I love post-apocalyptic stories. I love reading them, watching them on TV, and yes, I dabble in writing them. Post-apocalyptic stories are my pet projects, the ones that I don’t really intend to publish, or even share with anyone else. I write them simply because I want to – and because it is the best way to stop the idea from rattling around in my head. I know that my strength is not in this genre, and I don’t mind. But this leads me to a question: how do we, as writers, know what genre is “right” for us?
To answer this question, here is a little bit about my bookshelf. I’ve got 14 classics (6 of them Russian lit), 5 sci-fi, 4 plays, 15 vampire books (most of which are part of the Noble Dead Saga by Barb and JC Hendee), 53 fantasy, 8 post-apocalyptic, and 3 books that I would simply call “fiction.” This count excludes all of my non-fiction and most of my YA and children’s books, most of which are in storage. It’s obvious that fantasy is the genre I read the most, so it makes sense that I write mostly fantasy. Out of the genres I read, it is the one I know the most about.
But here is something more telling: when I was a kid, I had a wild imagination. I would always be playing outside and imagining that I was on quests and battling and rescuing people. The first time I remember playing these games was in second grade, at recess, with my friends. We would switch roles all the time. Sometimes I was the princess, or the prince, or the knight, even the dog. From then I don’t really remember a time in my childhood that I wasn’t make-believing. And my make-believe, even before I knew anything about genre and before I can remember ever reading fantasy books, were always “fantastic.”
Does that mean that the genre we choose is inherent in us? I think that would be a foolish thing to claim, and yet it might seem that way. I can’t remember when I started reading fantasy books. The earliest I can remember reading is the Lioness Quartet, by Tamora Pierce, and I think I read that in fifth or sixth grade. But maybe the movies I watched were more influential in my early childhood. I remember watching “Beauty and the Beast” over and over (my family attributes my love of books to wanting to be like Belle) but there aren’t any other movies that really stand out to me.
But here is the big truth about why I (at least originally) chose fantasy to write. After my dabbling days were over and I started getting serious (sometime in high school) I chose fantasy because I thought “it will be the least amount of work.” I didn’t want to write historical fiction, or really any other kind of what I call “real-world” fiction because of the research involved. I didn’t want to write sci-fi because of the science. I chose fantasy because I thought it would be the easiest. I didn’t think I would be doing any research because it was all made up (I am so thankful that I grew out of this – research makes fantasy stories SO much better).
Yesterday a friend of mine commented that my biggest strength is in world-building. I don’t think this would be true if I’d chosen another genre. I think my excitement over “no research” helped develop this strength in me. The genre we choose, and the reason we choose it, can have a lot to do with what we are best at, which strengths we develop.
Enough about me. What is your favorite genre to read? To write? Why did you choose that genre?
Take care, fellow travelers.