Help needed to define genres!

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pigfender
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Fri Feb 28, 2014 9:59 pm Post

What is a genre?

I recently joined a new library. I didn't know my way around yet so I went and examined the little chart on the wall to try and find the genre I was in the mood for, and it occurred to me that I didn't have a really good handle on what a 'genre' actually was. Listed on the chart were things like Science Fiction, Romance, Horror, and Young Adult, but those all seemed like they were answering different questions to each other.

Science Fiction, like Fantasy, is defined by what reality the book is set in. Romance is a story (essentially boy-meets-girl), as is Crime. Horror is neither of those things... it's an emotional response. Young Adult is even worse... it's defined by who might read it, which is pretty silly given that YA books are read by people of all ages.

So when I got home I started playing around in Scapple to try and figure out a way of understanding genres in my head. The starting point I took was that every book will be categorisable in 3 ways: Reality, Story and Emotion (I'm dismissing things like 'target audience' as bigotry rather than genre classification).

The trouble is, I'm far from an expert in a lot of categories. The PNG file linked below is where I've gotten to (full size available to download at the end of this post). I'd love any help and knowledge the fine members of this forum have to share. :D

Fiction.png
Fiction.png (186.97 KiB) Viewed 2925 times


I've put a few well known books in the middle to help illustrate how the three questions fit together.

Please feel free to tell me where I've made terrible mistakes, or to suggest any additions in response to any of the three areas. For example, are there established sub-genres of the Romance story similar to what I've done with Crime? Remember that things like "Paranormal Romance" and "Romantic Comedy" aren't a sub-genre of Romance stories in the above definition, merely a combination of a Story (Romance) with either a Reality (Supernatural) or Emotion (Humour) respectively. That's not to say that established combinations like those aren't worth noting - they are. If I can come up with a neat way to represent it, I'd like to start mapping the combinations of the three questions as well. Some of those combinations have been dumped unceremoniously in a box in the corner for the moment. Feel free to comment on those too. :D

I'll continue to update my Scapple Map as the suggestions come in, and when we've reached a sensible conclusion I'll go through to re-order, restructure and make a really pretty updated map and share it here.

You can download the PNG file here.

So, whad'ya reckon? Any thoughts?
"Some dice only have sixes." nom, 19 Oct 2013
"Piggy, I'm beginning to wonder if you are the best person to take advice from." Jaysen, 26 Sept 2014

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vic-k
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Sat Mar 01, 2014 7:37 am Post

:? Can't see any Mention of 50 Shades Of Grey in there, pal. Bit diapointing... init?
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Foxtrot
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Sat Mar 01, 2014 10:16 am Post

Now that is procrastination par excellence. :)
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pigfender
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Sat Mar 01, 2014 10:34 am Post

Foxtrot wrote:Now that is procrastination par excellence. :)

Isn't it, though? :)

vic-k wrote::? Can't see any Mention of 50 Shades Of Grey in there, pal.

Okay. Well I don't really know anything about the book other than it's got naughty bits in it. I presume it's set in a contemporary fiction reality. The story would, I guess be Romance (I dunno - is there a murder mystery entwined in it all?), and the Emotion would be Arousal.

I'm going to go ahead and presume that there are subcategories of Arousal that I'm not aware of (there's a sentence I never thought I'd say). Thinking about it now, I'm guessing that it ranges from Erotica through to Porn, with stops such as S&M?

I also suppose that at the very least Romance could be divided into boy meets girl, boy meets boy, and girl meets girl?

Does anyone who reads or writes in those categories heave a better understanding they could share? I'm sure they are just as nuanced to those in the know.

vic-k wrote:Bit disappointing... init?

Did that help you out?
"Some dice only have sixes." nom, 19 Oct 2013
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vic-k
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Sat Mar 01, 2014 11:58 am Post

pigfender wrote:Does anyone who reads or writes in those categories heave a better understanding
That looks and sounds very... how shall we put it... physical? Freudian slip, there... or wot ? :wink: 8) :twisted:
I like it. Keep it up. :oops: opps! another one... eh?
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pigfender
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Sat Mar 01, 2014 12:13 pm Post

Hahaha :D
"Some dice only have sixes." nom, 19 Oct 2013
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vic-k
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Sat Mar 01, 2014 12:52 pm Post

pigfender wrote:Hahaha :D
Glad it was good for you :wink:
Add your own connotation to that
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meldroc
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Sat Mar 01, 2014 5:51 pm Post

vic-k wrote::? Can't see any Mention of 50 Shades Of Grey in there, pal. Bit diapointing... init?


I see it as motivational writing. If you ever doubt the quality of your own writing, flip open 50 Shades to a random page, read for a while, and remember that the E L James made millions of dollars off of that writing...

If you can write better than E L James, get back to work! :mrgreen:

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vic-k
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Sat Mar 01, 2014 8:25 pm Post

meldroc wrote:flip open 50 Shades to a random page, read for a while,


meldroc, Hiya,
Welcome aboard Scriv'ener. I shouldn't really be criticizing FSoG, because I haven't actually read it, only reviews of it. But, I had the book in my hand, and I just cound not open it. That isn't me at all! If a book gets panned, I'm usually intrigued enough to want a look for myself. However, for some bizarre reason I couldn't be arsed, even with the book in my hand. I'm not joking. That's what happened. :?

So I'll take your word for it being "motivational writing", in the context to which you refer to it. :lol:
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Vic
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meldroc
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Sat Mar 01, 2014 9:24 pm Post

vic-k wrote:meldroc, Hiya,
Welcome aboard Scriv'ener. I shouldn't really be criticizing FSoG, because I haven't actually read it, only reviews of it. But, I had the book in my hand, and I just cound not open it. That isn't me at all! If a book gets panned, I'm usually intrigued enough to want a look for myself. However, for some bizarre reason I couldn't be arsed, even with the book in my hand. I'm not joking. That's what happened. :?

So I'll take your word for it being "motivational writing", in the context to which you refer to it. :lol:
Take care
Vic


Thanks for the warm welcome. If you want a small taste, I'd recommend watching the video of FSOG being read by Gilbert Gottfried!

(WARNING: NSFW!)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5K1RcKJVbHA

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Sun Mar 02, 2014 1:56 am Post

pigfender wrote:I also suppose that at the very least Romance could be divided into boy meets girl, boy meets boy, and girl meets girl?


It depends. There was a kerfuffle (please excuse my indelicate language) regarding various forms of inter-species erotica. Bigfoot meets girl, Werewolf meets girl, Dinosaur meets girl… And then there are the Anita Blake urban fantasies (emphasis on 'fantasies') where it eventually gets to girl meets boy meets were-everything.

On a grander scale, I think that "genre" categorization is hard :oops: because there's always some upstart author who starts out with one genre and slips something unexpected in :oops: …to the mix. And don't get me started on YA as a genre; which is patently ridiculous. If you can think of a genre, aside from erotica I suppose, there's a YA book that fits that _actual_ genre. Horror, Romance, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Adventure, etc.. and every conceivable :oops: combination thereof. The only thing that YA books have in common is that they all feature a nearly, but not quite, adult protagonist. It's almost, but not quite, as bad a "genre" category as "chick lit"--a label laden with scorn but which, from my observation of debates over it, boils down to "written by a woman, with a female protagonist".

So… yeah. Don't get me started on YA as a genre unless you want me to blather on about my views. :P

Nice concept map, by the by.
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pigfender
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Sun Mar 02, 2014 10:23 am Post

Werewolf-meets-girl is just boy/girl meets girl plus a Supernatural Reality, so doesn't need a separate sub-division. It does raise a different question though... does Taboo/Forbidden Romance need it's own sub genre? If so, what might some of the other sub-genres be (we can then have boy meets girl etc as subsubs off each of those)?

I also considered having Gods, Demons, Vampire, Werewolf, Zombie and other established tropes as subdivisions of Supernatural, but then figured that there simply is too much overlap there. Unless people think it's worth having each of those and then a 'mixed' category? Hmmm. Plus then how would you classify something like "I Am Legend" which, while clearly a pre-cursor to the zombie genre, was written effectively as "what if one man remained alive in a world filled with vampires?"?

I'm not bothered too much with books that have multiple genres. I figure a book will have a primary Story and Emotion, even if it has sub-plots / elements which fall in other categories. If something switches genre halfway through (the film "From Dusk Til Dawn", for example), then it was probably just the later genre all along. For genuine cross-genres you can always just list (for example) both Realities.

Is "Urban Fantasy" a sub-genre we need to include? Or does that just mean "A fantasy that happens to be set in a City"?
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Mon Mar 03, 2014 12:14 am Post

pigfender wrote:Is "Urban Fantasy" a sub-genre we need to include? Or does that just mean "A fantasy that happens to be set in a City"?

Well, like most genres, there are a lot of fuzzy edges. I think most people would actually consider "Urban" fantasy to mean "high fantasy elements in a modern context" though it does hew toward gothic fantasy (Dracula being the grand-daddy of the vampire-focused core of UF).

The Iron Druid series, for instance, happens both in cities, and in the countryside, but I could see an entire book happening away from civilization, but still featuring cars and electricity. As far as I'm aware "modern high fantasy".

Contrast that with The Dreseden Files, which is primarily set in modern Chicago, and is openly also a Noir Detective series, yet it's main character is a classic wizard, of the Gandalf variety.

I'd say that Urban fantasy would be a good replacement for what you've termed as "low fantasy" with the one of the two series above an exemplar. I've never seen "low fantasy" used for a genre/sub-genre designation.
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Mon Mar 03, 2014 12:27 am Post

Do you see these genres and sub-genres being metaphorical shelves where any given book would fit on one and only one of those shelves, or more like tags that can freely be added to a book as an open-ended list of descriptors to be applied as appropriate? I'm seeing elements of both tags and shelves (analogous to Scrivener's Keywords and Labels, respectively) in your concept map.

A recent book I read, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, could have all of these descriptors applied to it: Urban Fantasy (set in part on our Earth), High Fantasy (Set in another realm accessible via portals), Romance, Girl Meets Boy or Monster Meets Angel, War… possibly others. It's nominally shelved in YA because the protagonist is either late high school or first year college (I think she's 17… kind of).
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Mon Mar 03, 2014 8:54 am Post

Wikipedia (effectively) defines Urban Fantasy as a fantasy set predominantly in a City. Feels a bit too weak a distinction to justify a separate genre classification to me, but then I'm not really very educated when it comes to fantasy. Still, it seems to have emerged as a class of story that people deliberately seek out, so I'll add it as an offshoot of low fantasy.

Yes, I would imagine every book to be able to fit in to a single Reality category at least. A book which truly inspires a new sub-genre can probably at the very least be considered simply "Science Fiction" or "Low Fantasy" (without taking any further sub-division) until there is a critical mass of examples to warrant a separate distinction. If there are any stories which defy categorisation, or established sub-categories that I've left out, I'd love to include them to have the chart as complete as possible.

Likewise I would expect any story to have a primary plot. Sure, lots of stories have some kind of hookup in them as a sub-plot, but their not about that. A story can be set during a war, but not be a war story, for example.

As for Daughter of Smoke and Bone... well, based on the Wikipedia page (which may or may not be a fair representation) I'd say that the book was: (R2.5.2)Parallel World (E1)Intrigue (S5)Coming of Age.
I say "Coming of age" as the story as (again, from the wikipedia page at least) the book seems predominantly about the lead finding out who she is. It certainly sounds like there are plenty of other types of stories (war, romance etc) happening in and around all of that, but none of them seem to involve the lead too much, at least not as her primary objective.
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