What meal is the genre?

This is obviously a very serious post and should in no way be taken with a pinch of salt 😉 I was chatting to my sister a while back and thought about how genres correspond to different meals. I thought I’d share my findings with you all. Enjoy!

For Breakfast, let’s have some How To Guides (and recipes) because we gotta start somewhere! (Although I don’t know about you, my brain isn’t switched on in the morning, so I’m not sure I will take much of this in). And because this is (apparently) the most important meal of the day- and we’re already on the subject of non fic- this should be loaded with superfoods and some very hipster self-help.

Moving on to Elevensis. Some may say this isn’t the most important meal of the day… but they would be wrong! Nothing more vital than a piece of cake and a cup of tea- which is why I’m prescribing a strong dose of Humour at this point in the day. Something wacky and funny is particularly appetising! Because it’s a great way to break up the monotony before…

Lunch time! And I know there’s some scientific debate over how important this meal is- which is why I think a little Sci Fi could help 😉 (honestly this pairing is just because I have no idea how to describe lunch and no clue where to put sci fi).

Afternoon Tea should be ready shortly after this- which is just a fantasy for a lot of us! You’re more likely to be transported to Wonderland than be loading up on sweet treats. But ah well… more tea, anyone?

Dinner for me is a truly thrilling part of my day… which is why you’ll be chomping down on some thrillers! Also, if you want to get a little deeper, then they’ll all be psychological.

But we’re not done yet! Because some people will eat a more sophisticated Supper– and for that they’ll need a Starter of memoirs, because before we get to the really good bit, we need to know how you got to where you are today.

Next, we’ll bring out the Main Course– which is naturally some weighty historical fiction. Because a stodgy conversation is good for the digestion 😉

If, by some chance, it’s a Michelin Star Meal– then, and only then, do you get a hold of the classics (and get me the wine list while you’re at it!)

This will all be served with a healthy Side Salad of Literary Fiction. It’s probably good for you and you may even enjoy it, but don’t be afraid to leave it unfinished.

Finally, we’ll finish off this meal with a delightful Desert of fresh (and fluffy) contemporary!

If after all this eating, you’re still hungry in the middle of the night, you can always get up for a mysterious Midnight Snack (ie mysteries). And no, I’m not just putting it here because I don’t know where else to put it 😉 There’s a significant and mysterious reason behind it 😉

Likely story, after all this, you’ve probably got a stomach ache (and maybe some food poisoning)- sorry about that. Horror had to make it in somewhere!

Well I hope that whet your appetite and you got your fill! Cos that’s all for now! 😉

Writerly Benefits From Reading Widely

As a reader, I’ve never been a fan of genre snobbery. It’s limiting, makes reading less fun and means missing out on whole worlds of experiences. But what about for writers? Surely, if you’re an aspiring writer, you need to focus on reading obsessively in your own genre? Wouldn’t it be better to not get distracted by all those shiny titles outside the category you’re writing in? Well, while reading books in your own genre is *a must*, I’d argue reading widely is also vital for a writer’s development. Each genre has something special to offer and lots of unique lessons to learn. And even if successfully pulling off a technique is not guaranteed by simply knowing it exists, being exposed to a greater variety certainly helps! Let’s break it down by genre, shall we?

lily and jamesRomance– I mean the clue is in the title… romances teach you how to develop a romance. Whether it’s hate to love, friends to lovers or anything in between, all the tropes have been tried and tested in this very broad category. And it’s such a long-standing genre, so there are *countless* classics to choose from (not just harlequin novels with topless men on the covers 😉). If you want more banter and happily ever afters, then you need to be checking this out! What’s more, it doesn’t stop with the romantic relationships. Friendships and family relationships are a strong element of this genre- even if they’re dysfunctional (because, yes, you can learn how to write toxic relationships from this too- even if it’s just an accident of bad writing 😉). Basically anything related to relationships are going to be explored in this genre- so unless you’re writing a book about a hermit, you may want to at least try a romance sometime.

dragon gifFantasy– ahh my genre of choice. I could rave forever about why this genre is *out of this world*. Perhaps just one of the reasons I find it so rewarding is that, in some ways, it’s the purest form of storytelling. With more mythologically based narratives and archetypal characters, it can give an idealised version of reality (if not a real one). Plus, all that magic world building is great inspiration, because even if you’re setting it in the real world, you need to have a sense of place. It also has a great tradition of the pure evil villain or the fascist archetypal dictator- even if it’s not as good at the more human villains (although GRRM is a good example of someone breaking that mould). That said, it’s solid in the anti-hero department these days. If you need flawed, but lovable characters, then this is a great genre for it. 

spaceSci fi– this offers a lot of the same things as fantasy in terms of getting a sense of place… though it’s more rooted in reality (which is ironically very useful for fantasy writers!) I’m not a big sci fi reader, but even I can say it’s amazing for philosophical and existential discussions (not just cos this genre includes dystopias… though that’s a big pull!!). Plus, many space operas in particular know how to pack in *action*.

enchanted castle victorian homeHistorical– for me, this is another genre where the strong suit is the setting. Yet what I also like about historical fiction is how it brings facts to life. I also personally love how lots of historical fiction works so well as genre-crossers, blending lots of different categories into one. I’ve read so many that manage to be historical and a thriller and a romance. While every book should manage to do this, I’d say that I particularly love how historical fiction balances its themes and subplots.  

dr-evilThrillers– for me, thrillers are hands down the best for villains. A lot of the time you’ll have the opportunity to get in the head of some sick mothereffers. Thrillers also allow for sparser writing and occasionally atmospheric reads. It’s also good if you’re looking for some more of that realism (eek if a thriller spins into fantastical territory!). Plus, if you need a clue how to get plotting, pacing and twists right, then boy is this the genre for you!  

read-fastNon-fiction– well, for starters there’s nothing stranger than real life. Given that non fiction is factual (or at least it should be) you can get *actual knowledge* from them to use in your own books. Personally, I’ve learnt a lot about characterisation, people and the nature of evil from both memoirs and psychology books. But obviously, there’s so much more you can discover!

Of course, this was not an exhaustive list, but I hope it was inspiring! Do you believe there are writerly benefits from reading widely? What do you think they are? And what else do you get out of different genres? Let me know in the comments!

In Defence of Girly Girl Genres

thoughts orangutan

A while back I did a discussion on genre snobbery and one of the things that sparked that debate was something I never actually got around to mentioning in the post: the way a lot of women’s fiction and frankly anything aimed at women is treated with derision. I ended up going in a different direction for that piece- though I still had *so much* to say on the topic- which is why we’re finally gonna get into this sugar-and-spice-and-all-things-nice (and totally not controversial) topic 😉 Hold onto your bonnets and try not to get your petticoat in a twist, I’m about to go into the trenches!

keeping fait review
Needless to say, I don’t agree with this review

It’s not uncommon to see denigration of media aimed at females- particularly when it has the audacity to exhibit typically feminine traits 😉 In fact, recently, I was reading a review for the TV show Keeping Faith, when I saw this inane and ridiculous criticism that it had too much “girly music”. To me, a show about a female lawyer, fighting for justice, whilst also being an incredible mum and genuinely caring person is pretty positive piece of media, but what do I know? Apparently, even showing the teensiest bit of femininity must be slated 😉

And I can hardly pretend this is the first time. On a grander scale, Taylor Swift has oft been criticised for being “too girly”. And we can all remember the “AHH TWILIGHT SUCKS!!!” craze- which one could argue ended up being just as hysterical in the end as screaming girls shouting “bite me Edward!” (okay maybe not 😉). Funnily enough, I’m not arguing that Twilight is somehow a fantastic piece of art, but it’s surprising to me that it got so much backlash in mainstream media in a way that other trashy things don’t. For instance, I never see the same level of mockery for James Bond- even though it’s equally as fanciful and has its own issues. This is not an invitation to hate on James Bond- I think everyone is entitled to enjoy whatever they want- yet this chill attitude seems to go out the window when it’s a girly thing that people are enjoying. And, as entertaining as it may be watching everyone from college professors to 50-year-old blokes ripping into something aimed at teenage girls, I do think it would be good if there was *a bit* of perspective here. Not only is this taking said media much too seriously, but I personally believe women and girls should be able to explore their fantasies in a healthy way, free from this ridiculous level of scrutiny and judgement.

BUT I hear many people in the back shouting, why are you complaining, don’t you get a bunch of superhero/action-flick/dramas with female leads nowadays? Well, I’m glad you brought it up, kind heckler, because that’s part of the problem. I’m gonna be brutally honest: these are mostly movies made for men, by men, with a female lead shoehorned in. Don’t get me wrong, I usually enjoy a good action flick, yet I’m not seeing how a woman portraying entirely masculine traits represents most real women. We are constantly bombarded by the idea of what women *should* want to consume and how we *supposedly* behave, all the while any sign of femininity is snuffed out.

Mean-Girls-GIF-Cady-Heron-Lindsay-Lohan-Falls-In-Trash-Can1

In fact, we only have to look at what became of the rom com in Hollywood- cos it’s not like they died a natural death. No, instead, producers told us we didn’t want them anymore and stopped making them. Oh really– we don’t want them, even though most women I meet talk about how much they miss the rom com era of the nineties. Oh sure- we don’t want them- despite the box office success of Crazy Rich Asians, popularity of Netflix rom coms and (remarkably) the surge of affection for the Hallmark channel of all things!

None of this is to stoke revolutionaries to *punch the air* and shout “LET’S TAKE AWAY JAMES BOND FROM MEN THEN!” Unfortunately, I do see this response and I find that attitude counterproductive. As I’ve already mentioned, I actually like plenty of more masculinised media and think that men should have just as much space for their fantasies. HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean I want girly stories pushed aside. I think we can move past the idea that “girly” automatically means “less good”. I want to see women being more fairly represented as we are. And that shouldn’t be a controversial statement.

orangutan in dress

Really good content on this:

The Attack on Femininity in Fiction: Masculine Women and Disempowered Men by the Authentic Observe – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jumw30_j9cs&t=2s

Trope Talk – Strong Female Characters by Jordan Harvey – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReE5n3jLdzk

Dear Stephanie Meyer by Lindsay Ellis – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8O06tMbIKh0

Let’s Not Judge People on Literary Taste https://franlaniado.wordpress.com/2019/04/17/lets-not-judge-people-based-on-literary-taste/

Chivalry Dying in Books by Kelly @Another Book in the Wall https://anotherbookinthewall.com/2018/03/07/chivalry-dying-in-books-wednesday-rambles/

Also, Strong Female Characters, Mary Sues and Manic Pixie Dream Girls- What the Heck is Up with Female Characters in Books, by me 😉 https://theorangutanlibrarian.wordpress.com/2018/12/09/strong-female-characters-mary-sues-and-manic-pixie-dream-girls-and-what-the-heck-is-up-with-female-characters-in-books/

So do you agree or disagree with my defence of girly genres? Let me know in the comments!

Genre snobbery is a bitch

 

thoughts orangutan

I feel like it’s a becoming a biannual tradition for me to point out “sorry, you don’t get to dictate taste”. Sadly, there’s a reason this keeps coming up: every so often a member of the literati pokes their head above the parapet to denigrate genre fiction. Today’s “inspiration” is a famous literary fiction author who decided to give genre fiction a go, only to (rather hilariously) state they don’t like that particular genre… cos that makes sense. Now, without naming names, this is almost part of the course for literary fiction writer’s foray into genre fiction- they assert “but I’m not a genre fiction writer” in the same way one might say “I’m not a prostitute”. Well, as a genre whore, I take offence to this kind of language 😉 Aside from the blatant hypocrisy, I don’t think genre snobs have quite thought this through…

spaceFor starters, there is unfrickin-believable-out-of-this-world genre fiction. One of the funniest parts of this person’s argument was that they didn’t think that genre fiction explored humanity with any depth- LOL! Clearly, they’ve never read genre fiction cos there are *far too many* examples for me to list. The crux of this criticism is that they seem to think you can’t simultaneously write well and develop your world building- which is about as logical as saying you can’t eat a banana and ice cream at the same time 😉 The two are not mutually exclusive (in fact they go together rather well). So, if you’re going to judge a book by its cover, the joke’s on you. Especially because…

the greatest of all timeToday’s “genre fiction” could easily be tomorrow’s classic. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but realism doesn’t always win out in the end or make it into the canon. And some genres (romance novels, gothic literature, even fantasy etc) do better than you think. Literary fiction stands the same chance of going down in history as one of the “greats” (regardless of whether the publisher slaps “modern classic” on the back or not).

you're not wrongThe customer may not always be right… but they’re not wrong! Let’s be real: you can’t be wrong about your own taste. Not only that, but most readers read genre fiction. The idea of going after the consumer is becoming increasingly popular- yet it doesn’t make it any less futile. A word to the wise- no one will be convinced to pick up your book just cos you said they shouldn’t pick up some other person’s book (in fact there’s a strong chance of reverse-psychology-ing them into picking up the one you told them to avoid).

party on dudesPlus, us genre sluts are having a lot more fun than the genre prudes. We’re not tied down by immature “you need to grow up” arguments levelled at adult YA readers; we’re not threatened by a bit of flirtation with genre bending books. We just dive straight into the whorehouse of endless tastes- otherwise known as every bookshop/library/personal collection ever- and glut ourselves on whatever’s on offer. Gotta say it’s liberating to let go of your inhibitions and just join the party. Don’t be shy, you know you want to 😉

Im outThat said, if you’re still taking yourself too seriously after that analogy, I have one last truthbomb to drop: no one is the GOD EMPEROR OVERLORD of taste. No one’s taste is infallible; no one gets to act like an authoritarian hack when it comes to literature. And I’m not gonna apologise if that’s hurt any egomaniac’s feelings for saying that. I’d say “anyone who truly believes that they know best about what people should be reading needs to take a long hard look in the mirror”, but that’s probably what they do all day. I’m sure their hand is sore from patting themselves on the back 24/7. I guess what I’m saying is I don’t have much time for anyone who thinks like this anymore 😉

And with that, I’d like to ask you guys what you think of genre snobbery? And are you a genre whore like me? Let me know in the comments!

What even is YA?

thoughts orangutan

Eh- that’s a tough one.

There are all sorts of things that can go into a YA book: coming of age stories, themes around “firsts” and a heightened sense of emotion to name a few. One thing’s for certain- it has to be about *teens*. And not just people that start out as teens and then grow up, like in Assassin’s Apprentice, the protagonist should start and end a teenager for it to really fit in this category.

And I say category, because as Alexa Donne points out in her very comprehensive video on the topic, it’s more of a marketing category than a genre. Which means: anything goes. It’s the wild-west of the publishing industry these days (that ironically doesn’t put out many westerns 😉 )

Because of all this, there have been many instances of missmarketing. I could probably fill a post on the books that have somehow ended up in this category, even though they don’t belong, but here’s just a few:

Now, while a little part of me wants to be cynical and say this is a cash grab, the reality is a lot of teens enjoy this content. As a teen, I personally liked reading books that pushed boundaries and explored darker topics. I’d have most likely been insulted if you told me a book like, say the Book Thief, was technically not aimed at me and therefore off limits (and I’d have definitely read it anyway 😉 ).

Perhaps it is a reflection of this that YA has increasingly been exploring taboo topics.  For better or worse, younger readers have access to books with, dare I say, adult content. Books like A Court of Thorns and Roses is a great example of this- because it was written for adults and yet often mistaken for YA (in fact, I have never seen this book in any part of a library or shop that wasn’t the YA section!) Part of this is thanks to the failure of NA taking off (more for the industry than readers). But a larger part seems to be that the question of what’s appropriate for children has blurred beyond recognition- to the point where many can’t see the line between adult and young adult content anymore.

And while it can be a good thing that adults are buying YA- the expanding market means more books, more bookish industries and more opportunities for authors- it also means that they are the ones driving the market in this direction. Sales, after all, dramatically effect which books publishers choose to put out. This raises all sorts of issues- not least the continuing of this *I have no idea what YA even is anymore* trend.

So, with all that’s said and done, is the term becoming defunct? 

Well obviously not. As much as there have been discussions about the YA genre not doing as well last year, I don’t believe this is because the massive market that exists has gone anywhere (I have my own theories). This isn’t me saying it’s “too big to fail”- it’s merely acknowledging the fact that there will always be a market for high stake drama, with teens at the forefront, exploring the world with fresh eyes. And these are all aspects that this “genre” has in spades. It is also why adults and teens alike will continue to gravitate towards YA no matter what name you give it.

That was rather inconclusive. Looks like I did this whole post just to say who gives a monkeys about genre classifications 😉 In all seriousness, what does the term YA mean to you? Are you a fan of YA? Let me know in the comments!