On Pigeonholing

I’m re-blogging this from Jessen D Chapman’s original Blog Post.  It’s being published on this site with permission of the blog’s author.  If you want to do the same, contact him.  He’s pretty cool about it.

While there are those who disagree with me, I think this article applies to film as well.  I love Jurassic Park, The Shawshank Redemption, The Good The Bad and the Ugly, and Stardust.  So why should I have to pick only one of their genres to write in?

Without further ado…


Posted: 28 November 2011 by jdchap in General bloggery
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I’ve heard the advice as a writer: Pigeonhole yourself.  It makes you easier to market, because you’re easier to categorize.

To which, I immediately reply: Go screw yourself.  Why should I want to be easily categorized?  As a writer, I get paid to be interesting.

And yet this way of thinking is pervasive.  When people pick up a James Patterson book, they have a certain expectation, the marketing gurus say.  You don’t want someone to read your book on the vacationing habits of wood elves, enjoy it, then seek out your second novel only to be completely shocked when it’s about a reformed pedophile, right?

Wrong.  I want people to read a book of mine, enjoy it, then seek out my next book because they enjoyed the writing.  I don’t give two shits whether or not they are fans of the genre.  If I ever write a book about vampires (and please kill me if I do), I do not feel obligated to continue writing about vampires until the end of time.  Although, now that I think about it, that could be a great twist on the tortured immortal trope.

You should know if you’ll like the writing based on if you like the writer.  You should know if you’ll like the subject matter based on the back cover, and by reviews from friends and critics.  That’s why those things exist.

Nevertheless, the feeling seems to be, by agents for sure, I need to be able to brand you.  Horror writer.  Thriller writer.  Romance writer.

So why is it, I can say my favorite books are 1984, Freakonomics, The Velveteen Rabbit and The Things They Carried, but I can’t have a book in the vein of each of these within my authorial cannon?

I figure you, as an emerging writer trying to establish yourself, can do one of two things and survive shunning from the pigeonholers:  One, come out swinging as a genre writer, and then use a pseudonym if you ever decide to break the mold later on.  Or two, write two very different books, both classified as “literature”, and gain a reputation as someone who breaks the mold.

Which do I choose?  I dunno, maybe both.  But the one thing I will NOT be doing, is writing with marketing in mind.