Rethinking Genre

A Pen In Each Hand

By Baker

  1. Cut and paste this list into a Word document:

    Adventure | Biography | Comic books | Creative non-fiction | Crime | Diary | Epic | Erotica | Essay | Fan Fic | Fantasy | Horror | Journalism | Literary fiction | Literary realism | Mainstream fiction | Memoir | Romance | Science fiction | Western | Thriller | Graphic novels | Manga | Slash | Mystery | Gothic | Southern gothic | Paranormal | New journalism | Gonzo journalism | Hard SF | Soft SF | Dystopian/utopian | Steampunk | Cyberpunk | Alternate history | Apocalyptic/post-Apocalyptic | Dark fantasy | High Fantasy | Low Fantasy | Sword/sorcery (S&S) | Urban fantasy | Contemporary romance | Historical romance | Comedy | Coming of age | Historical fiction | Pomo | Satire | Transgressional

    Enlarge the font so that the list fills a page (Arial 26 pt works). Close your eyes and circle your mouse over the document. Click on two or more random genres, combine them and write the first 500 words (or more) of a story.

    Alternately you can print the document, cut out the words and pick them out of a bowl.

    Bonus: Post your exercise for feedback and see if people can guess your random genres.

  2. Have a stalled story in your idea file? Rewrite what you have using a different genre. For example, make your narrator an antihero and put him in a frontier setting (American west, space, etc.) and voila, you have a western. Sketch out the action and turn it into a comic or graphic novel, focusing on dialogue. Change the time period on your urban fantasy and turn your piece into steampunk. Tone down your erotica and let it evolve into a romance. Have your narrator live in an apartment above a haunted restaurant and create a paranormal romance.

    Simple changes are not enough to redefine your story’s genre completely but they can get you thinking about your style and writing goals in new ways and breathe new life into old work.

  3. If there’s a genre or subgenre you’ve never heard of, tackle it by combining one of our archived or current writing prompts with that genre.
  4. If you’re intrigued by a genre, search for journals (or contests) that specialize in that genre. Write something specifically for that publication (or contest) and submit it.
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