Genre wasn’t as serious a consideration for writers a few decades ago as it is now. Usually, a writer would write a story, show it to other writers for feedback, and send it off to an editor. Genre types were few: there were only two age categories to take care of: adult and children, and then you chose from the menu of main genre: comedies or tragedies, poems or plays. You could write horrors, or fantasies, historicals or science fiction, or crime, or romance.
Fast forward to present day publishing, you have strict sub-types in each genre, based on age categories like NA, YA, MG. And you have sub-genres of each.
I’ll of course pick crime fiction as an example, because I write a sub-genre of crime. Crime fiction ranges from cosies to domestic suspense, from legal, medical and forensic thrillers, to military thrillers, police procedurals, psychological thrillers, and hard-boiled noir, as well as a few others like paranormal thrillers, romantic suspense, or spy thrillers.
Each genre comes with its own tropes and expectations. Readers pick up the genre hoping for a particular kind of cocktail, with a similar range of ingredients, but leading to delightful and often surprising variations. A reader of cosies will never put up with violence and gore, whereas a reader of noir, or forensic thrillers would expect it: and while blending a cosy with a noir is quite impossible, other genre blends do exist.
This is why the Insecure Writers Support Group Question for this month is particularly relevant:
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT WRITING YOUR FAVORITE GENRE?
I write literary thrillers with a feminist bent. They are part police procedural, part noir, and part family drama. If you’ve read a bit of Harlan Coben, or watched the Bosch series, my work will feel familiar. The stories often carry the pace of a thriller, follow a police procedural format, but have feminist issues and family dynamics roped in.
My first, You Beneath Your Skin, is set in New Delhi, and follows Police Commissioner Jatin Bhatt and his life as he solves a serial killing, and an acid attack on the woman he falls in love with, Anjali Morgan. The novel is as much about acid attacks, what causes them, and their consequences as it is about the whodunit.
It’s been called a whydunit, because even after you know the identity of the culprit, the story continues for a beat. It speaks of the why of the crime, as well as the effect it has on the perpetrators, the victims, and the investigators. And it includes the relationship between Anjali and Jatin: not exactly a love story, but a major aspect of You Beneath Your Skin.
My next, The Blue Bar, is the first in the Blue Mumbai series. It is set in Mumbai and follows Inspector Arnav Singh Rajput as he dwells on his lost love while attempting to solve a series of bizarre serial killings with women’s decapitated bodies found buried–the only clue, a sprinkling of blue sequins. The crime and its solution forms the main storyline, but right alongside is Arnav’s own story–his life and its challenges. The Blue Bar also speaks of the bar dancers of Mumbai, occupying a liminal space between being dancers and prostitutes: being neither, yet a bit of both. In this story as well, my obsession with the why behind the crimes seeps through. I’m incessantly curious about the human psyche: what makes us all tick, and what takes some of us so far beyond the pale of normal.
Things I love about the literary crime genre:
–It lets me investigate the why of a crime. I can go into family dynamics and aspects of characters–examine human relationships and human nature under the scope of the crime.
–I’m allowed to write slightly longer descriptions of settings in my books–in most thrillers, sensory descriptions are minimal, but I tend to make the setting a character in my novel.
–I can use my writing as a scalpel to dissect society, and speak about issues like patriarchy, child abuse, human trafficking.
–I love the going back and sprinkling of red herrings and how the jigsaw of the narrative takes shape over many drafts. I’m learning so much about plotting and pacing while working on the Blue Mumbai series.
You Beneath Your Skin went on to be an Amazon bestseller, and was optioned for screen by Endemol Shine, so I’m holding out hope for The Blue Bar. Reviews so far have been kind–huge thanks to everyone here who has read it so far: Jacqui Murray, Marian Allen, Hilary Melton Butcher, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Dan Antion, Lisa Southard, Anna Tan, Vidya Sury.
All of them run excellent blogs, and the names above will take you to their sites for a follow.
So many others are reading The Blue Bar as well, and all this support makes it easier to edit the sequel which is another literary crime novel set in Mumbai. Besides the whodunit and the whydunit, it tackles issues of caste and discrimination. I see myself writing in this genre for a while yet.
What do you like best about your favorite genre? As a reader, why do you pick up books in certain genre and not in others? As a writer, what compels you to write in your genre? Have you read / reviewed an advance copy The Blue Bar?
Today is the first Wednesday of the month post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
Founded by the Ninja Cap’n Alex J. Cavanaugh, the purpose of the group is to offer a safe space where writers can share their fears and insecurities without being judged. This is a wonderful group–if you aren’t a part of it, I urge you to join in!
The awesome co-hosts for this October 5 posting of the IWSG are Tonja Drecker, Victoria Marie Lees, Mary Aalgaard, and Sandra Cox. Go give them a follow and drop them a comment.
My own crime novel, The Blue Bar will be out soon with Thomas & Mercer. It is already available for preorders. Add it to Goodreads or pre-order it to make my day. You can also recommend it to the local library to boost its chances of being found by new readers.
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Your stories sound fantastic and I’m sure the reader learns a lot about the setting too, including the good and bad elements. An intriguing setting will pull me into a story.
Thank you so much, Nick. Do let me know what you think about The Blue Bar 🙂
The allusion to Bosch is spot on. He’s a favorite of mine, didn’t realize the connections and now see that’s perfect.
Thank you for stopping by, Jacqui 😀
I love that you use setting as a character in your novels. Thanks for the shout-out!
Thank You so much, Ronel. It means a lot!
Like you I read lots of crime, police procedurals and, less often, thrillers. For me the setting is another character and your books make an excellent case for that. In some ways I like these genres of books partly because (mostly) the good guys succeed and help make the world a better place…at least as much as they can. I also admire their persistence and courage.
Definitely! I love that part as well 🙂
What an interesting genre, Damyanti. I also love sprinkling family dynamics into any story I write.
Thank you, Jennifer. I agree. Thanks for stopping by.
The thing I loved about the book I’m just finishing up and editing is that with its being a fantasy mythology I can create any kind of world I want it to be. While the focus is on human struggles, the environment and how they handle these things is in my hands. I love that kind of freedom of expression.
Best of luck, Cheryl. I would love to read it someday 😀
Hi there! I’m not sure I have a favorite genre but only a few I don’t care for. Intrigue and a break from traditional writing styles always catch my eye. I do prefer fiction though, most of the time and anything that doesn’t have a predictable ending. 😊
Yes, I agree. Anything unpredictable is such a treat to read! 🙂
Now I get the “I’ve always liked thrillers” comment! I enjoyed your dissection of your fascination with the genre. Your books sound interesting.
Haha, yes, the human psyche intrigues me. Research helps me understand it more and helps me flesh my characters out better. If you do get a chance to read it, let me know what you think 🙂
I’m just getting back to you now, Damyanti ~ Your comment ended up in my spam for some reason. I loved your analogy of genres as cocktails. That was really vivid. I’m looking forward to reading “The Blue Bar,” but I haven’t preordered it, because I’m traveling a lot right now. I really enjoyed “You Beneath Your Skin,” and I’m going to give a copy of it to my sister-in-law who lived in India for over a year a few years ago. Enjoy your weekend!
Aww, thank you so much. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Let me know your thoughts about “The Blue Bar” when you get the chance to read it 😀
I like the idea of crime shows, but I can’t seem to get into them most of the time. I do think the whydunits do give us a way to dissect society and consider what’s going on behind the scenes.
Exactly 🙂 Also, I understand that, Tyrean. Sometimes, it’s difficult to get into it with all the gory details.
I do love crime shows and I want to see Bosch. I love Ripper Street and one of the main characters is a madam but she has good and bad qualities like we all do. You must be following what happened In Iran.
Yes, I am aware of the Iran uprising and TBH I haven’t been able to follow it as much as I would have liked, since I’ve been busy with my sequel edit. I have heard about Ripper Street but never got to watch that series.
That cover is GORGEOUS! Good luck on pub day!
Thanks, Abby! Thank you for stopping by and commenting.
I love crime and mysteries, and I like the sound of your books. I definitely have to put them on my reading list! I agree with your point on investigating the why of a crime. The human psyche has always fascinated me and I’ve long been interested in serial killers because of this. Congratulations on your latest release! I look forward to reading it.
Thank you so much, Debbie 😀
Your stories sound so intriguing with so much put into them…a great balance. I’m putting The Blue Bar on my TBR list.
Thank you so much, Tonja. Let me know your thoughts about The Blue Bar if you get to it 😀
Sounds like a great story! I love that you tackle the “why” and societal issues as well.
Thank you, Yvonne. I find the whydunits give me closure in a lot of scenarios. 🙂
Hi Damyanti! As always, a very thoughtful post that made great points. I especially love how you framed this: “Readers pick up the genre hoping for a particular kind of cocktail, with a similar range of ingredients, but leading to delightful and often surprising variations.” Beautifully said.
That means a lot, Miffie. Thank you for visiting 🙂
I love how involved and perceptive you are with your genre. It’s super cool to see that confidence!
Haha, thanks, Loni. Took me a great deal to earn this sliver of confidence 😀
Okay, so I need thrillers that are not too graphic or too violent. And even too scary. I’m a big chicken who has enough trouble trying to sleep at night.
That being said, bravo to you for tackling the deeper themes of troubles in our world in your fiction. All the luck with The Blue Bar. The cover is gorgeous. All best to you!
I understand that, Victoria. As I said, you have a specific taste for your cocktail of thrillers 🙂 Thank you so much for the wishes and for stopping by.
I fell in love with literary fiction when I first read William Faulkner’s short story, “Barn Burning,” in the 9th grade. I just finished reading The Marriage of Anna May Potts, a novel by DeWitt Henry, and I loved it for the same reason I’d loved “Barn Burning.” Both books enabled me to experience the world in someone else’s skin.
I know that feeling, Liz. It truly is intriguing to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and love their lives 😀
I think it’s because I like the movement in crime stories, the puzzle-solving, and the level of intelligence in both the story and the characters.
I agree, Denise. I love a stimulating read that keeps me on my toes.
Whoever came up with the cover did an excellent job. It’s a real eye catcher. Best of luck with sales, Damyanti. BTW, I’m on FB so you can DM me anytime. I enjoyed your article about helping authors. It was great. I’m a huge Bosch fan. Have you watched Endeavour? Another huge favourite of mine. Very intelligent writing with an historical twist. It’s set in the 60s when I was a kid.
Thanks, Joylene. We did do a lot of back and forth on the cover.
Glad the article on helping authors resonated–feel free to share it.
I haven’t watched Endeavour, but shall add it to my list!
“I tend to make the setting a character in my novel” That’s something I absolutely love. Just that line was enough for me to add your first book to my Kindle. Looking forward to reading it.
Visiting today from: https://fictioncanbefun.wordpress.com/
Haha, I’m so glad, Deb. Do let me know your thoughts once you get to read it 😀
I love mysteries! Fantasy and mysteries are my fave, and many other genres as well. Your books sounds amazing!
As you can tell, I do love a good mystery. Fantasy wouldn’t be my first pick, but I’ve found books that fall into this genre that have surprised me. At this point, I’ve learned to be open-minded. Thanks for stopping by, Cathrina. I’m so glad you found it intriguing 🙂
Blue Bar sounds like a winner. I’m loving the Bosch series and used to read a lot of Harlan Coban.
Thank You so much Sandra 🙂
A great question, Damyanti. I write fantasy, and one of the reasons I enjoy it is I get to let my imagination go wild. As long as the characters act like authentic humans would, the rest is all up in the air. Though I enjoy historical fiction as a reader, the amount of detailed research is intimidating. When writing fantasy, I still have to research, but the focus is on making things up. 🙂
Although I do have the liberty to spin some facts to keep my books interesting, I do see why fantasy would be liberating, in terms of making up. But I also know that it is not as easy as it sounds 🙂
I guess we all find something that fits our writing style and our own means to tell a particular story. I like how you’ve brought out your favourites together to spin your thrillers in a unique way.
Yes, I agree. Thank you, Sonia.
I love the intricacies of what and how you write. The human psyche is endlessly fascinating.
The older I get, the more I veer toward guaranteed happy endings. My empathy is pretty dang high and reading some genres is just too difficult
I completely understand, Jemi. Some genres are not our cup of tea, especially with age. I relate to this as well.
Hi Damyanti – I love your sort of books and I particularly liked both your books – especially the latest: The Blue Bar … a great read as you told your story – cheers Hilary
Thank you, Hilary, that means a lot to me. So glad you enjoyed reading it.
You came to my rescue, Damyanti, in giving me this month’s question. Thank you! Setting is also a major character in my novels. Congratulations on your book being optioned for a movie. Tatiana Maslany emailed asking if I would mind her portraying a female version of my protagonist in BLOOD WILL TELL. Then, I woke up … true story, Sigh, At least I woke up smiling! 🙂
I do hope the heroine of your dreams acts in the screen option of your wrk, Roland. You write so beautifully, with such a great sense of both character and atmosphere.
I’m impressed with anyone who writes mystery as my brain couldn’t wrap around it.
This is the second entry I’ve read that mentioned just a couple initial genres began it all. How we have splintered from there.
Alex, it is a mystery to me as well, the fact that I write crime novels.
yep, publishing has spliced genres to a very specialized place. Not all stories fit neatly into one genre or another.
This is what I blogged about today also. I love Harlan Coben and Bosch (books and tv). Have mentioned a few of my fave thrillers in my post, but I’ve read every Harlan Coben and watched the Netflix shows.
You and I have very similar tastes in our crime series! I adore both, as well. Hope The Blue Bar made sense in this vein–thanks so much for reading an early copy.
Reading Sci-Fi would be my choice. Good speculative fiction can be very intriguing.
I agree. Good sci-fi can be amazing.