f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: How Do You Transcend a Genre?

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

How Do You Transcend a Genre?

This is going to be the start of a four-part discussion on books that rise above the genre of CBA novel and how, possibly, to go about writing one.

(But first, let me say something at the outset—I am not anti-CBA Fiction. I am not calling for an end to CBA Fiction. I am friends with many CBA authors; my publishing house is a leader in publishing CBA Fiction; millions of readers out there love it. We want to keep those readers happy…but that’s not my job. There are other acquisitions editors here with that charge. We all agree that CBA Fiction shouldn’t be our only endgame. That’s where I come in. I’ve been given the charge to show that there’s something else out there—Christian Fiction with lifespan.)

Back to the topic at hand—How do you transcend a genre?

Part 1: Understanding the Genre
1. Know nothing at all about the genre, that way you’re not beholden to its rules. What you may come up with might be simply outside the genre, rather than transcendent, but it’s a start.

2. Your other option is to fully understand the genre and to begin twisting and manipulating those rules rather than being owned by them. Because so many of the rules in CBA Fiction are content driven (i.e. no drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.) this opens the door for a serious examination of why those rules are established in the first place.

I am not talking about breaking taboos or rules just for the heck of it. I’m talking about turning the genre on its head so your book sets the rules rather than follows them.

Some off-the-cuff examples (and admittedly pretty poor ones):

A book could address happy endings and why there is almost a compulsion to include a happy ending in CBA Fiction. A book could tackle the issue of swearing with a character afflicted with Tourette’s. Not every challenge needs to be so blatant, but what must be established is that the author is in control of her story, the authorial voice is leading and making the decisions rather than simply writing to a rote script pre-approved by the mass of readers. That is lowest-common-denominator-fiction and is not of interest to me.

Tomorrow we’ll look at syntax, word choice, and the art and craft of writing.