One of the most insidious problems fiction has to deal with is the issue of Genre Dodging.
Simply put, Genre Dodging is what happens when authors ignore an element necessary for their stated genre to function. Like missing an opportunity for the first female victim in a horror movie to run in obviously the wrong direction.
When you remove a key element of a genre, even with good intention, the entire narrative suffers.
This happens all the time. We’ve got lots of examples. Whether it’s having vampires that can survive sunlight, or another form of applied phlebotinum – it breaks the rule of cool pretty thoroughly.
What you get, when you try to dodge your own genre too thoroughly, is something too far from the box. The quality of any genre-based work lies heavily on interpretation of that genre, not necessarily in making if better, worse, or pear-shaped.
I have to deal with this working on the Dowager Shadow.
When I built the world that the story takes place on, I very intentionally turned a few elements of the fantasy genre on their sides. I didn’t remove them (which is a key element in genre dodging), but I did twist them a bit. When you think fantasy, you’re liable to think warriors and magic users, dwarves and elves. If the book doesn’t have any of these, is it fantasy? Maybe. Or maybe it’s strategic. The trick is that those four things, while recognizable, are not pillars of the genre. Not all fantasy has elves. Not all fantasy has magic.
But all vampires ought to be unable to walk in the sunlight, right? And, while we’re at it, if science fiction doesn’t have awesome tech, is it actually science fiction or just fiction?
Where else does this apply?
Blogging? If you’re a blogger without comments on your site, are you just publishing?
Twitter? If you don’t discuss anything with anyone, or lock your tweets, what happens to the chances of gaining a following?
If you’re a business person, and don’t actively build your network and create relationships, where’s the longevity of your business?
Building a world – whether it’s fictional planets, a business community, or a personal network – requires addressing the pillars that hold up the kind of world you’re building needs to function as a well-oiled, recognizable machine.
Are you missing any key elements in a non-strategic way? You might be Genre Dodging. And it’s not usually a good thing.
Photo by Shane Adams.