Behind the Scenes: Genre and Audience

for The Slaughter Chronicles

I have strong opinions about correct labeling. As a former research assistant and library technician, finding things in the right place/where they are supposed to be (and putting them back in their proper place) is extremely important to me.

My personal preference is organization over clutter.

But I love reading stories that sprawl across many genres, stories that don’t fit into the conventional boxes.

I also love writing stories that emulate more than one tone or trope, however, this makes publishing and marketing more difficult than it has to be. I don’t have one go-to label I can put on my work. I wish I did.

But I’m not going to change what I write so I have to learn how to navigate the treacherous waters of identifying my genre and my audience.

Identifying my audience is easy.

I write books for adult and new adult audiences. My books are full of mature content–mostly violence, nothing sexy yet (it’s on its way, I promise). Even though my main protagonist in Pulling Teeth and Other Stories is a child, these stories are not written for children.

Working with an editor and writing coach has helped me identify what genres are and how to accurately label my work.

Accurate identification is key, especially in the indie publishing world because readers have pre-set expectations when they pick up a book. For example, they expect romance novels to have happily-ever-after endings (most of the time).

My book series, The Slaughter Chronicles, will contain elements of romance but I would not put it in the Romance genre. Lots of people would get really, really mad at me. Because there is no happily-ever-after for my MC…at least not right now. Not for a while…I’m going to stop talking before I give away any spoilers.

How I found my genre(s)

bestfantasybooks.com: There are lists. And I like this resource because the creators there break down each sub-genre with concise explanations.

I’ve also found a brief How To guide for the fantasy genre at The Creative Penn.

Shadowminds.net has a nifty, concise piece on the breakdown of Contemporary Fantasy as a sub-genre of fantasy.

And, of course, there’s always wikipedia. Quality of this list is as expected.

The Slaughter Chronicles falls into Fantasy because there are werewolves and magic. From there, we have the sub-categories.

There are so many sub-categories.

Contemporary and paranormal are pretty obvious choices (again, because of the werewolves) but they are also very broad labels. One of the goals of indie publishing is to stand out. If you throw your book into an overly saturated market you go unnoticed. So it’s really important to be as specific as you can with genre while still being truthful to your story.

The resources I link to above introduced me to a few sub-genres of fantasy that I was conceptually aware of but didn’t really realize they could be applied to my stories until I researched their definitions.

Portal Fantasy-Not like the video game, Portal. Bestfantasybooks.com explains this sub-genre as anything that transports you into another world. In The Slaughter Chronicles, you have our world (pre-covid) and you have the Void. The Void is a primordial, alternate dimension where skyscraper sized cosmic horrors live.

Alternate World Fantasy-Like Portal Fantasy, this sub-genre involves an alternate world. See: skyscraper cosmic horrors.

Arcanepunk Fantasy-This was a new term for me. I always thought of the word “arcane” as more Steampunk than modern-day but, according to my Mirriam-Webster, arcane means “known or knowable only to a few people.” Also secret. Also everything Theodore Thane is.

Grimdark Fantasy-Or just GRIMDARK*. To me, Grimdark is all about Warhammer and Warhammer 40K, far-future sci-fi and high fantasy. Ever since I read the Darkblade books by Dan Abnett and Mike Lee I wanted to write something with that sadistic, gritty tone but in modern times. Most of the Grimdark/Dark Fantasy that I’ve read has only been Epic or High Fantasy. With Pulling Teeth especially, I put a more contemporary twist on this sub-genre.

Funny cat meme. “If it fits I sits.”

My mom helped me make a flow chart. Because a 71-year-old woman can use Microsoft office better than I can.

Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy, Paranormal Fantasy, Alternate World Fantasy, Portal Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Arcanepunk Fantasy, Grimdark Fantasy.

Here’s what not to do:

Pick an obscure genre that does not fit your book just to make the bestseller list. People actually do this and I think it’s sleazy as fuck. I once saw a short story collection as the #1 bestseller in a non-fiction, young adult category. The category was death and self-help related.

The library technician in me had a fit.

This particular situation made me mad because any young adult with questions about death was going to find this short story collection unrelated to the topic they were looking for more information about.

Death is a big theme in my stories but I would never put anything from The Slaughter Chronicles into a non-fiction category or a self-help category. Some of my characters are extremely dysfunctional and I wouldn’t want anyone looking to them as role models or thinking they can get guidance from them**.

If you like any of the sub-genres of fantasy listed above, please give my fiction a try.

I have three stand-alone short stories here on my blog and if you sign up for my newsletter you get a free copy of Harbinger of Havoc, one of the pieces from my upcoming short fiction collection Pulling Teeth and Other Stories of the Slaughter Chronicles.

*Note: I want to talk more about Grimdark later. If I go off on a tangent you’ll be reading another 5,000 words of genre vomit and you don’t need that.

**Another note: I grew up without many friends or a lot of parental guidance and I did look to fictional character for how to behave in society. This yielded mixed results and I plan on exploring the subject more in depth later.

*

Photo by Sven Scheuermeier on Unsplash

Author: Jessa Forest

Jessa Forest writes poetry and dark fiction. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks and The Slaughter Chronicles, a grimdark, Lovecraftian-esque paranormal fantasy about werewolves. Her stories question the definable borders of reality and indulge in the gritty, visceral aspects of contemporary fantasy. She was born in Arkansas, USA.

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