This blog post is a segue from Piper's post on Wednesday. She asked about the other genres we read, and that got me to thinking about how genre can affect both the kinds of characters who appear in a story, and the way those characters are portrayed.
Romances are good at digging deep into the characters' souls so that we get a full glimpse of whom we're reading about. Why do you think that is? What methods do these authors use to flesh out their people enough to make them bleed on the page? I think some writers do an excellent job of letting the details around the characters assist in defining them as real human beings. That also goes for detailed observations made by the characters themselves. For example, a character who is focused on, say, the preparation of a meal and describes in loving detail each ingredient, how it tastes, how the dough feels in her fingers, the way the scent of baking apples reminds her of her grandmother, etc.
In a mystery novel, maybe the character approaches the cooking scenario from a totally different perspective. The woman is a private detective and her observations are more in line with ferreting out clues to catching a killer.
In a science fiction novel, the very concept of cooking could be totally foreign because the characters in the story simply push a button to get sirloin tips, roasted baby potatoes and a Caesar salad, hold the croutons.
A horror novel might have the chef baking up something really different and not very appealing to mainstream taste buds, if you know what I mean.
Point is, the genre can affect how the character is presented. Sensual, pragmatic, logical, horrible… whatever. These people are different and present themselves in different ways.
Now what if you had an outside-the-box character, one who didn't fit conventional norms. How would this person be portrayed? A mentally ill character in the kitchen. Hmm… Now that's an image. Would this character act and react in a predictable way? Probably not. So if you had, say, an autistic character making pancakes, would their lack of emotional connection to the act of cooking make you feel disconnected from the character because you can't relate?
Maybe we choose to read the genres we read that are only in our comfort zone. Someone who doesn't care for military novels or political thrillers may not relate to those characters and therefore find the story boring, even if it's the most fascinating plot ever to hit the best seller list. Does that make these books uninteresting? No, just uninteresting to you. Could you critique one? Or more to the point, could you critique a genre you don't read?
We often hear that good writing is good writing, no matter the genre. True. I guess. But can you feel connected to a well-written book on a subject or in a genre you don't understand or like? I know I can't. I could probably detect if it's "well-written," but as far as the characters go, I might struggle. The tough as nails soldier who spouts military jargon would glaze my eyes over. The politician who schemes to do… whatever would have me setting the book down to go clean the toilet. And an erotica novel? I won't even go there. (*cough* icky *cough*)
When it comes to critique, or contest judging, I believe it's important to stay within the genres we understand and enjoy. I'm curious to know what you think. Does it make any difference to you? Can you critique or judge anything and feel you can do the work justice?