Publetariat Dispatch: Do Readers of Different Genres Have Specific Craft Preferences?

Publetariat: For People Who Publish!In today’s Publetariat Dispatch, author and Publetariat founder / Editor in Chief April L. Hamilton muses about genre fiction, and whether readers who prefer certain genres also prefer certain writing styles.

Let me open by saying this post will contain some gross  generalizations, and I know such blanket statements can’t possibly cover  all situations and will certainly be untrue in many cases. I’m only  working with blanket statements here to address a larger topic, so  please try to bear with me on them and focus on the larger topic.

I have a writer acquaintance who writes hard-boiled detective, murder  mystery novels. He will often post excerpts from his work as a  promotional gambit (as opposed to looking for feedback), and just as  often will post about his disappointment with his sales. I read some of  his excerpts, and concluded that to my mind, what’s wrong with his work  is that it’s overwritten.

He seems never able to write something like, “She was exhausted,” when  he could write something like, “The weight of the day, the hopeless yoke  of overwork, enveloped her in a fog of somnambulant fatigue.” And he  doesn’t employ these kinds of sentences sparingly, virtually  every line appears to have been laboriously massaged, tinkered with, and  obsessed over.

Some people reading this will actually prefer the second,  lengthier sentence to the first. Some will also think it’s just fine if most  of the sentences in a given book are like the second one, and will  admire the craft that went into them. Other people—people like me—,  not so much. It got me thinking about reader tastes, and whether it  might be possible to predict them.

And here’s where those gross generalizations enter the picture. It seems  to me that readers who favor certain genres may also favor certain  writing styles.

I am a near-textbook example of the Type A personality. I am  most definitely a “bottom line it for me” type, a chronic multitasker,  and a very busy person who values efficiency in most aspects of my life.  It should come as no surprise that I don’t have much patience for  flowery prose and lengthy descriptive passages. I’m not saying that  style of writing is necessarily bad, just that it’s not a good fit for me, and I suspect it’s not a good fit for most Type A people.

I have a friend who’s much more laid-back. She can spend a half hour  contemplating a painting in a gallery, and days on a road trip with no  particular destination or schedule in mind; she may not even bring a  map. She’s the type of person who will savor every word of the kinds of  passages that I find irritating.

Now, getting back to that writer acquaintance…what if *most* of his  target audience shares my sensibilities? What if the type of person  who’s most likely to seek out a detective story is Type A? Considering  that some of the defining characteristics of Type A people are that  we’re very goal-oriented, organized, attentive to details, and love  solving puzzles, it doesn’t seem like such a leap to imagine that most  of us enjoy a good murder mystery; a murder mystery is essentially a  written puzzle, after all. It may not be such a leap to imagine the  inverse is true, too: that most people who enjoy murder mysteries are  Type A.

If that’s true, then my writer acquaintance is turning off the bulk of  his target audience with his verbose, highly stylized prose. We Type A  people only want to be given relevant, or possibly relevant, pieces of  the puzzle so we can try to solve it. Anything more feels like a waste  of our time and energies.

My laid-back friend has plenty of patience for stylized prose, but for  her, most murder mysteries are little more than empty exercises in  tricky plotting and misdirection. She wants to read books that she feels  feed her soul, not just her intellect. She very well might enjoy my  writer acquaintance’s work, since it strives to rise high above plot  mechanics and even be somewhat philosophical, but she’s not likely to  ever find it since she’s not one to seek out murder mysteries or  detective novels in the first place.

So for those who write in specific genres or combo genres (e.g.,  supernatural romance, supernatural thriller), and for whom maximizing  sales is a priority, maybe give a thought [should be given] to the most likely type of  person to seek out [those] books in the first place, and what that person’s  preferences might be. I’m not trying to suggest [writers] totally engineer  [their] prose to match some kind of external template, just that appealing  to a commercial audience is always a balancing act between pleasing the  audience and pleasing yourself.

I have nothing but respect for the writer who follows his vision  regardless of whether or not it will lead to commercial success, but for  those like that detective novelist, who spends as much time worrying  over his sales as his art, writing with the eventual reader in mind may  give better results.


This is a reprint from April L. Hamilton‘s Indie Author Blog.


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