How useful are genre labels?

While genres help us to identify and categorise certain narratives, I often find that they are unhelpful labels. Some books, like the ones that I have written, simply don’t fall into any particular box. Instead, they choose to focus on the characters and the story, breaking free from the chains of genre conventions and rules.

For me, the stories that do their own thing are the best kinds of stories. They are unpredictable, unique and mostly character-driven. They may rely on some genre conventions, but they play around with them and don’t confine themselves to a particular set of rules. Over the last few decades, people have become increasingly bored with fixed genres, but thankfully, it seems that authors have mixed it up a little bit!

However, genre labels still exist, mainly for marketing purposes. If a book is marketed as a particular genre, then publishers can supposedly sell them to readers more easily. And if a particular genre does well (i.e. vampires or dystopian future), then the bookshops are saturated with more of the same, squeezing every drop out of the commercial success of certain trends. However, I can think of many instances where it was the story and the characters – not the genre – that made the book popular!

In my eyes, it seems that genre labels do have their place, but it is the narrative that truly matters. Without the narrative, then the readers have nothing to enjoy! Genres are just boxes and signposts, pointing us in the direction of stories that we might like. So I would urge you to have a good sift through those boxes because I have found some gems in many different places!

Great stories stand out regardless of what genre they might be placed in. I’m sure that we’ve all encountered a special story that has blown us away… a narrative that seems to transcend genre and becomes an entity of its own. I love such stories and strive to create them myself!


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