Scale or Genre?

img_9243I’m sure I’m not the only one who agrees that not all Romance books are created equally. Neither are all crime novels, all memoirs, or all violence-themed thrillers. To me, there is a clear scale, and in our Writing Group we have been discussing this at length. It’s a hard discussion to have because we also all have filters that determine where we would like our books to fit. We then also add moral or “better/worse” scales to the equation and struggle to see things as being of equal value, just “different”.

Here’s an example; At one end of the scale, Romance can be clean as a whistle. No sex scenes, no sex before marriage, no disrespect towards women (except from the bad guys) and so on. Some may scoff at this idea but this writing space is huge and the world is filled with mostly women readers who are tired of the sex thrown at them from every billboard, movie and TV advertisement. They want to enjoy and believe that there is still a place in the world for respect, true love, and deeply heroic, decent men and that women can still be swept off their feet for all the right reasons. (and I like to think that these people do still exist!)

At the other end of the scale, there is written pornography in all its forms. These ends of the scale clearly are not the same thing, and while they may well both fit into the Romance genre, they are unlikely to be enjoyed by a single reader, or written by a single author.

But the bigger questions are:

  • Where is the middle line?
  • Who fits on either side of it?
  • And is someone who reads the red end (explicit sex) more likely to also read and enjoy books with explicit violent scenes? And is someone who enjoys the pink end (squeaky clean) more likely to also read squeaky clean ends of other genres too?

The same then applies to crime/violence, social justice issues, religion, and other genres does it not?

In my subjective experience, pretty much no one I know only reads a single genre. There are a whole bunch of genre that they will not read, but of those that they do enjoy, all pretty much fit on the same place on the scale.

Let’s make an imaginary scale. 1-6 With an imaginary wall in the middle. That wall has a door in it, that can open or shut. Whether the scene is in a bedroom, police station, crime scene, hospital room, battlefield, history museum, or anywhere else on earth, in any genre imaginable, the scale is divided down the middle and the reader is either taken through into that room, …or they aren’t.

  • 1= Squeaky clean on all levels. In a nutshell, there is no room!
  • 2= There are some hints and innuendoes about private or gory details, but still everything is pretty much left to the imagination.
  • 3= Sex and/or violent scenes may be present, and big issues raised, however, they are implied and alluded to, but no details are given. You are not actively taken into the bedroom, the crime scene, the bar brawl or the morgue.
  • ————————————
  • 4= The imagination is still very much in play, but the author spells out a number of details about what is going on. The reader is taken through those doors, but briefly.
  • 6= A good deal of time and explanation is given to these rooms, issues are dealt with in depth and scenes are built quite fully. But there are still many details which are left to the imagination.
  • 8= No holds barred. A spade is a spade. Nothing is left to the imagination. Anything and everything goes and the more detail, the better.

In case you’re wondering, I don’t read about sex, zombies, horror or ghosts, but I’m a 6 kind of gal!! (writing and reading)

What are you?

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Who Pooped in the cream?

I LOVE the smell of good coffee. I don’t know what makes coffee good (or bad), but I do know that the smell of freshly brewed coffee is a fabulous one. It makes me want to like coffee …. but I don’t. Not even a little bit. I wish I did, truly … and I’m not just saying that; my husband is a trained barista and his Italian monster of a cafe sized machine takes up a good chunk of our kitchen counter. The sounds and smells of his coffee-making routines have filled our home for well over a decade now and are a decent part of who he is and his presence in our home.

So when I tell people I can’t stand the taste of coffee they are shocked (and some even horrified) as apparently, he makes the best coffee around.

So you see, I am well aware that the problem is with me, not them, nor my husband, nor even coffee itself. I just don’t like it. Period. And I never have. When I grew up, instant coffee was the rage and my parents took to it like ducks to water. Crappy granules that didn’t even smell good. But they loved it. And in hindsight, I am sure that it was my mother’s rebellion against her own mother’s dainty china cups and weak tea. It was the seventies and I think it made her feel “modern” as she rejected the teacakes and dainties of her own stifled youth and embraced large chunky (very brown) terracotta mugs of steaming coffee. As it empowered her (and annoyed my grandmother) her love for coffee spilt over to anything she could possibly add those strong smelling granules to; coffee scrolls, coffee flavoured cream, coffee icing, and even tea cakes became coffee cakes.

When I grew up, instant coffee was the rage and my parents took to it like ducks to water. Crappy granules that didn’t even smell good. But they loved it. And in hindsight, I am sure that my mother loved it so much partly because it was my her rebellion against her own mother’s dainty china cups and weak tea. It was the seventies and I think it made her feel “modern” as she rejected the teacakes and dainties of her own stifled youth and embraced large chunky (very brown) terracotta mugs of steaming coffee. As it empowered her (and annoyed my grandmother) her love for coffee spilt over to anything she could possibly add those strong smelling granules to; coffee scrolls, coffee flavoured cream, coffee icing, and even tea cakes became coffee cakes.

It took me decades to start unpacking my miserable childhood and as I began writing my memoir last year it finally dawned on me that I had been the piggy in the middle as my mother subtly yet ferociously rebelled against her own childhood and desperately needed me on her side. My mother does not cajole or encourage or explain. She judges and she bullies and she threatens.

Saturday “morning tea” (coffee and cake) was her favourite treat and the highlight of her week. We would all go to the cake shop and choose something special. I chose meringues or apple pie or sponge cake because those were my favourites. It never occurred to me that they represented my grandmother’s choices.

So my choices were squashed and I was not allowed to pick any of those things. I was judged harshly, scolded and belittled in front of the other customers and told that they were childish choices. That I needed to make more “adult choice” like coffee scrolls and basically, all her favourites. And so each week as we stood in the cake shop with a world of choice around us, I could only choose from her handful of favourites.

Coffee flavoured things or nut infested things made me gag. I never learnt to like them for whatever reason and so I would say no thank you. “Your choice” she’d say as if it was. As my siblings acquiesced and we drove home with cakes for everyone but me, and I sat at the table with the rest of the family watching them enjoy their spoils and chug down large brown mugs of coffee, I had to sit there, every week, with nothing.

For decades my mother would pick things for me, and offer me coffee flavoured cakes and creams and so on. Even as a thirty-year-old, she simply didn’t get it. She couldn’t hear I DON’T LIKE COFFEE!

“Oh I know”, she’d say, “but it only has a little bit of coffee in it. You’ll like it”.

NO, I WON’T! I won’t like it just because there is only a little bit in it.

A little bit of something one detests does not make it delicious. It isn’t like the odd brussel sprout on the corner of your plate that is actually good for you and you can swallow it quickly and then enjoy the rest of the meal. Cakes and buns and treats in my totally subjective opinion, are treats, and when I spend those calories and sugars, I want to spend them on something that actually is delicious for me, not on something laced with a taste I don’t like, through every single bite.

if you don’t like the cherry on top, put it aside. If you don’t like the nuts around the crust, leave them. If you don’t like the flavour through the entire thing, then what’s the point?

Coffee is an objective flavour and I totally get that most people in the world enjoy it. But what if it was a little bit of poop? What if someone dropped the cream, picked it back up again and a teeny bit of dirt and bird poop got in, so they just mixed it up so you could hardly taste it or see it?

A teeny bit of something you REALLY don’t like doesn’t make it go away.

Books to me are like cakes. Other than for study, they are special and delicious and a treat and we get to stand in the library or the bookstore and choose the one we would like to read and it has nothing to do with anyone else. So many people say “You should read this kind because it’s more adult” or “I know this one has scenes in it that make you feel uncomfortable but don’t worry about it … it’s just a little bit of whatever“.

If there is coffee or poop in the cream or the book, we won’t like it, no matter how much my mother or anyone else tells us we should. The world is full of books and we get to choose what we read. Over and over authors are told to stick to your genre, that if they add in bits from other genres they can get lost in no-man’s-land where there isn’t enough coffee for it to be a coffee book, but those who hate coffee won’t read it either. A little bit of coffee can spoil an otherwise fabulous book. And readers want to read fabulous books!

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Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

YouTube |Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

@JPeaSmith