My Problem With Category
Consider me a boundary crosser
As human beings, we’re fond of categorizing things. People are commonly broken down into groups according to external factors. Go anywhere in the world and you’ll find people categorizing other people. In school students were categorized by groups such as jocks, , cheerleaders, and brainiacs. Some kids belonged to more than one group, while a very few crossed easily between the boundaries. Consider me a boundary crosser.
We tend to like groups, I think, because it gives us some perceived point of reference. In this way we feel like we can size someone up, make our judgments about them, without taking too much effort getting to know them as individuals.
It isn’t all that different with writers. We have groups, too. The romance novelist, the mystery writer, the sci-fi guru, and a whole host of others. Not to mention all the various sub-genres. And as soon as an author has typed or written the words, The End, and thinks about publishing their work, he or she will be asked to categorize themselves.
Now, before I get too much further into this, let me acknowledge; I get it. Publishing is all about marketing, and marketing is all about selling. And all those readers out there? Well they want to know at a glance; is this a book I’m going to enjoy reading? So a certain amount of classification is necessary. But here’s the thing; categories are all about expectations, and expectations are all about rules.
I’ve never been good at following a complete, pre-set list of rules, as laid down by someone else. Call me a rebel, but I like to decide things for myself. And my writing is no exception. I write what I like to call Mainstream Romantic Suspense. Though one reviewer of my work recently likened it to a soap opera, and really that’s quite an apt description also.
I go with the mainstream title because I don’t want to be told on what page my hero needs to meet my heroine, or what percentage of my book needs to focus on the romance, versus the suspense, or other elements of the plot. And if I want one or more of my characters to use strong language or behave despicably, or for my books to have a gritty feel covering very adult topics, well I want the freedom to do that. I suppose I could just stick myself in the mystery/suspense/thriller category, but that would preclude the strong romance portion of my book. And hey, I like romance! So Mainstream Romantic Suspense it is.
I suspect the readers will have less of a problem with this than the marketing gurus. But if it makes the marketing gurus happy, maybe we could just go along with that reviewer-suggested tag and start a whole new genre. I’m thinking of calling it Soap Opera Fiction.