You Are What You Read

When did choosing a literary genre become so difficult?

In the “olden days” of books, there were vast collections of works contained within a single place. The Library.  In this mystical building, there existed a structure, a set of expectations to guide those who sought out new tales and adventures.  All books were created along a single line of classification: fiction or non-fiction.  Simple.

The heretical works of fiction were segregated in sections, or floors, away from non-fiction, where the “serious” people went to study higher math functions, or memorize quotations from some long dead philosopher to impress their friends.  Those of us who ventured into the fiction shelves were on the receiving end of judgmental stares and pity.

What to choose? Image courtesy of

What to choose?
Image courtesy of

Fast forward to today and the old classification of non-fiction or fiction just doesn’t cut it.  Fiction readers have come out of the shadows and claimed their rightful place in the sun.  It is now the era of genre freedom.

Crime, thriller, detective, international mystery,suspense, gothic, erotic, horror, paranormal, historical, steampunk, circus punk, romance, Y.A., N.A., fantasy, chick-lit, sci-fi, vampire, werewolf, mermaid, bizarro, dystopian, slasher, coming of age, apocalyptic, women’s, amateur investigator, alternative history… you get the idea.  There is a genre and sub-genre for everyone.

Pick a square, any square! image courtesy of

Pick a square, any square!
image courtesy of

We aren’t restricted to a narrow selection, tucked away on some dusty rack.  We can have it all – and we should.  Labels don’t matter and the more widely I read, the more I appreciate a good storyline.  A solid story can feature a cop solving a who-dunnit, or a girl consorting with vampires (not the sparkly kind – even I have my limits) – a good story is a good story.

Characters, characters with depth, emotion and quirky personalities are the foundations of a novel readers want to pick up.  When you ask someone what they liked about a particular book, most often they will talk about the characters and their interactions.  The plot is simply a mechanism to guide the characters into and through conflict.

I’m typically reading two or three books and some grab me and some don’t.  Every book offers a learning experience.  What worked for the author and what didn’t, what made the dialogue snap, or how the character expresses, or represses emotion.  Reading more than one at a time prevents me from getting stale while I’m writing.

This is your brain on bad words.

This is your brain on bad words.

Good reading makes for good writing.

The next installment on the blog will touch on a similar topic – Why Real Men Can Read Y.A. Books



  1. This is so true! Whenever I feel like the quality of my writing is a bit off, I pick up a book that’s fabulous in terms of craft, and plunge into that for a while. It always helps. 🙂

    1. It really does help get the words unstuck. Sometimes I look at what I’m reading and say “Why can’t i do this?” Thanks so much for dropping by and commenting Robin.

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