Finding Your Genre
by Jonene Ficklin
Many years ago, I wrote my first novel. It was a YA and took place on another world. The minute it was finished, I began the eye-opening journey of submitting. The first touch of reality came when I wrote the query and synopsis. Not fun. Not good. And I couldn’t get past the question of which genre it was.
Since it took place in another world, that made it fantasy, right? Or paranormal? Sci-fi? However this world was earthlike, with no magic and no werewolves. It had elements of romance and could even work as a thriller. I gave up, played it safe, and labeled it an adventure.
Fast forward to the present. I’ve written six more novels and many new queries. I’ve spent countless hours perusing the genre and subgenre lists, trying to find the one to encapsulate each novel in a word.
And then, glory be! I found it. Robinsonade. (Say that ten times fast.) The term has been around since 1731, and it’s a subgenre of survivalist fiction. Think Robinson Crusoe. Now think a little broader. A Robinsonade is a high adventure story where the hero/heroine is marooned, shipwrecked, or otherwise isolated from society and has to survive.
You want examples? The Hunger Games, The Life of Pi, Lord of the Flies, The Cay, Tarzan, and of course, Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, The Mysterious Island, and The Jungle Book.
Some of these books I've read over and over as a child, and they're the stories I’m most drawn to. Therefore, they're the kind I like to write and most of my books are clearly Robinsonades.
How did I find this lovely term?
Recently, I read Chronal Engine, a midgrade story by Greg Leitich Smith. (I’ll be taking a writing class from him starting June 18th at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers workshop. Check out wifyr.com – there’s still room in several classes, so come join us!) At the back of his book, he explained that his story is a Robinsonade, and what that meant.
Now you’re heard my story. It’s funny how excited writers can get over a single word, isn’t it? Maybe I’m the only one who struggled so much while trying to find the perfect genre. I hope it’s easier for you.
Meanwhile, I hope you read an awesome Robinsonade soon. It really makes you appreciate spaghetti and meatballs, hot showers, and penicillin. Oh, and just in case, never leave home without a Leatherman. Just saying . . .
Anyhow, I’d love to hear how you found the perfect genre to represent your story.
And, I have one more question (which I find fascinating): what’s your favorite genre to read?
Happy reading and writing!