Redefining a Genre

Redefining a genre sounds great, doesn’t it? I’ve been told that’s what I did with my post-apocalyptic romance, In Between Seasons. It may sound great to redefine something, but there is a price to pay. There is a risk of rewriting a popular genre and the history of it. Often, setting one’s self apart is like setting one’s self on fire. Do you like fire? Depends on if it’s literal or real; for me it feels like both. It’s really cool to have someone say that you’re unique and you’ve redefined something, but not everyone looks at it that way. Case in point:

When you think Dystopian, what do you think?

The Hunger Games

Divergent

1984

Fahrenheit 451

When you think post-apocalyptic, what do you think?

Wait, isn’t that the same thing–nope, apparently not. You can have a book that is both, but they don’t need each other to exist.

dys·to·pi·a [dis-toh-pee-uh]

                                                                                                      noun

a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding. Dystopian.
{Taken from dictionary.com}
The one I used to decided what, In Between Seasons, was from the merriam-webster dictionary:

dys·to·pia

                                                                                              noun \(ˌ)dis-ˈtō-pē-ə\

Definition of DYSTOPIA

1: an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives
dys·to·pi·an adjective
Now, then, what is post-apocalyptic?

a·poc·a·lyp·tic [uh-pok-uh-lip-tik]

adjective

1:of or like an apocalypse;  affording a revelation or prophecy.
2:pertaining to the Apocalypse  or biblical book of Revelation.
3:predicting or presaging imminent disaster and total or universal destruction: the apocalyptic vision of some contemporary writers.
{Taken from dictionary.com, there was no definition for post-apocalyptic, but it’s safe to say post means after}
I, again, prefer the Merriam Webster version:

apoc·a·lyp·tic

adjective \ə-ˌpä-kə-ˈlip-tik\

Definition of APOCALYPTIC

1: of, relating to, or resembling an apocalypse
2: forecasting the ultimate destiny of the world : prophetic
3: foreboding imminent disaster or final doom : terrible
4: wildly unrestrained : grandiose
5: ultimately decisive : climactic <an apocalyptic battle>
apoc·a·lyp·ti·cal·ly adverb
So, dystopian really speaks of a way of life and post-apocalyptic speaks of the event that greats a final doom. Based on the definitions from the dictionary In Between Seasons is both. The book is based off of a patriarchal society that is ranked in a army type fashion. The tribes have:
  • Chiefs: There is one, and it is exactly as it sounds. This is the big man on top.
  • Generals: There are usually 1 to 2 generals in the tribe. They are responsible for the training and carrying out of orders that come from the chief by delegating missions to hunters and trackers. If a mission is highly important then they may be assigned to it themselves.
  • Hunters: They are as they sound; they hunt down the enemy with the sole goal of terminating a threat. Hunter refers to them as “Glorified Trackers”. When they are assigned a mission, often times they never come back.
  • Trackers: Are the lowest ranking in the society. They do as their title sounds, they track persons of interest and report back to the General, who then decides whether or not to send hunters out.

The impression that Kate has of the world is that none of these rankings exist. She lives in the woods with her parents and their close friends. That’s it, but underneath there is a structured army that is at war with the other tribes in the area. When Kate reaches the Marks tribe, the impression of “perfection” is still in place but in different ways. While the men train, the women sit and munch on chips, beer and watch Twilight. It’s not perfect though; the clock is ticking.

How did they come to be this way?
This is where the apocalypse comes in. In 2012 the government begins to collapse, and in 2016 it does. From that point in riots destroy the world as we know it. It’s all about selfish greed and the lust for power. The novel takes place in approximately 2031, post-apocalypse.
So, why do I refer to In Between Seasons as a post-apocalyptic romance and not include anything about dystopian? The reason is that the dystopian genre has become exceedingly popular with The Hunger Games and the other novels that developed off of it. All these novels seem to have the same string running throughout them. It’s a string that In Between Seasons doesn’t have in it. I never set out to write a dystopian or a post-apocalyptic novel for that matter, and developed the label after reading the definitions. So, when I originally labeled the novel as dystopian some readers read it and expected that string. I think it really irked some that it didn’t have that. I even put a “disclaimer” type description on Goodreads under the back cover blurb:
“In Between Seasons is a new kind of dystopian novel, one that focuses on the characters and uses the lack of understanding of a corrupt world as the backdrop to shape them into who they are as people.”
In the end I even went on Amazon and Goodreads and modified the listing to no longer have dystopian in it. Here’s the funny part, go on Amazon and search post-apocalyptic romance, wait, none of those books are like In Between Seasons either. Still, I feel this description is more fitting for those that search for the book. That way they don’t expect The Hunger Games, 1984, or Divergent and instead get In Between Seasons.
So, what’s this about a fire? You can read some of the reviews of the novel, and you will see some even state other books that are dystopian that aren’t like my novel. That’s why they didn’t fall in love with it, and there’s nothing wrong with that. They have a right to that opinion.
The thing with genres is that they often put a writer in a box, especially if it’s a popular genre, and I personally, have no interest in being in a box. I write what I feel like writing. I write what’s in my head. I don’t shape the novel based on a definition–I, as a writer, define my own novels with my writing.
No, I didn’t write The Hunger Games; I wrote In Between Seasons and I am proud of it. It’s not perfect, and I feel as though now I can do even better. That’s the whole point of writing for me. I grow as a writer, and my books get better.
One thing that won’t change:
Whatever genre my novel is classified as–it won’t fit in the box. What I hope it does for you is leaps out of the box and sucker punches you (sorry if that analogy bothers you!).
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4 thoughts on “Redefining a Genre

  1. Ouch…I think I got a virtual black eye 😉 I have to agree with you Cassandra, no matter how good the book is, no matter how well written the book is, there is always going to be that select set of people who have to:
    a. tear the book apart line by line- cause you know they can write it sooooo much better (heavy sarcasm here).
    b. Feel the need to criticize where the writer “should have” catorgorized said novel….sigh.
    I don’t think some readers get that there is a whole backstory floating around in the writers head – we know what happend before, during and after the story is complete. Unfortunatly it gets to wordy and things have to be cut out for the greater good of the book. I think you’re story fit well in the Dystopian category – I wasn’t looking for Hunger Games – and no-one else should either…..besides, it’s already been written 😉 And the catch 22 with that? If you wrote a book that was just like the Hunger Games you’d get called a copy cat. Can’t win for losing sometimes :/.
    Now for the irony…..I’m writing this message and my hubby just channel surfed to the movie Misery…..now that’s a whole other level of crazy!
    p.s. Hurry up October 31st….can’t wait to read Walking in Shadows!

  2. Pingback: An Author’s Challenge–Closing the Genre Gap | C Giovanni Writes

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