Do you write within a genre?

writer thinking about plot and genre

I didn’t set out to write in a particular genre. In fact I’m not sure where the plot for my first novel came from, but I am fascinated by the way most of us make decisions in our teens that inform and influence the rest of our life.

I have heard, on more than one occasion, that the protagonist in a first novel can strongly resemble the authors imaginary life.

Not wanting to risk writing a veiled autobiography, for my first novel I chose a female protagonist. Then she needed to have one of those life defining problems, so she became pregnant – without being sure who the father was. Looking back I now realise that I didn’t entirely escape the ‘borrowing from real life’ syndrome, but at least it wasn’t my life, just someone close to me.

In fact my daughter pointed out that I’d also used someone I know as a template for the villain of the drama (fortunately nobody else has noticed, especially the person in question).

I didn’t think about a categorising my work until after I’d finished that novel and someone asked me which genre I wrote within. It took a few years, and a lot more writing, for me to feel comfortable with the phrase ‘commercial women’s fiction’ – and I’m still not sure that’s accurate. I write about relationships between people – that’s what interests me more than crime, science fiction, history, mystery, murder or fantasy.

Having said that, the novel I’m currently working on is set 100 years in the future and may stray into YA fiction. But it’s still basically about relationships – about trust, betrayal, love and greed.

Did you set out to specifically write within one genre?

Choosing character’s names

choosing character's names in a novel

My character’s names often change as a novel develops. Sometimes the original name just doesn’t seem to suit the way the character or their backstory develops.

There’s a theory called nominative determinism which speculates that your given name might define what you do in life. I don’t subscribe to that theory, but names do need to fit the characters.

I used the name Marcus in a novel recently, but you have to resolve the possessive suffix, either Marcus’ or Marcus’s. I would instinctively go for the former, but apparently this is a contentious point. I resolved it by changing his name to Martin.

Has anyone else experienced this problem?

For my current novel in progress all the characters have been given names from the Old Testament – no idea why, but it appears to be working and it feels ‘right’ for the story – for me at least.

They are Ethan, Abby (Abigail), Hannah, Isaac, Martha, Beth (Bethany), Daniel, Simon, Peter and Mary.

In my head there’s a connection between my novel, set 100 years in the future, and names from over 2000 years ago.

Does anyone have a better way of choosing character names?

Book Titles

It’s just a matter of getting those pesky little letters in the right order
And there are only 26 letters in the alphabet – so how hard can it be?

woman sat on floor on laptop

Every now and then my mind gets sidetracked onto book titles and I hear potential candidates during everyday conversations. I ought to stop and write them down because I have usually forgotten them by the time I find a pen and a quiet moment.

Then there are song lyrics. There I am minding my own business, a song playing in the background, and I hear a phrase that sounds like a great book title. It even happens during supper parties, but as nobody else shares my obsession I try to keep quiet about it.

In a moment of desperation, a few years ago, I tried using an online title generator – that was as useful as a chocolate frying pan.

Here are just a few of the potential book titles I’ve culled from lyrics (I don’t claim they haven’t already been used).

Caught in the Race
Belonging to the Living
The First Time We Fell
The Life Museum
Dancing to Forget
Blue World
Everybody’s Watching
Metal Thorns
Restless Hearts
Autumn Falling
Terminally Pretty
A Piece of Time
One Thing in Common
Suicide Blonde
At the Drop of a Name
Neptune’s Daughter
Blinded by Daylight
Flowers for a Wedding
All the Time
Fancy Things
Dangerous Boys
Magicians Never Tell
Walking on Clouds
Touch and Run
Losers and Fools
A Stranger’s Touch
Lucky Girl
Wasted Time
Dreams About Tomorrow
What Was Left Behind
Ribbons and Bows
Across the Sea
What is Yours
In the Name of the Past
A Small Family
Not for the Money
Running Everday

Does anyone else share this obsession?