"My Take on Genre Wars and Horror Versus Paranormal."

Welcome Ed Selender to maybe wrap up our discussion of genre for the time being. I find it very interesting how not interested people are in discussing genre. I suppose I have found the subject more important because I know as a self pub author I (emphasis on I) must put my book in a category ultimately. As MJ suggested, putting it in the wrong spot is not likely to be good for me or the reader. Even going with the cross-genre idea Sheri put forth, the categories I will need to jam something into with Amazon are not that broad. Will it affect my writing? Absolutely not. I write what comes out of my head, I don't have much influence over that. I have read numerous articles suggesting an engineered approach where you choose the specific genre and write into it. More power to you if this approach works, pretty sure I'm not interested. We definitely have advanced the discussion and I for one have picked up a deeper understanding of how varied peoples opinions and preconceptions are. Might sound obvious but I have heard, " I don't like horror," so many times it doesn't even phase me anymore. I suppose there are many things in life I don't like, if only because I have not tried them yet. I am sure I don't like horror either. I bet there are tons of horror books I would have no interest in. I could insert any genres in place of horror and still make it true. There is some logic. Back to my original suggestion about this being a very interesting discussion and how surprised I am at how not interested people are in discussing such a confusing topic. By the way, have a topic you would like to see discussed or be part of ? Please let me know. gawilson@firetok.com

Ed publishes an entertaining top 10 list among other things and I have found he is up for an intelligent conversation, which I appreciate. He is one of the people so intrigued by the discussion, he offered to contribute on the subject. I appreciate the generous contribution.

"My Take on Genre Wars and Horror Versus Paranormal."

Guest Post with Edward Selender

OK, I'm a bit of a latecomer to this conversation on genre wars as a contributor, but have been following this discussion for a while with both interest and admiration. I feel like one of those people who calls into a radio talk show and introduces himself/herself to the host as a long time listener, first time caller.

I should probably preface my commentary by saying that I do know the other commentators and "hosts," as it were (Gordon, MJ, and Sheri) both through Twitter and their writings. I can assure you, however, that my own interest in this discussion is genuine, as I have found the previous posts to be stimulating and thought provoking.

Also, although I am not an author yet (I am researching an idea for a historical fiction), I am a published writer (please see my blog writeaboutnowct.wordpress.com for some samples and a discussion about my background and writing experience- not just a shameless blog plug, offering this as part of my bona fides!). Additionally, I am an avid reader and, heretofore, or at least so I thought, had a solid understanding of the topic of genre.

Curiously, the previous posts have been discussing genre, with a particular focus (at least by Gordon and MJ), on the supposed differences between horror and paranormal genres, with an apparent presumption that others know what genre even is. While Sheri listed numerous examples of book genres, and MJ even provided definitions of horror and paranormal, I do not recall seeing genre itself defined, so I wanted to start with off by providing a definition of the word genre.

According to wikipedia.org (not MY personal wiki), "'genre,' is any category of literature, music, art, or other forms of art or entertainment, whether written or spoken, audio or visual, based on some set of sylistic criteria." Sounds simple right?

But consider that, when one thinks of painting or music, one tends to acquaint these media forms as subject to interpretation. So, for example, particularly in music, such as jazz or classical, different artists will each have their own "interpretation" of the same piece of music. Interestingly enough, in classical music, a particular artist's (I often think of string quartets) interpretation of a piece of music will be referred to as a "reading.," which seems to relate to literature and supports the subjective nature of classifying art of any kind.

Would West Side Story, a modern theatrical based on Romeo and Juliet, be considered a musical, tragedy, or romance? But not to veer too off course (too late, I know), back to the original topic posed by MJ and Gordon of paranormal versus horror.

Until recently, I would have equated horror as something primarily scary or haunting, lending itself to nightmares, such as The Exorcist or Jaws, and paranormal as being something involving, not sure why, some sort of evil power. MJ poses an interesting question about why superheroes, considered to be good (e.g. Superman or Spider Man) wouldn't fall under the realm paranormal.

Based on the aforementioned comments, Firetok definitely broadened my view of the "horror" category. With Douglass Smith's extrasensory perception and soothsaying abilities, I could see Firetok being placed in the realm of paranormal, under MJ's description of a story involving psychic abilities.

And while MJ's protagonist Sparrow (in Mind Games) has paranormal visions, wouldn't her discovery of her father's murderous past be considered scary or haunting, placing it in the category of horror?

I can definitely think of other recent novels that seem to blur the idea of genres. If one thinks of a horror story as involving a scary or haunting event, would The Revenant be classified as a horror story because of the nightmarish  bear attack? And should James Patterson's mystery/suspense Private Berlin be classified as a horror story because of the gruesome murder and psychotic killer who, by the way, talks to the audience directly, addressing them as a friend (more than a little haunting)?

Although, as Sheri astutely points out, many of us are drawn to specific genres (I tend to like historical fiction and spy thrillers), I find myself enjoying any book with a good story and well drawn lifelike characters. And this maybe brings me to my central point. I feel any truly good story involves sympathetic interesting characters whom one could identify with or relate to. And what makes a character sympathetic and relatable (perhaps this could be a discussion onto itself)?

I would say characters to whom we can relate will have lives containing the myriad of human experiences, romance, mystery, anguish, self-doubt, even horror etc. And the variety of the human experience may just lend itself to cross genre. While I respectfully defer to Sheri's experience with publisher's preferences for stories that fit into a single genre, I hope publishers, and readers, will keep an open mind when considering publishing or reading a non traditional story and that this discussion will continue to evolve.