Friday, February 11, 2011

Genre Writing: I AM My Genre!

Remember that fantastic line from 'Wuthering Heights' when Cathy said: "I AM Heathcliff?!"
She says it suddenly with such drama because she has realized something irrefutable; they are so much alike as to be one! There is no denying it. It is quite a moment.

Now, I am not going to discuss 'Wuthering Heights' here. I am referring to this line purely to make a point. This weeks' topic asks: 'within the genre you write, do you know who you are writing for? Do they call to you?' I have to say I couldn't wait to get going with this one!

Gothic fiction with its sweeping and dramatic narrative knows my name. I hear its voice every time I sit down to write. I am writing the sequel now to my gothic novel, 'The House on Blackstone Moor.'
And boy do I ever hear its voice. It is all around me.

As it happens, I live in Yorkshire and have been to the Bronte Parsonage many times as well as the moors around Haworth, the very moors the Brontes walked upon. Anyone with any sort of affinity for gothic romance should visit these places. These dramatic, wind-swept settings shape my writing and always will.

As for the genre in general, those great writers of the past left us a legacy to carry on with: whoever they were and wherever they lived. And by the way, the drama in gothic can be transposed to various settings and times. It is merely up to the writer.

I feel there is a genuine interest in this genre. In fact I don't think it ever went away. Read some of the discussions on Amazon between gothic romance readers and you'll see what I mean.

As for me, I often hear from those readers who wish to read that sort of fiction again. Not re-packaged, but freshly written for today's reader. All the feedback I am getting is confirming this to be true.

I read that gothic romance was no longer popular. That motivated me to write my book.
What better inspiration is there then to be on a mission to help to reinvent gothic romance?
I think we all write within the genre that appeals to us, the one we enjoy reading the most. It is a natural thing.

We watch what's being sold, what's popular, but we should also be unafraid to trail-blaze or to seek to bring new readers over to our genre fold. And then again, we may re-interpret what's gone before or indeed go onto invent some entirely new subgenre!

I believe whatever genre we write in, we must love that genre. It must be part of us, because our writing is really our vision of everything told subjectively. There's a very interesting line in the film, 'Leave Her To Heaven,' when the beautiful but homicidal Ellen says about her father: 'my father said every book was a confession...'

I think it is. I think we are what we write!


  1. If I am what I write, then I am a pretty dark guy. However, by pushing the envelope and bringing the dark out of my soul, I am keeping the good inside, hopefully making me a better person. When I write of Grim Reapers: I am a Grim Reaper. The same for shape-shifters, humans turned to monsters by chemicals; what have you. My particular take on what makes my people tick is different, but that's a good thing. They roll, and I'm there for the ride. Is this possible if we contrive to create a story we don't feel deep within? No way!

    Great article, Carole.

  2. you got it, Robert!
    When it's not from ourselves--some fragment: a thought even, it's false and it reads that way in my opinion.
    I think that's what separates good writing from bad. we have to reach inside ourselves to get the truth.
    sure, look we have dark aspects of ourselves. even people that neither read nor write horror have, sometimes a great deal darker who knows?
    thank you very much for your comment. I agree too it's good to get it out, it's a release and that's healthy!

  3. I agree. We are what we write. Love that concept. Great post.

  4. thank you very much, Lynn. CJ makes us think! That's the best part about writing on here!

  5. I totally get what you're saying, Carole. I think great writing comes when we are totally wrapped around and in our stories: the time and place of it, even if it's in our imagination.

    Some writers read recreationally other genres from what they write, and I always find that curious. I'm like you, have a craving for my genre and love to steep in it fully.

    I can feel your dark gothic emotions oozing through your words, covering everything with an oily sparkly cast. Ooops. I said sparkly. Sorry, Greg. Can't help it.

    Great to be sharing all these concepts with such talent here.

  6. I don't fit into a neat and tidy little genre box, probably never will. I've made a commitment to myself to write what I love, even if I have to self-publish to do it.

  7. I liked that you stuck to your Gothic guns!

    I for one, have always LOVED purple prose. Blame it on the flamboyant one inside me, I just LUV to read colorful, passionate descriptions that evoke my senses and awash me in sounds and smells not on my usual spectrum.

    (Note: I like a healthy dose of good dialog, a large portion of great characterization and a side of interesting plot along with that. Nix the 10 page description of a sunset though.)

    Because I love this type of writing (and I grew up on a healthy dose of fantasy novels - Terry Pratchett and company, anyone?) - my own voice and style borderline on what I uniquely call - 'Lavender Prose.' Not over the top, definitely not the average cut. Distinctly me and all my flamboyant, passionate, yet bi-polar self.

    I kinda like it. So do a lot of others - including editors who are breathing down my neck, wanting me to get off my arse and stop procrastinating long enough to submit something (#1 and only goal this year! I'm doing good with the accountability blog.)

    However, it seems like you can get away with good, purple prose in mainstream fantasy - however, in m/m romantic suspense? Meh. You r-e-a-l-l-y got to work it -- or they laugh and point.

    Which, as any one with male tendancies can tell you, isn't a pleasant experiance.

    And as much as I love a passionate, well felt prose with a purpose, - I get booed and hissed at off the stage.

    Alas! Even my posts get critiqued. I was told last February - in a public forum in front of my peers, by a published e-book author in my genre, I would never amount to anything because I am simply too long winded - my voice and style is too old fashioned, too unschooled and nobody wants to take the time to read what I say.

    Although I have PLENTY of e-mail that told me otherwise, I have to admit my self-esteem plummeted for a while. To have someone already published multipule times, say something so nasty in front of readers, editors and other writers - wasn't just mean, it was down right cruel and uncalled for. Yet I am on a come back and am determined to prove the old battle axe wrong...

    I know my flare for lavender prose isn't everybody's cup of tea (H#ll, it ain't everybody's bottle of beer either) - but it fits me. And there is a call for it - small that it is - but that's okay.

    Because I will be king on that hill someday!

  8. Dear Carole,
    I love many differing genres(mysteries, thrillers, mainsteam, romance, etc) and read in most of these for stimulation, insight or escape. I write historical fiction set in the American west with strong female figures. I happened into the genre on hearing tales of my brother-in-law's grandmother while on yet another trip into the southwest. I was hooked.

    What I find consistent in my writing are themes that transcend "genre:" setting and its mark on characters, abandonment, female independence, self-discovery, the heroine's journey, etc. These find their way into poetry, contemporary short stories, essays as well as my historical fiction and become a "genre" of their own.

    Are these issues out of my own life experience? You betcha. It is the intimate knowledge of such that gives our writing authenticity.

    Thanks, Carole, for stimulating post.

  9. Write on, Carole! Excellently stated. I write what I read, but I love being different. We all bring our own personal twist to genres, and it's essential to reach inside ourselves to give what we write significance and depth. That's what makes it stand out and breathe. You've breathed new life into Gothic through your writing. It never died, it just needed talented authors like you to bring it back to the forefront of Literature.

  10. wow where do i start?
    Sharon thank you so much for that
    I was always into dark, brooding gothic fiction and film too!
    We are what we are! thanks Sharon!

  11. Wendy, i understand your point. if your writing doesn't fit into a neat little genre than it doesn't! and you must go with it.
    But the specific topic I had to blog about happened to be genre writing and as I write horror I naturally wrote about the horror genre.

  12. George I wouldn't ever say you were wordy, but you certainly aren't lost for words!

    Thank you for that! Purplse prose I would attribute more to Victorian uhm... well you know!

    I don't go in for that myself. My stuff is too dark the romance doesn't begin to balance the dark stuff I write!

    There again, you apparently write what you like to write and that's the whole point of the post. Whatever we are as writers, whatever is inside us and needs to come out, when we become aware of what that is--well that's half the battle!

    It's the journey we take as writers wherein we discover so much about ourselves, often seeing aspects of what we are that we might not have even been aware of.

    Thank you George.

  13. Arletta, that's excellent! What good points you make.

    Genre to me is just a catch phrase for mystery, horror, romance and so on.

    It a road sign. Any good, well written story is going to be complex and richly drawn or it would be flat and boring. Your writing sounds very interesting.

    I think (now this is my own opinion fiction can be literary WITHIN a genre. For instance, I prefer literary horror to slice and dice and slasher horror.

    I think of genres as signposts for readers in a library--ROMANCE is aisle 1 and Thrillers are in aisle 2 and son on.

    If we didn't label our fiction in the broadest terms we'd confuse everyone. I say broad deliberately.

    The characters I created in The House on Blackstone Moor and the sequel i am writing now are very complex indeed. I am sure I would enjoy reading your fiction. I always enjoy good stories with well-developed characters.

  14. Thank you Lori. That means a great deal to me especially knowing you have read my book and you know how committed I am to bringing new readers over to the gothic narrative.

    Having said that I also write very dark horror as well as sci fi too, but that tends to be short fiction and it's contemporary (and if sci fi it's set in the future)!

    As for my favorite gothic stuff:
    everything changes, the narrative in the 19th Century novel is wordy and overly descriptive. Things change as does our tastes in writing and what we read and so on.

    I think writers change as well as readers and not just because they're gauging the market. We all change because we are part of the world around us and that is changing too.

    Btw I have to say your poety is amazing and different. I love it! You know that. I urge everyone to read Lori Lopez' poetry, she's on Facebook people!

    Thank you, Lori for your comments.

  15. Thank you, Carole! For the plug, also! ;) And yes, me too -- I like to write horror, fantasy, sci fi, and so on. I love to add a bit of a Gothic tone to some of my horror tales.

    You're very right that styles change over time, though some classic writing is wonderful partly due to the way people expressed themselves then. I tend to like embellished narrative to an extent if done well. I do it myself for fun in a poetic manner in my prose at times. But it is great to update a genre like Gothic while still retaining some of its tenets. Makes an interesting combination.

    We do change as part of a changing world, indeed.

  16. so true. and it is fun, you're right. yes, you do that and you do it so well. that's what i loved about your poetry..
    it had an old fashioned feel to it.
    whatever is it about the gothic style? it gets us!
    thanks Lori

  17. Egad. I take a short break to use the loo and now I'm no. 17.

    I like that you stuck to your guns with the genre thing. I think along the same lines. C.J. may laugh at me behind my back (assuming you knows when my back is turned) but old school vampire hunting will come back in vogue.

    I must say I'll have to check out your style of Gothic. I think my definition misses the mark ("House of Seven Gables" anyone?)

    Keep it up, Carole.

  18. Thank you Gregory!
    Gothic is gothic to me. Who was better than Poe? What brilliant prose he wrote. What imagery! None better.

    By all means check it out! that's wonderful
    And thank you!

  19. I think you're right Carole. Whatever we write we infuse with something of ourselves and whatever genre we write in can't help but cast its spell on us and draw us in.
    Today I'm following the advice that tells me, "Write the book you want to read," so honestly I'm not exactly sure what genre that is. But it is surely me!

  20. gw: that is the best thing you can do! by doing that you write 'truth' YOUR truth! Not someone else's.
    I also like that 'writing the book i would like to read' that's excellent.
    and whatever style or kind of fiction it will turn out to be, it will be your fiction. you said that very well. Infusing with something of ourselves. so true.
    Keep me posted!