{DISCUSSION} Limited by Genre

Are we limiting ourselves by reading in specific genres?

I never really gave much thought to people saying they only read horror or contemporary or science fiction. After all, I too, only read in certain genres. I assumed it was just a matter of taste. Those specific genres appeal to us because we like the elements that exist within those stories whether they be the adrenaline, the realism, or the escapism.

However, what if we’re limiting ourselves?

What if, by reading in a small sub-section of the wide variety of genres available, we’re missing out on a lot? Yes, it’s true that there needs to be good world-building and character development and an enticing plot in every story. But each genre is known for and often focuses on specific aspects or story lines.

Having chatted with readers and writers, I’ve noticed a few genre trends. Princes and princesses exist pre-dominantly in fantasy. Rebellions exist pre-dominantly in dystopians. Stories that deal with social topics are often clustered inside contemporaries. In other words, the cross-over elements are actually quite limited, meaning there are a menagerie of topics, scenarios, plot elements, character types, and who knows what else that we might be missing out on because we read solely in only a handful of genres.

And what kind of effect does this have on readers?

Well, for one, we’re not taking the opportunity to broaden our minds or imaginations. Isn’t that the whole point of reading, after all? (well, besides the entertainment factor! :p ) Reading has always been about going some place new or stepping into someone else’s shoes. But if we stay in one (or two) genres, aren’t we just stepping into slight deviations of the same shoes?

That’s like only interacting with people of one culture and never getting to know another culture and experiencing how their way of life could change us and our viewpoints.

I’ll use myself as an example because humility is key. 😉 As many of you may have noticed from the books I review, I stare squarely in the realm of fantasy and scifi. Every once in a blue moon I’ll venture into horror or historical fiction or some other niche genre (many of which do not get enough love 😥 ), but I’m missing out on SOOO much!

Suspense can exist in any genre, but horror does it best, wouldn’t you agree?

The whole point of the horror genre is to be- well, creepy- but also to be suspenseful, to keep you on the edge of your seat. Other genres don’t ever quite do it justice. Or worse, they don’t do it right at all! Imagine how well authors could write suspense in their action/scifi/contemporary genre if they simply took the time to read horror to better understand the elements that make up a good suspenseful scene? Pretty amazing, I would think!

Another example is romance.

Yes, there is a romance genre. And yes, many other genres attempt to add romance into their stories, but how many of them do it well? How many of them make a realistic romance between two or more characters? If you’re like me, you’re not thinking of very many non-romance stories. But there ARE good romances out there. (not that I would know because I’m still struggling to broaden my mind in that direction :p )

And instead of grumbling about the bad romance in a YA fantasy book, readers could jump into the romance genre to get a taste of what a good romance plot is like. They would be broadening their minds (and possibly enhancing their tastes. 😉 )

Now, I’m not saying you need to give up reading your favorite genre completely or even mostly. I’m just saying, you’re missing out on a lot, especially if you just wrote off a genre before ever really giving it a fair chance (as I know I’m guilty of.) So, maybe try a new book in a genre you wouldn’t normally read. Try another. Give it a chance because you never know, you might find something you love (and your TBR will hate you for it. 😉 )

How many genres do you read in?
What’s your favorite(s)?
Leave me your thoughts! 

And check out my discussion from last week:
Binge Writing


31 thoughts on “{DISCUSSION} Limited by Genre”

  1. As you say, every genre has its specialties, but I don’t think that necessarily precludes a horror writer from also adding a strong dose of romance to their tale.
    Of course romance authors probably do it better than most, but I guess that also raises the question of why someone is reading.

    I definitely agree that a healthy variety is good in all things, but it all comes back to why.
    Reading for fun often means indulging in less than admirable literary choices, but we’re all free to like what we like, and I think we can all think back to at least one time where we felt pressured to read something because it was “good”, and it felt a lot like work.

    I can’t help but think of something a film professor once told me. “Whenever you’re pointing a camera at something, you’re simultaneously choosing not to show something else.”

    As someone who hopes to write strong fantasy, I have to choose when to diversify, and when to double down on fantasy, and further my “mastery” of the genre.
    There are no wrong answers, but it is a very personal question. Every choice also means giving up something else.

    I often seek out the exemplary, the creme de la creme of every genre, figuring that if I’m only going to read a few, I might as well start at the top. After all, they must be doing something right.


    1. Hm… as for the ‘creme de la creme,’ I’m not sure how well that would work for me. How are you determining which books those are? Have they been critically acclaimed? Or are they just very popular among readers? Either way, I often find those books to be… undeserving of the praise they receive. I hardly ever find popular books to be as good as people say. So, how do you determine what is the cream of the crop in a genre?

      As to your comment about ‘we felt pressured to read something because it was ‘good’,” Well, all I have to say to that is grade school. The majority of my grade school education (if not all) was filled with supposedly ‘good’ books which I learned to detest with every fiber of my being. (Ironically, I now write in the genre), but I wouldn’t attribute that to being forced to read something. What I’m trying to say is, one has to be open to reading something new. Otherwise, they’re going to hate it from the get-go and, from that standpoint, branching out is most definitely a personal journey. Would you agree?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I definitely think there is an element of timing. There have definitely been times where I started to read a book and soon realized that “right now” I was not open to it. So I put it back on the shelf, and may be a year or two later I go back, and now I can enjoy it.

        In regards to choosing specific examples from a genre, sometimes I rely on specific people, other times I do rely on the popularity of a story, either within the academic arena, or the general public. I agree with you that after reading a story I may disagree with the majority consensus, but I think one of the recurring questions in any writing effort is “who am I writing for?” Ideally I’m writing something I like that also appeals to others, but once I start trying to market and sell my story as a product, I have to consider to what extent I’m willing to change the story to make it more appealing to others. Any story that achieves widespread support has a lesson to teach an aspiring author.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I have serious issues with people saying writers need to know who they’re writing for. Personally, I think writers should write for themselves. If you don’t write a story for yourself, how can you really care about it? How can you really make it the best of your ability? You know what I mean?

          Frankly, I can’t imagine changing my stories for readers. Why? Because, well… readers are dumb! Hahaha! Not to sound mean, but if I were to try and change my story to appeal more to readers I do believe it would end up fully-cliched and cheesy and that’s not what I want to write. I want to write a story that excites me without all of those things because I want to impact the way readers view books. I want them to expect more from books. Not just let all the stereotypes and issues slide because they’re ‘ya’. But… I am realist. I hope for a perfect world… and prepare for failure. 😉

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Fortunately, in creative endeavors, I don’t believe there are any wrong answers, only “right for me”. It’s one of the things I love about writing.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not sure I agree. A person can only feel limited if they personally feel that they are missing out on something and then they can choose what else they want to know. Someone else can’t tell me “oh you’re missing out if you don’t read contemporary romance” if that genre has nothing to offer me. Sure I guess ‘you never know if you don’t try’ but what if you do try and its not worth it and then you just waste your time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really love this response! I’m most definitely not saying you should force yourself to read a genre you don’t like because that’s like continuing to read a book you’re not enjoying. It’s a waste of time and energy, in my opinion. (valuable time that is already precious when it comes to books 😉 )

      However, I get the feeling that many of us have a tendency to just write certain genres off (no pun intended) without a second glance. I mean, I can’t honestly say I’ve given romance a shot. I barely give contemporary a shot. Yet, there is plenty of talk about these amazing ya contemporary books out there. Just makes me wonder if I’m missing out some days, you know?

      But I definitely understand your point about not feeling like you’re missing out. Perhaps I’m more aware of what’s going on in the bookish world as someone who’s attempting to become part of it by writing books to place into it. I have to know what’s been done so I can not do it and improve upon it. Though, that is more of a writer standpoint than a reader standpoint. :/

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I see. I definitely agree that we should dip our toes in different genres for the sake that you might something that you didn’t know that you loved. I didn’t know that I like fantasy until a year ago and I was thankful for the recommendations. But once you do, if you find that it’s just not your thing then it’s not your thing.
        I can’t really touch on writing though. You know more there than I do. Do authors branch out of their genres often?


        1. Absolutely. If you still don’t like a genre after giving it a shot, go back to your favorites. There are already too many books to read in the world. :p

          And as for authors branching out into new genres: it’s complicated. Many authors want to. They would love to write in a multitude of genres because their new story may just fit in a different genre better for whatever reason. However, the publisher/agent doesn’t often like them to. Their fanbase lives within the genre the author was introduced in. It’s possible the fanbase may transfer, but according to marketing, unlikely. Not to mention, the agent knows how to market specific genres or age groups. If the author wants to write something different, they may be forced to find a new agent and a new publisher. It can be risky to say the least and impossible at other times. :/

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t decide if I agree or disagree with the point you’re making here. To the point that we shouldn’t box ourselves in, that we should broaden our minds, I definitely agree. I think my hesitation stems primarily from the whole concept of genre — the categorization is more a marketing tool, I think, than it is a writing tool. Fantasies have rebellions all the time — and they’re fantastic for examining social issues because they take a step away from reality. The suspense in horror is one you want in thrillers, mysteries, and most speculative fiction as well. I think these elements aren’t missing from the genres, per se, but they’re not the focus of those genres (I personally don’t think that any of the romances I’ve read had a very good romantic plotline, but my exposure is minimal). I hope I’m making sense and not just paroting what you’ve said. I’m pretty sure I had a point….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nah! I totally get what you’re trying to say. Genres are not separate from each other. They each share and exchange certain elements with other genres and I would agree that ‘genre’ is a classification we use to better orient our minds around what might be offered within that story. We have given these genres certain characteristics. I think it’s a means to prepare ourselves before diving in, like testing the water to check its temperature, perhaps?

      That being said, though, each genre still does have a tendency to specialize in certain elements. The worst part about this is the publishing/marketing industry. A book that doesn’t sit squarely within a genre and meet the requirements they’ve set for it could be determined ‘unmarketable.’ It could be a FANTASTIC story, unlike any other, blending elements of a variety of genres, but because it’s not one genre, they don’t want to touch it. So… what do we do with those stories? I think genre may be both a blessing and a flaw, but what do we do about it? :/

      Liked by 1 person

  4. In some ways I hate the idea of “genre”. In today’s world, even more than in the past, if you write in genre A, then you have to have x, y and z happen or everyone will hate your book. I’ve read some great books by great modern authors, but I’ve read too many of them that follow that cookie-cutter pattern (many of the good ones do too, but they do it in such a skillful way that you don’t think about it.) I understand the whys – if you you pick up a book that is supposed to be a Romance, you have expectations, and aren’t going to expect a twisted alien wizard killing people in very grisly detail through out the book. If that book were an Urban Fantasy, maybe…. The genre creates expectations.

    I don’t stick to a genre in my reading or writing, particularly my short stories. I think I’ve hit about every genre imaginable with my stories. Books? Well, my books tend to be closer to Urban Fantasy, but I (hopefully) stay away from any of the cliches. i do have favorites in reading – mostly “classics” (i.e., old books 😉 ), and various “speculative” genre (sci-fi, urban fantasy, horror, supernatural of any type, fantasy (though I hate LotR clones almost as much as I hate Twilight clones), etc.). Overall, if there are words printed in English, I’ll give it a try. I might not get past the second page, but I’ll try 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Very valid point. People often clamor for something new, something different, but then balk when it’s “too different.”

      I’ve definitely heard stories from authors who struggle to decide which pigeonhole to choose. One author ended up choosing thriller/horror because his title focused on supernatural beings, but I found it be a very mellow philosophical dialogue on the nature of death.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I do know from a readers point of view that if an author tells you the genre, there are those expectations, but there does seem to be a need to be able to read/write outside of the genre. For now I am calling my books “Urban Fantasy”, even though the second two are closer to Horror in some ways, but the “horror” component is downplayed for the character interaction part, so I know they would disappoint people looking for classic horror.A “very mellow philosophical dialogue on the nature of death” sounds a little outside of Horror to me…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Agreed. And I do think it’s important to communicate to the audience what type of story they’re reading, but I feel that’s more aptly done by the first scene or chapter. I always think back to the opening scenes of Aladdin. Between the merchant’s comedy, the foreboding presence of the villain, and the light-hearted adventure of the protagonist, the first few minutes of that film touch on every tone rather succinctly.
          But it’s also true that audiences need some way of narrowing things down before they start reading.
          I think part of the problem is how some of the genres are overly narrow. Many horror, fantasy, and scifi stories feature a romantic subplot, and some suspenseful/horrifying moments.
          It may be that the genre labels themselves need some revamping, though that’s a tough thing to put into affect after so much time has passed.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I don’t know how many people read the blurb on amazon or the back of the book cover, but I’ve seen it communicate there as well. I can think of a few times that the blurb gave me more info on what type of story ti was going to be than the first chapter.
            But then, sometimes it is very fun to read with no expectations, to just jump without knowing if there is anything there. Of course that is usually best if someone recommends it, so you know somebody liked it, but going in blind can be fun.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. I always read the blurb before I buy a book because so often, the marketing ‘genre’ is wrong. I hate to say it, but it’s true. At least, in YA. I can’t count the number of times I’ve wandered into the fantasy/scifi section of young adult books and picked up a book to find the back read like a damn romance. I’m sorry, but if romance is mentioned in the blurb, it generally plays a heavy role in the story.

              Or worse! The publisher tries to hide it. “A female heroine goes off on a journey, but along the way she finds handsome, brooding male blah blah blah blah!!!!!” exhale Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, the blurb can say a lot more than the genre classification ever could.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. I agree. I had some people read a first chapter of a book I’m getting ready for publication. Those who read the blurb liked it lot more than those who went in blind. Does that mean I have to rewrite my first chapter (I did anyway) or make sure people read the blurb?

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Hmm… It’s likely that your first chapter may have been lacking information to catch the reader’s interest. I imagine that would be the only thing that would cause blurb-readers to like the first chapter more. They were prepared and possibly had a better idea/background of what the book was going to be about/where it was going to start. Hard to say, though. Every reader expects and wants something different. :/ Betas are hard to deal with, but necessary.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Without writing 500 words, I can’t discuss 😉 Tell me if you want too much information. The real betas all loved it, these were random people who read the first chapter blind – not knowing genre or anything else. Anyway, as I said, I did rewrite that chapter…

                    Liked by 1 person

    2. Oh! Definitely about the cookie-cutter pattern. I find that all books use cliches. There really is no way to avoid it given that cliches are so heavily rooted within a specific genre, a standard of the genre, as you suggested. That being said, a good writer utilizes the cliches in a way that they don’t feel like cliches. That, I believe, is what sets apart the great writers from the menagerie of writers out there.

      And it truly is a shame that a genre book has to have x, y, and z. Though, I will argue that isn’t because of readers. That’s because of the marketing industry. They are the ones who push certain books with certain themes over other less-genre-traditionally-themed books. I know plenty of readers who are fed up with the same tropes happening over and over again, but the marketing industry has a nice habit of ignoring and rejecting them or, if they do manage to make it, pushing those under the rug. A shame. I wish there were a way to combat this.

      I have to say that I’m still very stuck in certain genres, but I’m working on it. I have attempted a horror or two and attribute my dislike to the writing more than anything else. Thus, I’m still willing to give it a chance. Though, romance… not sure that one’s ever gonna be given a shot. :/ I mean… I don’t even like fluffy contemporaries, you know? I like grittier stories and I can’t imagine romance ever being realistically gritty. Oh well! Can’t love everything. :p

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Some people who read romances may -think- they are realistically gritty, but… 😉
        It’s the same thing with any popular art/entertainment. Music is a huge example. A band that does it different is huge (because people are waiting for something different!) and then for the next two years 90% of new bands that the record companies sign and promote sound exactly like that band. With a handful of exceptions, the interesting things in music happens at the fringes, not the mainstream.
        Of course, in both books and music, there are those who are talented and can make today’s flavour 100% their own.
        I’ll admit, I don’t read much horror, but I like Steven King. Not always the best writing,but he usually (not always) hooks me.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, that is very true. The hard part is finding the fringes when so much media attention is given to the mainstream. :/ Unless you know where to look, finding those exception books can be next to impossible (and/or time consuming.)

          Liked by 1 person

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