Writing as Microcosm 4: A Conversation with the Reader

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2023-01-23 10:00:10

I wish I could say that the spontaneity trap we discussed two weeks ago was the only pitfall that has to be avoided on the way to a successful career as a writer—or, for that matter, on the way to a successful life. Here as elsewhere, the writing business offers a convenient microcosm of life all through our declining industrial civilization, so I’m going to talk about writing again; you can take the same principles and apply them more generally to whatever you want to do with your life.

As we’ve seen in previous posts in this series, life in today’s industrial societies might best be described as a rigged game, in which every move that you’re encouraged to make by the shills of the status quo is intended to help keep the corporate economy going at your expense. There are various ways that this plays out, but one that affects writers most seriously has to do with the relationship between genre and audience.

Genre?  That’s a bit of French that got lured into a dark alley long ago and now works long hours in the sweatshops of the English language. (In case you were wondering, it’s pronounced ZHON-ruh; I’ve heard plenty of people struggle with that detail.) Genre is the answer to the question, “So what kind of book is it?”  There are broad genres such as romance or fantasy, and narrow genres such as Regency romance and heroic pulp fantasy. There are also genres defined by the author who invented them—“Georgette Heyer-style Regency romances” and “Tolkienesque fantasy” are known subgenres in their respective genres.

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