.

bearilou
06-09-2013, 02:01 PM
What do you think it is, about you, that makes you love a particular genre? What do you think the common denominators are for people who are into romance, horror, historicals, science fiction, thrillers, etc? And, if you're an omnivorous reader, what is it about you that makes your tastes so flexible?

For me, it's all about escapism.

Books set in contemporary settings with nothing Fabulous! and Exciting! and Daring! and Thrilling! happening simply don't appeal. I enjoy dropping off into a world that exists just on the other side of this veneer of Real Life(TM). Of worlds that exist just beyond a misty veil of everyday life. Where angels and demons live among us. Beasts and beings of all manner wear the skins of humanity trying to scratch out a life along with the rest of us. Of things that 'it could happen, we don't know it doesn't exist!' Secret sects and societies hidden from human view but you can see them lurking in the shadows and in the boardrooms and in the rundown parts of town and in the million dollar neighborhoods, if you would but just avert your gaze a liiiiiittle off to the right.

I want to be transported to far off worlds with firefights in space, marines storming alien worlds, alien archaeological finds that release untold horror in the universe, knights in armor on magnificent steeds, bastard thieves living their duplicitous lives, magicians wearing the finest clothing and practicing their arts with flair and skill, women with flowing hair and being so utterly bad ass in their court raiment that I prance across the living room waving my broom....

Buffysquirrel
06-09-2013, 03:50 PM
My dad was an extremely avid SF reader. He even got my name from an SF novel he read. He tells me it's from Edgar Rice Burroughs but I'm not sure.

Tarzan and the She-Devil? Oh my.

fivetoesten
06-09-2013, 03:54 PM
I like, in order, Fantasy, Science Fiction, then everything else. I blame the
Lord of the Rings, really.

I think I remember an interview with some member of KISS, who said that the best
any rock band could hope for was to be a good imitation of Led Zepplin. LOTR is
the same way. I've tried to replicate the experience with every book I've read
since The Return of the King.

I might not even like the series now, and I'm not interested in carbon copys
(they suck, mostly). I think I'm after the level of immersion I experienced at
Helm's Deep or in the mines of Moria.

"You shall not pass!"

Darn right. Get 'em Gandalf.

(the scene (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlaiBeLrntQ))

Chris P
06-09-2013, 04:02 PM
I am a contemporary fan all the way. Even if it was written in the 1930s (shoot, even 1830s!) I like it if it describes people I might know living lives I might lead. Vanity Fair, A Handful of Dust, Rabbit Run, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, whatever. Even I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

As I get older, I value the connections to other people more and more, and sharing their experiences through story telling is a big part of that.

kaitie
06-09-2013, 08:05 PM
I assume it's just that everyone is different and individual tastes matter a lot. I like scary, suspenseful books so I gravitate toward horror and suspense. I love paranormal, so anything with a paranormal twist is usually candy for me. I also have discovered a fondness for humor, but I have a very specific sense of humor, so it has to be the right kind of funny for me to enjoy it.

But in the end, I'll read most anything. The only thing I actively avoid are books that I know will be sad. I do read them, but I have to work myself up to it and be in the right mood for it. I read books for enjoyment and escape, and while I don't mind a cry here or there, the really dark and depressing books are the opposite of what I'm looking for. If I read those, it's because I know it's a good story or a good social commentary or something along those lines, and it's closer to reading an assigned book than picking it up because I want to read it.

I actually notice a stronger preference in terms of what I write rather than what I read. When it comes to reading, I'll cross to other genres on a regular basis, generally because my friends are always telling me to read books, or I'll think something has a cool cover and pick it up even though it's not a genre I usually read, and so on. And I usually enjoy the books I read, so it's all good.

However, when I write, I write a particular sort of story. I used to write darker, more depressing stuff, but that was when I was all angsty. Now even when I do suspense, I tend to write light suspense rather than horrible murdering psycho killers (even though I love to read those). It's because writing a book requires being in the tone of the book, having the emotion of it in my head for months, and it's just not worth it to me to put myself in a really dark place for months just to write a book.

Buffysquirrel
06-10-2013, 05:45 AM
When it comes to SFF, I don't think I've ever forgotten the effect on me of Brunner's The Telepathist, which was not the first SF book I read, but was the one that really turned me on to the genre. I think I'm probably just trying to recapture that sensawunda.

Mutive
06-10-2013, 06:07 AM
I like worlds that are weird and unique and different from mine - so I have a great love of SF, F, and HF...since all have worlds that very much are *not* the one I inhabit day to day.

With that said, I'm pretty omnivorous. I can't think of a genre I haven't read at least *something* in.

Bookewyrme
06-10-2013, 07:32 AM
I'm similar to Bearilou. Reading is always an escape for me, so I want fun and excitement and difference from my own experience and world. That's why I gravitate towards SF/F and Historical fiction ultimately. I also tend to steer clear of "dark" stories generally. I'm looking to be pepped up, frequently when I'm already down, so I want cheerful or funny or beautiful.

However, I would say early inoculation played a part too. My mother was a huge SF/F fan, and she gave me C.S. Lewis' Narnia books at a VERY early age (7 I think). The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe wetted my appetite for stories involving fantastic creatures and epic deeds.

JoNightshade
06-10-2013, 08:07 AM
I require intellectual stimulation. I have to be learning something, stretching my brain, figuring out what makes someone tick, or appreciating the skill of the prose on the page. SF is my go-to genre for this reason, but I also read a lot of creative non-fic about science and psychology. I appreciate any book with interesting characters that puzzle me, and I've recently discovered a love of procedural crime. I also do "literary," as long as the writing is skillful and not merely pretentious.

Genres I don't often enjoy: romance and fantasy. I hate knowing that the happy ending is guaranteed, and fantasy is not based enough in reality to be stimulating to my brain, unless the characters are truly the focus.

rwm4768
06-10-2013, 08:27 AM
I like to read fantasy, science fiction, and some horror. The more speculative, the better. I like to read about things that aren't real or could be real in the future.

Almondjoy
06-10-2013, 08:46 AM
For me, it's all about escapism.

Books set in contemporary settings with nothing Fabulous! and Exciting! and Daring! and Thrilling! happening simply don't appeal. I enjoy dropping off into a world that exists just on the other side of this veneer of Real Life(TM). Of worlds that exist just beyond a misty veil of everyday life. Where angels and demons live among us. Beasts and beings of all manner wear the skins of humanity trying to scratch out a life along with the rest of us. Of things that 'it could happen, we don't know it doesn't exist!' Secret sects and societies hidden from human view but you can see them lurking in the shadows and in the boardrooms and in the rundown parts of town and in the million dollar neighborhoods, if you would but just avert your gaze a liiiiiittle off to the right.

I want to be transported to far off worlds with firefights in space, marines storming alien worlds, alien archaeological finds that release untold horror in the universe, knights in armor on magnificent steeds, bastard thieves living their duplicitous lives, magicians wearing the finest clothing and practicing their arts with flair and skill, women with flowing hair and being so utterly bad ass in their court raiment that I prance across the living room waving my broom....

This.

Honestly, I will read contemporary novels once in a while, to read something different, but I mainly stick to fantasy/dystopian type books. I love being whisked away to a totally different world. Contemporary just cuts it too close for me. I don't want to have to worry about my surroundings while I'm reading or my stresses in life, and sometimes while I read contemporary, they sneak in. That never happens with dystopia, because I'm so completely absorbed

quicklime
06-10-2013, 04:40 PM
i like mythos and being scared, so I gravitate towards horror and some thriller/suspense.

I also cut my teeth (most of them) on King.

jjdebenedictis
06-10-2013, 08:46 PM
I like to read fantasy, science fiction, and some horror. The more speculative, the better. I like to read about things that aren't real or could be real in the future.
i like mythos and being scared, so I gravitate towards horror and some thriller/suspense. I also cut my teeth (most of them) on King.Yes, but why do you think that is? What is it about your personality that you think makes you crave these kinds of stories in particular?

Chilopsis
06-10-2013, 09:00 PM
What a fantastic question!

Hmmm...

I like to read very light books with a large cast of characters having ordinary lives when I'm feeling lonely and isolated. It feels a little like having friends nearby instead of a thousand miles away.

I like to read sci fi and fantasy for the feeling that all is not what it seems, and that so much more is possible. I tend to gravitate toward those when I'm feeling stifled in my day to day life.

I used to read more mysteries. As others in the thread have mentioned, there is the satisfaction of trying to solve a puzzle. But it's also the idea that puzzles have solutions. Reading mysteries was particularly enticing when I felt like my life was a bunch of unsolvable problems. Now that I have small children I read it less, because since becoming a mother I can't abide reading about violence, especially violence against innocents.

I occasionally read literary fiction, usually for the pure joy of the words. When life is going well, it's nice to dive into a good literary novel and listen to the music of it.

Lissibith
06-10-2013, 09:40 PM
For me, the idea of the interconnectivity of all the disparate parts of our world and experiences has always been fascinating, so I find myself drawn to fantasy and sci-fi because I find dissecting the worldbuilding and seeing the way a few changes create a whole new culture and people fascinating.

That, and I work as a journalist. I read about the best and worst that people in our world do to each other pretty regularly because of it, so contemporary stories, even mysteries, thrillers, etc., just don't offer any *escapism* for me. No matter how well written they are, they feel like a really long day at the office.

Phaeal
06-10-2013, 10:01 PM
Having been born with an overactive sense of wonder, I naturally gravitate to SFF and Horror.

Though I like to solve puzzles, I'm not crazy about mysteries per se. If the characters are cool, I keep wanting them to forget about that silly old murder and do something else. I also get tired of books or movies that start off with cool characters, and then all of a sudden the MOB (pick your type, from old school Mafia to shady government agencies) appears and takes over the plot. Now the characters are stuck running from the MOB instead of doing funky characteristic things. So standard thrillers, not my thing.

Whereas anything with really cool quirky characters not totally thrown off funky track by outside forces, I'm probably in. Literary, mainstream, contemporary, slice of life, romance, classics, historicals, humor, and yes, SFFH, they can all work for me on this level.

The idea that one chooses a favorite genre depending on how he wants his fiction to make him feel? I agree with that to some extent. Those who enjoy a wide range of emotional/intellectual experiences will read more widely, I guess.

LeslieB
06-10-2013, 10:17 PM
I guess my preferences can be summed up by the word adventure. It doesn't have to be epic or huge, but there has to be something to the story that isn't run of the mill. For example, I've read plenty of classics, but it's always been books like The Count of Monte Cristo, Robinson Crusoe and The Three Musketeers. For modern books, I read SF/F, mysteries, and police procedurals. And an assortment of non-fiction, but that's a different kettle of fish.

I can't really get into contemporary/literary/'non-genre' fiction at all. While I want characters to be real and believable, I want them to be real and believable while doing exciting things. Emotional struggles and so forth are great, but there has to be something more. Also, an awful lot of it seems to take place in settings I actively avoid in real life.

KTC
06-10-2013, 10:21 PM
I have absolutely no idea. It's the same with preferences for anything. I don't know why I love punk/new wave music. I don't know why, even though I love red onions...I find them to be hotter than anything else! My wife says they're not hot, they're sweet. They burn my face off!

I love YA and literary. Coming of age. Quirky. Quirky to the max. Like, totally. Why do most genres make me pull my hair out. I love sci-fi movies. I hate sci-fi books. I love grapefruit. I loath socks of any kind. I really dig memoir from non-famous people. And memoir from famous people--but famous for something meaningful...not famous because they stand in front of a camera and deliver lines. I love the Russians. And fucking Naguib Mahfouz pumps my blood...the man's a genius in the art of sad storytelling. Bohumil Hrabal...I want to dig him up and say, "Dude! You're the fucking best!" Half the people I try to lure into reading his stuff, they say, "WHO?" Big-time famous authors die and I see it in the news and I think, "Wow...never heard of him!" I live in a bubble. I miss a lot of authors. I discover a lot of others.

I truly think we are all drawn to the things we need when we need them. Whether that is a smoking hot red onion, a book or a piece of art or long-johns...so be it. I don't ask why I like what I like and dislike what I dislike. I trust that my psyche does not NEED country music----and that is why I hate it. I trust that Dickens has something to tell me...and that's why I re-read Great Expectations every single year.

aikigypsy
06-10-2013, 10:50 PM
Pretty much everything I read has some element of alternate world in it, usually fantasy or historical, very occasionally science fiction. I can't think of the last time I read a book in a contemporary setting with no fantastic elements, or at least a possibility of them (Mr. Penumbra's Bookstore and the one Dan Brown novel I read had strange secret societies, which also fill the bill) or a literary novel set entirely in the current decade or so. I want a change of pace, something different.

I will also read classics set in times that would have been contemporary to their authors, but are foreign to me. I guess it's just restlessness and curiosity.

I also read romance, but only historical romance. I read it because I can relax completely, knowing that there's going to be a happy ending, and no big intellectual challenges along the way, but a peek into the more fun aspects of another time in history. I cannot bring myself to even try to read a contemporary romance, though, because I'm sure it would clash too much with my experience of love and courtship in the modern world, and I'd have to throw it out the window.

No interest in horror. I don't enjoy being scared, or even disgusted.

quicklime
06-10-2013, 10:51 PM
Yes, but why do you think that is? What is it about your personality that you think makes you crave these kinds of stories in particular?


i am a guy :-p

Like I said, I started out reading King, when i was a grade-school kid looking to read something "badass." It was that or Saul or Andrews, who bored me. But I was looking to be scared, as a dumb kid--it was the written equivalent of slasher films, which boys also gravitate towards. I just never outgrew it.

I do read other genres, but growing up, I picked up a book mostly when I wanted to be creeped out. Still do. As to the underlying "why" I don't know--it is escapism, but so is a period romance, etc. I want a payoff at the end though, and I want that payoff in entrails and psychological trauma.

Calla Lily
06-10-2013, 11:15 PM
I blame my dad. :D

When I was 5, we started watching late-night Hammer horror. Granted, I had gravitated toward spooky chapter books already. Thus, horror in movies and books equaled father-daughter bonding. It was fun and positive and something I looked forward to every week. We made fun of some of the scenery chewing, and dad had already introduced me to Stan Freberg albums. So I had a ground-floor of cynicism and satire.

Plus, for whatever reason, I never liked the books mom liked--romance, multi-generational historicals, celeb bios. I wanted to be thrilled and scared and to imagine things that didn't exist in my regular world.

So, I started out horror and fantasy. Now I'm horror and paranormal.

rwm4768
06-10-2013, 11:32 PM
Yes, but why do you think that is? What is it about your personality that you think makes you crave these kinds of stories in particular?

From the time I was a little kid, I was always lost in my own fantasy world. Reality never held much interest for me. My brother and I even created entire complex worlds for our toys. I also watched a lot of various Star Trek series when I was a kid.

I've always possessed an interest in how the world works as well. This led me to interests in science, politics/economics, and psychology, all concepts that are often explored in science fiction and, with the exception of science, explored in fantasy as well.

I think some people are wired to be more interested in ideas. I like a good character and have a great deal of empathy, but the ideas of science fiction and fantasy have a strong pull for me. They satisfy my intuitive, daydreaming nature and my tendency to speculate on the way things work or could potentially work.

Calla Lily
06-10-2013, 11:42 PM
I was also an only child and had few friends my own age where we lived. So I made up my own worlds.

kkbe
06-10-2013, 11:47 PM
I've always been interested in stories that have some sort of psychological thing going on, internal struggles reflecting vulnerability of either protagonist or antagonist, preferably both. I loved A Wrinkle in Time as a kid for that very reason. I think that's why I like Stephen King's stuff, there's always a struggle going on within the protagonists. They aren't just fighting some evil entity, they're fighting themselves, trying to rise above their base natures, doing a piss poor job of it sometimes, sometimes with . . . rather unpleasant consequences.

Cringing, but loving it.

Latina Bunny
06-11-2013, 01:35 AM
I enjoy light-hearted romance and light MG (children's) books because they are more likely to have a Happy Ever After. I like to read less gritty books that are about relationships and/or adventures in a... more wholesome(?) way. I get depressed easily, so usually romances and some light MG books are more likely to be more optimistic or humorous.

I enjoy fantasy because I enjoy magic or magical or medieval-like settings. Fantasy can allow anything to happen, even if it's impossible. :D
They also have an adventure-feel to them. I also love nursery rhymes, fairy tales, myths and fables, so fantasy allows authors to explore and interpret those in various ways. :)

Sci-fi I sometimes enjoy because of the possibilities of robots/androids/cyborgs, artificial AI, alien cultures, and travel beyond the stars. It also allows for authors to look at society and cultures in different ways. :) I don't read hard sci-fi, though, usually because the technical details of science and technology bore me. I like more...space fantasy or space opera. Like Star Wars.

On the flip side, I dislike riddles, vague endings, or mysteries. I also dislike extremely dark, scary stressful and/or violent situations, so I shy away from mysteries, thrillers/suspense and horror and maybe some literature.

Putputt
06-11-2013, 02:06 AM
What a great thread!

When I was a teen, I devoured King's books. Partly because I loved the way he revealed shit about his characters' psyche, and partly because I thought reading his books made me a badass. (Hey, I was in a Catholic school. I didn't have any chances of doing anything remotely badass, so King had to do.)

Now, though, I rarely read any horror. The older I get, the wussier I am. I can't even play Mass Effect because I find it too scary. :( Now I mostly read mainstream novels that I think may have valuable lessons to teach me (books like The Kite Runner, Cutting For Stone...), light-hearted funnies like Pratchett's to wind me down, and fantasy when I need a bit of escapism.

LJD
06-11-2013, 03:52 AM
The answer to this question for me is not exactly happy.

About 50% of what I read is romance (maybe even more?), but I only started reading it 2-2.5 years, which was shortly after my mom killed herself. Anyways, romance is sort of escapism from that, but mainly from my own debilitating depression. I am really not good with tragic endings. I often like to be guaranteed an HEA.

Outside of that, I read mainly mainstream and women's fiction. (But choose these carefully, and sometimes spoil them for myself.)
I honestly do not have the concentration, due to my mental health problems, to read many literary fiction books. Occasionally my concentration is also a problem for books set in other worlds as there is more to keep track of.

I've never been able to handle gruesome, and am easily disturbed. I couldn't even read Nancy Drew as a child. (Well, the only way to read Nancy Drew was to read the entire book in the morning.) I was the kid who got nightmares from everything. (Like Honey I Shrunk the Kids.)

There is just a lot of stuff I cannot read.

Little Anonymous Me
06-11-2013, 04:52 AM
I'm an avid fantasy reader who enjoys toe-dipping in history, horror, and science fiction that's heavier on the science than the fiction. I'm an escapist reader--I have to live in this world. Why would I want to read about it?

Crime/mystery novels aren't quite my thing because I have the extreme bad luck to guess the bad guy and be right. :( Tends to ruin the fun. Romance/erotica are right out, because the stakes are too low for me--a potentially broken heart does not make me care about the MC. And I dislike going in knowing that Everything will Turnout OkayŠ. Give me a world at stake any day with an uncertain, not so happy ending. ;)

Layla Nahar
06-11-2013, 05:21 AM
Hmmm. What a great question, thanks for putting it out there JJ :)

Well, I like hard science fiction - the ideas tend to be carefully thought out and I like that care when I'm reading. I know that most of the great hard sf is behind us, but there is still some being made. I like the brain-twister aspect of some of these kinds of books. Some other speculative fiction also has that brain twister quality, I like that. I like fantasy with reservation, my reservation is because fantasy has a tendency to be conventional. I like escaping to different worlds, and I like the heroic characters. So that's the whys for me & my genres.

flapperphilosopher
06-11-2013, 04:04 PM
Very interesting! My genre tastes have totally changed in the last ten-ish years. I used to read nothing but fantasy and sometimes HF. I only read outside of that for school, and often hated the books where "nothing happened." Now I haven't read a fantasy book in probably six years and it doesn't draw me. I read almost all "literary", although I'm putting that in quotations marks because that sounds so pretentious and I don't mean it to be. I'm really only interested in strongly character-driven works, whether they're contemporary, contemporary when they were written (ie, "classics") or historical. If something's character-driven enough I'll read outside of those categories, such as Margaret Atwood's science fiction for instance, but I don't come across that so often. I want deep emotion and nuance and complex relationships and an exploration of human psychology, and if I don't get that I'm not interested. I like getting it in different settings and especially like novels set in the past (whether HF or because they were written there) or places that I don't know very well, but I don't get sold simply on setting or premise (actually I can get grouchy if I think the setting could bring out many more facets than the author uses!).

Despite the change in my taste, though, back in my fantasy days I was drawn first of all to the characters as well. If something was too plot-, concept- or world-driven, nope, not for me. So I don't think it's entirely surprising the way I went.

Princess Marina
06-11-2013, 04:33 PM
I read historical romance, historical fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, YA fantasy, detective, medical, forensic, murder mysteries, legal, thrillers and horsey adventure and a lot of other books when they come to hand.

In my case it is more what do I not read than what do I read. I don't particularly enjoy modern romance, anything modern that is especially literary or grisly horror. Vampires and werewolves fine, chain-saws and torture, not so unless the point is to figure out who-dun-it and get justice.

I'm prepared to except relatively badly written stories if they have an original plot and are fairly believable. If they are inconsistent, repetitive or anachronistic, I put them down very quickly.

onesecondglance
06-11-2013, 04:59 PM
I grew up with The Hobbit as a bedtime story, watching James Bond movies until the tapes died, obsessed with dinosaurs1, hooked on anything that involves transforming robots or aliens or spaceships or all three2, and for some reason very keen on things that go fast3. So I guess it's no surprise that I like fast-paced adventures with a good dash of monsters and heroism.

I also did the typical emo thing during my teenage years (not that we called it "emo" back then, of course), and got into darker themes when I was at uni and hung out with the goth crowd (was never one of them, but they are nice people). So I guess it's no surprise that I like my books to be reasonably serious (even if they don't take themselves completely seriously).

My personality is as much moulded by the books I have read in the past as it defines the books I will read in the future. Where the line is drawn, I'm not sure.


1: to the point of buying university textbooks on them when I was only thirteen
2: I asked my mum and dad to tape Alien for me when I was ten and it was on the TV. I liked movies about aliens! They chose not to record it. Can't think why...
3: My favourite sport is F1. I love rollercoasters. My favourite genres of music are thrash metal and drum and bass. Yeah, I like fast things.

Anna Spargo-Ryan
06-11-2013, 05:16 PM
I'm primarily a literary fiction reader, with some historic fiction on the side. I don't read any speculative or genre fiction at all, it just holds no interest for me, though I do like Australian Gothic and some magic realism.

I don't think of reading as an escape, which might be part of the reason I'm drawn to lit fic. I like to be challenged by books, I like them to reward me with characters that try to destroy me. I like insight into the human condition and emotion and the way people think and change and interact with each other. I like a book to show me someone's insides and tear them to shreds. I like hyper-real stories set in a landscape that is almost a character unto itself (particularly Australian landscapes). I like to be shocked and appalled.

I am a depressed and anxious emotional disaster area who is very introspective and spends a lot of time Thinking About Things, and this probably has something to do with why I love books of a similar nature or theme.

sarahdalton
06-11-2013, 05:51 PM
This question got me thinking. Right now, I prefer YA SF&F, but I've not always been into it.

As a kid I'd buy second hand books from carboot sales and charity shops and things, so I dipped in and out of different series -- I remember The Little Vampire, Worst Witch and all the Enid Blyton books being in there. Then as I grew up I pretty much just read my mum's reader's digest books (remember them??) in all genres -- mostly crime and thrillers and so on. I read all her romance novels as well.

In my late teens I went through a 'classics' stage and read a lot of Victorian stuff, before moving onto things like Hesse and Nabokov. I was a bit obsessed with being pretentious learning and improving myself. Somewhere down the line I gave that up and just picked up books I liked the look of.

Even now I read really differing books. I love the drama of YA but I also like the science and rational thought behind adult SF. Then I would be quite happy reading a romance, or psychological thriller. I'm not a massive horror fan, or into epic fantasy, but I can read light fantasy. I also love literary fiction -- but I'm fussy about literary fiction. I don't like it to be too sentimental or preachy.

angeliz2k
06-11-2013, 10:45 PM
I like historical fiction because I like history.

The question of why I like history is more complicated. Mostly, it's because I'm not entirely connected to the modern world. (I like some fantasy--the more realistic, less epic sort--for similar reasons.) I also love learning. Seriously, the biggest kick I get out of life if learning new information. Historical fiction is vaguely educational as well as entertaining, so it

I'm sure I could psychoanalyze further. But there you have it.

ArachnePhobia
06-12-2013, 12:37 AM
I blame my dad. :D

When I was 5, we started watching late-night Hammer horror. Granted, I had gravitated toward spooky chapter books already. Thus, horror in movies and books equaled father-daughter bonding. It was fun and positive and something I looked forward to every week. We made fun of some of the scenery chewing, and dad had already introduced me to Stan Freberg albums. So I had a ground-floor of cynicism and satire.

Plus, for whatever reason, I never liked the books mom liked--romance, multi-generational historicals, celeb bios. I wanted to be thrilled and scared and to imagine things that didn't exist in my regular world.

So, I started out horror and fantasy. Now I'm horror and paranormal.

OMG - same story here, only it was both parents. My mom showed me the Hammer films and read me (slightly patchy, as she skipped anything she deemed "age inappropriate") Stephen King novels. My dad read me EC comics and drew/built models of Universal creatures (my favorite, I think he still has somewhere: an animatronic Dracula figure with a lantern that was a good three feet tall). They both listened to Meat Loaf and Alice Cooper. We were kinda like the Addams Family; stuff other people considered macabre and scary was our normal. So I guess horror isn't so much my genre as me writing what I know. :D

The traditional fantasy aspect... gets kinda personal. The short, vague version is that I like reading stories where justice is done. It isn't escapism. It's more like, as long as justice at least exists in those stories, the unjust can't really destroy it. They can't even touch it. It's in a place they can't reach. Neener neener.

Rhoda Nightingale
06-12-2013, 12:43 AM
I've always preferred speculative stuff--SFF and horror mainly--but I have no idea why. Although I can tell you it definitely runs in my family. We're ALL into SFF and horror. Except for the stepparents and other people who married in and look at us funny when we get into debates over things like who wrote Nightfall--Robert Silverberg or Isaac Asimov.

(For the record: it's both. Asimov wrote the short story; Silverberg expanded it into a novel.)

Elias Graves
06-19-2013, 06:39 AM
Hi, all! I was just musing about this and I'm really interested in hearing your thoughts.

Everyone's got their own tastes. We all know that a book might thrill one reader and leave another cold. We also know that many of us have a few genres that we strongly prefer.

What inner qualities do you think make a person partial to a particular genre? Or, conversely, what drives them away from another genre?

For example, I love dark fantasy but I avoid horror. There's a lot of overlap between those two flavours of speculative fiction, but for me, the crucial difference is I don't enjoy feeling frightened. The better the horror writer does his or her job, the less I like the book.

It's less clear to me, however, why I love fantasy and science fiction so much. I'm a science nerd and have always had a wild imagination, but are those the only traits required to make me so happily susceptible to the charms of these genres? It seems like the resonance I feel when I read those genres has more to do with my inner yearnings and personality than with my interests or imagination.

What do you think it is, about you, that makes you love a particular genre? What do you think the common denominators are for people who are into romance, horror, historicals, science fiction, thrillers, etc? And, if you're an omnivorous reader, what is it about you that makes your tastes so flexible?

My reply to this question is to advise you to read the other replies.
You'll find that everyone has a personal reason for reading what they read. That's the thing about people; cite all the statistics and trends you like but the fact remains you must reach each one individually.

jjdebenedictis
06-19-2013, 08:41 AM
My reply to this question is to advise you to read the other replies.
You'll find that everyone has a personal reason for reading what they read. That's the thing about people; cite all the statistics and trends you like but the fact remains you must reach each one individually.I did read all the replies, and I don't think anyone cited any statistics or trends. I'm a bit confused why you mentioned that.

What I'd like to ferret out here is some of the psychological reasons for why a certain person likes a certain genre. That could be useful information for writers; it would help them figure out what makes a story resonate with their target audience.

NikiK
06-19-2013, 02:48 PM
I'm another one who blames my parents for what I read now, although at the time, they probably had no clue how much they were influencing me. My mom used to drag me to all these roaming evangelists who preached "end times" and "fire and brimstone" sort of messages. My dad would take me camping away from the city to where we could sit around the fire and see more stars than I ever imagined could possibly exist. He used to tell me about Sputnik and the space race and the day man first walked on the moon.

So as a teenager I found myself gravitating to science fiction. I read it partly to thumb my nose at the so-called religious leaders who preached, "give me all your money because the world's going to end soon." And partly because of the sense of wonder my dad instilled in me at the possibilities out there in space.

I still love science fiction, but I'm not a fan of dystopian worlds - had enough of that growing up. I like mysteries for the puzzles, classics to understand where we've come from as a society, and fantasy because of the wonder and the dreams of things that might be.

Elias Graves
06-19-2013, 05:25 PM
I did read all the replies, and I don't think anyone cited any statistics or trends. I'm a bit confused why you mentioned that.

What I'd like to ferret out here is some of the psychological reasons for why a certain person likes a certain genre. That could be useful information for writers; it would help them figure out what makes a story resonate with their target audience.

Well, the original question was phrased such that the OP wanted to know why "a person" may be drawn to a particular genre. The replies poured in explaining why "I" like this or that.
Statistics may bear out trends and numbers of readers in a particular genre, it misses the point that each person who chose a thriller did so for individual reasons. Those reasons are as varied as the number of people who read. We all do it for our own reasons.
Any writer's audience is an audience of one. The author must find ways to resonate with readers on an individual level.
It is very valuable to know some of those reasons and thats why I pointed out that there is no reason for reading other than your own. I've seen writers fall into traps of trying to write for groups but groups don't read. Individuals read.

Bufty
06-19-2013, 06:09 PM
Interesting, but pretty much unanswerable other than on an individual level.

The question as phrased seems to me like trying to pin down a universal reason why some folk prefer their steak well done and others prefer it medium or rare, or prefer soft boiled eggs as opposed to hard boiled, or like brussel sprouts or don't like them.

VictoriaWrites
06-22-2013, 01:02 AM
I read in nearly every genre. My only sibling is 6 1/2 years younger than me, and I was homeschooled until I was in 7th grade, so I spent a lot of time reading everything I could find. Back then, it was Nancy Drew and historical books, like the Dear America and Little House series. My parents were pretty strict about making sure the books I read were "clean", but they also had to trust my judgment because there was no way they could keep up with my reading. (Trust me; they tried.)

As a teenager, I started reading fantasy almost exclusively. I had read Narnia when I was young, and loved it, but it didn't make me want to seek out other books in the genre. Then I read Ella Enchanted, and all of Gail Carson Levine's other books. I realized there were other authors who had rewritten fairy tales, and I looked all of the ones I could find up on the internet and checked them out at the library. For a few years there, I read various versions of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, and more. I read epic fantasy, and urban fantasy, and everything in between.

Now I still read fantasy, but I intersperse it with historical romance (never contemporary- too far from how I know relationships to work), the occasional contemporary YA (usually John Green or Maureen Johnson), and science fiction. It's all about escapism, and my current mood. I switch between books based on how I'm feeling. If I feel like I'm on the edge of depression, I can't read something full of war and intrigue and hatred. I've got Robin Hobb on standby, but I'm not emotionally ready to deal with that right now, so I'm reading the Percy Jackson books, and the Immortals by Tamora Pierce.

bearilou
06-22-2013, 01:29 AM
Well, the original question was phrased such that the OP wanted to know why "a person" may be drawn to a particular genre. The replies poured in explaining why "I" like this or that.
Statistics may bear out trends and numbers of readers in a particular genre, it misses the point that each person who chose a thriller did so for individual reasons. Those reasons are as varied as the number of people who read. We all do it for our own reasons.
Any writer's audience is an audience of one. The author must find ways to resonate with readers on an individual level.
It is very valuable to know some of those reasons and thats why I pointed out that there is no reason for reading other than your own. I've seen writers fall into traps of trying to write for groups but groups don't read. Individuals read.

:Shrug: The OP still made a very interesting talking point in the sub forum that usually has a lot of interesting discussion.

CChampeau
06-28-2013, 07:05 AM
Without some promise of the Good guys winning, I won't allow myself to become emotionally invested in the story. If I have that (from whatever means), I'm more likely to read and enjoy it. Not everyone wants or needs that. *shrug*

I know what you mean - having finally read all the released books from GRRM's A Song of Ice and Fire, I've gone through thousands of pages with unaccustomed emotional restraint, quashing any incipient feelings for the characters with practiced regularity. It's tiresome and dulls my enjoyment of the book just as well as it dulls the inevitable pain of something bad happening to the characters.

To address the original question: suppose we measured a person's partiality to a genre based on a set of characteristics which a person is said to have on a scale of, say, 1 to 5. Then these are the most relevant characteristics I can think of:

1. Ability to enjoy the unfamiliar
-people with this characteristic are more likely to enjoy speculative fiction
2. Enjoys the unknown, figuring things out
-mystery, good scifi, intellectual or philosophical lit
3. Enjoys exploring interpersonal relationships
-lots of literary fiction, romance
4. Can willingly suspend disbelief/has great imagination
-fantasy, scifi
5. Tendency toward or enjoyment of melancholy, pessimism
-tragedy, horror, political satire etc. Misery loves company.


Those are a few ideas.

I take 1 and 2 to be distinct (even if they're related)because I know many people have said they enjoy mystery but not fantasy/scifi.