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I met some people the other day and, as tends to happen, they asked me what I do. I told them I was a writer (albeit a part-time one). After the usual ‘Would I have heard of you?’ question, they asked me what kind of fiction I write.
 
You’d think it’d be easy to answer, but I never know what to say.


Sure, Fur-Face is a middle grade fantasy, but I also write science fiction, horror, something I like to call ‘medieval' science fiction, regular fiction and even, if you count last year’s
Wild West Justice
, the odd western.
 
Like most writers, I cover a multitude of genres, but if you list them all you either sound pretentious or send the poor soul who asked the question into a bored trance.
 
I ended up mumbling something along the lines of ‘All sorts of stuff, you know.’

I confess I felt quite self-conscious. I definitely need to come up with a better answer. 
 
How about you? 
 
How do you answer the question ‘What do you write?’ 




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jtglover
Oct. 23rd, 2010 06:23 am (UTC)
I have no good answer and suffer from similar problems! I'm starting to get down two phrases that I pull out depending on the question. One is something like "I write fiction, a lot of it tends to range somewhere between fantasy and magical realism" and "I'm working on a magical realist murder mystery." Both of those are quasi-inaccurate, but they contain enough of the truth for hey-we-just-met conversation. :-)
jongibbs
Oct. 23rd, 2010 06:38 am (UTC)
Lol, I know what you mean. My problem isn't so much where to start as where to stop :)
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mikandra
Oct. 23rd, 2010 06:53 am (UTC)
answer decisively in favour of the genre your hart is in most, or the genre of the latest book you're writing/trying to sell.
If someone asks me what I write, I answer: hard SF
Even though I've just written a story about vampires (gawd, can't believe this myself), and I have written fantasy, as well as MG and space opera.
Giving half an answer decisively is going to sound more professional to them than indistinct mumbling of the entire answer.
msstacy13
Oct. 23rd, 2010 09:45 am (UTC)
Yes, that's what I was trying to get at,
although you've explained it better.
The answer one gives should be reasonably accurate
while sounding generally respected/respectable,
and--if possible--leave one open only to those sorts of questions
one likes to answer.
(no subject) - jongibbs - Oct. 23rd, 2010 04:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
martyn44
Oct. 23rd, 2010 07:49 am (UTC)
All fiction is fantasy, even if it isn't Fantasy. It isn't real, even if it is realistic. It isn't reportage, even if some 'reporters' are the best paid writers of fiction around. I writre left handed fantasy in what I hope is a world recognisable as our own with just a small 'what if' change. I write about what happens just beyond the edge of my peripheral vision.

Except when I don't.
jongibbs
Oct. 23rd, 2010 04:10 pm (UTC)
All fiction is fantasy Lol, true enough :)
snapes_angel
Oct. 23rd, 2010 07:58 am (UTC)
Either "stories", or "stuff", if they're that interested. They can always Google me. XD
jongibbs
Oct. 23rd, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
Hehe, make 'em work for the information, right ;)
(no subject) - snapes_angel - Oct. 23rd, 2010 06:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
bogwitch64
Oct. 23rd, 2010 08:39 am (UTC)
It usually goes like this:
Person: You're a writer? Cool! What do you write?
Me: Primarily adult fantasy, but sometimes mainstream.
Person: Adult fantasy? You mean like...(whispers)...porn?
Me: No. More like Lord of the Rings*.
Person: Oh. I don't really read.

Or it goes like this:
Person: You're a writer? Cool! What do you write?
Me: Primarily adult fantasy, but sometimes mainstream.
Person: Oh, like Kay or Tolkein or McKillip?
Me: I wouldn't put myself on that level, but yes, that sort of fantasy.
Person: Awesome! Where can I get it?

(*Because LOTR and Harry Potter are the only fantasy most will know.)

tracy_d74
Oct. 23rd, 2010 09:53 am (UTC)
Ha, "like porn"...oh, i don't read. I bet if you said yes, they would ask where to get it. :)

Edited at 2010-10-23 01:53 pm (UTC)
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msstacy13
Oct. 23rd, 2010 09:21 am (UTC)
A tremendous advantage of writing historical fiction
is that it's so easy to say.

-What sort of things do you write?
-Mostly historical fiction.

If it's obvious the person talking to me
is inclined toward reading about transsexuals and homosexuals,
I can mention that I've got collections of stories pertaining to such.

If they might like cop stories,
well, I've got a collection of those, too.
If that catches their interest, I may or may not mention that
the main character/narrator is a stealth transsexual.
jongibbs
Oct. 23rd, 2010 04:14 pm (UTC)
Yeah, historical fiction is a great answer, especially since it sends the ball squarely back into the other person's court. They can either change the subject or ask 'What period?' Either way you can tell whether it was just a polite question or genuine interest.
jess_ka
Oct. 23rd, 2010 09:21 am (UTC)
I just say speculative fiction--but then I usually have to explain what that is.
jongibbs
Oct. 23rd, 2010 04:17 pm (UTC)
I like that answer. Like Stacy's (above), it gives them the opportunity to either change the subject or ask for more information.
tracy_d74
Oct. 23rd, 2010 09:51 am (UTC)
I usually say Young Adult books, with fantasy elements. Of course, most childless adults have NO CLUE what YA is. So I have to explain. If I have to explain my stories...I just trip over my tongue.
jongibbs
Oct. 23rd, 2010 04:18 pm (UTC)
If I have to explain my stories...I just trip over my tongue.

I think that's half my problem, at the back of my mind I'm wondering if they're just being polite or if not, should I give them my elevator pitch.
musingaloud
Oct. 23rd, 2010 09:56 am (UTC)
See, this is why it's easier for me to just stay mum on the whole subject. It's always embarrassing (to me, and I don't know why, other than a natural reticence to speak about myself) to say I write fantasy, because most people either have a disdain for the genre and think it's "kid stuff" or think the word "fantasy" refers to porn or erotica. *sigh* I do like the term speculative fiction, but agree, most people don't know what it means. But it does sound more "grownup" than fantasy. I don't think SF writers have that problem. Science Fiction also sounds more grownup.
jongibbs
Oct. 23rd, 2010 04:21 pm (UTC)
Science Fiction also sounds more grownup.

Not the way I say it :)
(no subject) - musingaloud - Oct. 23rd, 2010 04:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
jakobdrud
Oct. 23rd, 2010 10:01 am (UTC)
If I have a feeling the person asking me is simply making conversation, I say: Fantasy and Science Fiction. Yes, those are labels, but people generally understand them. Only if they ask deeper questions do I go into the subgenres of what I write, and why.
kmarkhoover
Oct. 23rd, 2010 10:28 am (UTC)
Yeah, I often get the idea it's just for conversational purposes. *nods*
(no subject) - jongibbs - Oct. 23rd, 2010 04:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
shoebrera
Oct. 23rd, 2010 10:26 am (UTC)
No, you've never heard of me.
No, I don't have anything published yet. I'm working on it.
I write fiction; nonfiction seldom holds my interest when I read, so I don't write it.
Oh, all sorts of fiction; it helps to be well-rounded, you know. What about you?

There's mine, Jon. You have more positive things to say than I, but that's mine.
jongibbs
Oct. 23rd, 2010 04:24 pm (UTC)
It's something I definitely need to work on.
kmarkhoover
Oct. 23rd, 2010 10:27 am (UTC)
I keep it pretty basic. I usually answer, "Science fiction and dark fantasy. A little mystery here and there." Then if they want specifics I give it to them.

But I understand what you mean. I think many writers write across a lot of genres, so it's sometimes difficult to answer that question without getting lost in the weeds.
jongibbs
Oct. 23rd, 2010 04:30 pm (UTC)
Especially when you don't know if they're just being polite or actually want you to go into details. Mind you, I'm beginning to realize that's really my problem, not theirs.
dotificus
Oct. 23rd, 2010 11:18 am (UTC)
I think maybe you should say you write genre fiction. And if they don't know what that is, tell them it's fantasy, science fiction, westerns and mysteries and that's what you write.
jongibbs
Oct. 23rd, 2010 04:31 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Dorothy. By the way, great icon :)
bondo_ba
Oct. 23rd, 2010 12:56 pm (UTC)
I try to explode their brains... Maybe tell them that you write scripts for hardcore movies. They will look at you wide-eyed, try to think of the dialogue, then be too ambarassed to ask you why anyone would need a writer on those things. Brilliant fun.
jongibbs
Oct. 23rd, 2010 04:26 pm (UTC)
I try to explode their brains...

Lol, you're turning into a right troublemaker, Mr. Bondoni :)
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clarionj
Oct. 23rd, 2010 01:25 pm (UTC)
I have the same approach and experience you do. I write in a variety of genres, and I also determine my answer by who is asking. Some people get, "oh literary and some *mumbling* darker fantasy." Others get "psychological horror and vampires! and some literary." Vague seems better unless I know the person's interests a bit. We probably should practice a response. Usually when I say I prefer short story writing to novel, they just dismiss the whole thing--I should find a way to make that more ... acceptable.
jongibbs
Oct. 23rd, 2010 04:34 pm (UTC)
You and me both, Pat :)
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Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there


No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there















 











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