I write character driven stories. I always have and not for any other reason than that’s just how I connect with things. I don’t come to a story through some really cool plot idea but I come to it through characters. This is my comfort zone and while I’ve really been trying to challenge myself lately with my most recent WIP, the fact is that it just isn’t going to be some fantastical thrill ride with a bunch of bells and whistles.
And here is my dilemma. This story isn’t quite realistic fiction but it isn’t quite fantasy or magical realism. It centers around a girl whose illness forces her to live in a kind of alternate reality and while this aspect is obviously significant to the plot, her daily struggle as a teenager trying to manage her illness is just as important. So my question is this: How important are genre conventions these days?
Because I have two options. I can alter this story to fit into one of the above genres, giving readers something they expect and maybe even something they’re sick of reading. Or I can tell this story how I see it in my head and potentially confuse a lot of readers by not giving them exactly what they’d expected while at the same time possibly giving them something better.
It’s a toss up really. Someone will be disappointed regardless of which route I choose. But aren’t they always? Because we can never please everyone. Never. And while identifying a clear genre has always been essential in traditional publishing for marketing purposes, I’m not sure if the current categories are inclusive enough of all the non-traditional stories that are finding a readership through indie publishing.
There is a plethora of untapped potential out there, of stories too alternative and too unique for traditional publishing. But does that mean we don’t write them? Or are readers ready for more experimental fiction? In my opinion, and speaking as a reader myself, the answer is yes. They’re ready and they’re open. And not just specifically for something experimental or even something different. But something unique.
So here is my hope–that my unique perspective will yield a unique story. That voice trumps genre conventions. That good stories can be recognized regardless of how they’re packaged. And that I can keep writing stories my way and that will be enough.