Menu Close

Can Writers Move Away from Genres?

With all of the award shows and singing competitions, I keep coming across the same concept in music: genre shouldn’t matter. In other words, Kelly Clarkson should be able to sing pop, country, or whatever strikes her. In fact, she was quoted during December as saying she enjoyed doing her Christmas album because she could write without having to worry about what genre it sounded like. The idea is that we should appreciate “music” not the genre. Country should sell in the pop realm and vice-versa. We should even blend the genres.
I started thinking, as I always seem to do, about the writing world. When I first got into the business, I remember going to conferences and agents proclaiming a “red flag” to them was when an author started saying “my work is a blend between.” In other words, they wanted one genre, not a mixture. The argument is that publishers know how to sell something cookie-cutter, thereby agents can’t sell them something “new.” Yet, with all of the self-published work arising, I began to wonder if the writing industry is moving away from genres.
It seems to me that authors have always wanted to just write their story. They don’t want to worry about where it fits in the market, but just want to be creative. However, I think it is important to remember our audiences. A writer can create a story they think is great, but if they want to sell that novel then others have to think it is great as well. So, should we walk away from genres just because there is no longer an outside source demanding them?
I think we shouldn’t. However, this isn’t to say that every fantasy novel should look the same and that every mystery should look the same, but they should share elements. In fact, I just finished reading a fantasy novel where the only “fantasy” aspect to it were stones that held certain healing traits. I ended up not liking the novel because it didn’t live up to my expectations of a fantasy novel.
How do I know the expectations? I read the genre. That will help define what should and should not be in a novel. Can a fantasy book have some romance in it? Sure. In fact, I find I can’t read a novel anymore without a sense of romance in it. But does that make it a romance book? No. We therefore shouldn’t say it is a blend between the genres. Ultimately, I think that is the mistake the music industry has. Can there be a blend. Yes. But fans of certain genres are to going to like a song with too many elements from another. The same is true for novels. 
So the story is important. Should we try to focus more on story than fitting a mold? Absolutely, otherwise it’ll become too boring. But, should we blend so far that we lose sight of the genre (and therefore the target audience), I don’t think that is wise.