I had a conversation with Holly Black recently where we both admitted that every time we’re told that we can’t do some particular writing thing we are compelled to do it.
“Vampires are played out. There is no new take on vampires left!” someone will tells us.
“Right then,” we’ll think to ourselves. “Challenge! We’ll be writing a vampire story.”
“Avoid adverbs and adjectives,” someone will say.
We will immediately have an attack of the Angela Carters.
David Moles admitted to a similar reaction to definitions of genres. They make him want to write something entirely outside the limits of the genre being defined.1 Holly and me are the same,2 whenever we see a YA definition we find ourselves thinking of the exceptions and thinking of ways we can stretch those boundaries. How can we get away with writing books where the protags aren’t teens? Or have the kind of content everyone is so sure you can’t have in a YA? Or where the story does not have the immediacy everyone associates with the genre?
It’s probably very childish but there’s a level at which all writing rules (never head hop! avoid passive voice!)3 and genre definitions make my back straighten, my nostrils inflate, and leave me with an overwhelming urge to shout, “You are not the boss of me! I’ll write what I bloody well want to write!”
When I was chatting about it with Holly we decided it was a good thing. Definitions be damned!
- Well, okay, he said something kind of sort of like that but it’s my paraphrase and I’m sticking to it. [↩]
- I also like to defy certain grammar rules: “Holly and me” sounds way better than “Holly and I” which always sounds to me like the British queen saying “My husband and I”. [↩]
- Except for always add zombies. That writing rule you should all obey. [↩]