Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor

Why Write that Genre?

 A Survey of Writers

Why do people choose the genres they do to write in?  Here are a few answers to that question from both published and unpublished writers.


While I venture now and then into societal science fiction and horror, I write primarily fantasy, or what I consider subgenres of fantasy: bardic, sword and sorcery, and modern paranormal.

As to the way, the simple answer is because these are what I prefer reading; if I'm going to spend time writing a story, it might as well be in a genre I enjoy.  The not-as-simple answer is a preference for working in the tone, texture, rhythm - the "voice" - of these subgenres, and the type of stories I can tell in them.

 --  Lee Martindale - Writer, Editor, Warrior,
Bard Email:
Newsgroup: news://

Well, I've written science fiction, fantasy, horror (or dark fantasy, I'm never sure which) plus the occasional western and aviation story. One common thread is adventure. I make no bones about it, I read for escape. It's my favorite form of entertainment, in no small part because I want to live - at least while my nose is stuck in a book - in a world more exacting than the one I inhabit. From reading SF/F it just seemed the next practical step was to start writing my own. That, to me is the lure of speculative fiction: Adventure. Contemporary, character driven fiction, I'm afraid, usually leaves me flat. Why do I need to read about someone else's mundane life. I've got more than I can handle in my own! <G>

Justin Stanchfield

I write Forensic Murder Mystery Thrillers in both Fantasy and Commercial arenas, and I write them because it's better all around for me to kill people on paper instead of real life.

Just kidding, but I think it makes a neat quote!

Actually I write them because that's how my twisted mind works. I take good people and make them walk through a bloody, messy hell and while they're trying to figure things out and save their own skins, I am too. Every step, every clue, every murder is another curve on the wild ride!

Plus I get to research all kinds of interesting (re: gruesome) things!

Tamara Siler Jones 

I love both science fiction and fantasy for the freedom they give me to play with both the 'reality' of our existence and the cultural expectations we bring with us based on our own society.  These two genres open up a far vaster field of possibility than stories based in 'the real world.'  What if questions can grow into lurking monsters that can mutate society and the people within it in ways that the other genres cannot.

But I also love writing young adult mystery novels, which (at least in my case) are about making the choices that define who the characters will be after they cross the coming of age threshold. 

I would also love to write historical fiction, but I have yet to find the time and place that draws a story out of me.  And there are other genres that I will write because it is the characters and story that draws me, not the genre tag.

Lazette Gifford

I write in any genre I feel like at the moment...which I know is not considered smart in some circles, but I've never been one for conformity. :)

Most of my work falls into speculative fiction -- fantasy, horror, science fiction -- because that is what I grew up with. I collected horror comic books as a kid, and the humor with a bite brand of horror is definitely the genesis for my Bruce and Roxanne stories. I read Ray Bradbury by the time I was ten, and had every Andre Norton book I could get my hands on. I still like the more character-driven science fiction than gadgetry, and it shows in my published science fiction shorts. But fantasy is my favorite, and the only full-length works I have to date are in this genre. I think it is because I love to create entire worlds that no one else has ventured to before. 

Rie Sheridan

I write mostly science fiction and horror. Although I've dabbled in many other genres, and enjoyed them all, I think I keep going back to science fiction and horror because those were the two genres that I most enjoyed as a kid. While growing up in Union City, NJ, I remember watching "monster movies" for hours on the weekends on either WPIX Channel 11 or WOR Channel 9. I'd sit in front of the television enthralled at the black and white spectacles playing across the screen and wonder at the imaginations that created those stories. As an avid reader, I also enjoy books in both of these genres very much. The ability to allow your imagination to run wild while writing in both of these genres is, to me, the greatest appeal. 

Shawn P. Madison

Author of GUARDER LORE and THE GUARDER FACTOR (Novelbooks, Inc.) and THE ROAD TO DARKNESS (Double Dragon Publishing)

The genre I primarily write in is the horror genre. I have attempted to do sci-fi and westerns, the thing is I always end up flavoring my stories with background stuff that turns them into horror. Even a children's story I did recently about my cat had her defending us from unseen creatures of the night. That's what is fun for me. Zombies, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, aliens, serial killers, I end up using them all, so whatever I start with ends up being horror. I write what excites me. And it has to scare me to excite me. So, since I deal in making someone's heart race, and recreating fear, horror is where I'm at. For an example check out Blood And Rain by me. It started out as a straight detective novel. Ended up being a lot different than that.

John Dark

Science fiction and fantasy, both of varying degrees and kind.  I've never been able to pin myself to one or even a small set of subgenres that I like writing more than another.

There are various kinds of stories I enjoy writing not only because they are the kinds I like to read, but also because there are things I want to say that are best said in certain languages.

For some stories I want the mythic feel of a campfire legend being told, the oral history of a people to call on some of the power of a message I want people to get.

For some I want people to contemplate beyond the "nature of" parameters of whatever I'm mulling over... science being a perfect example. Basically I mean that I like to write things that aren't "our nature" and more of a "what we do with that nature, played out against our skills". 

Fantasy allows some inherently easier framework for psychological, sociological stories, for me.  But it's also a trap, as I often find I limit the kind of story I will tell because of that.  I have and do enjoy writing high fantasy or urban fantasy to put people in a head space where they are made to think along similiar lines as my science fiction.

Basically, I want thinking stories.  Very rarely do I enjoy just a simple story limited to a single or even small set of layers. 

I don't think I've really written much I've liked that didn't have a component of "talking about" in it.  Like a good story played out against a backdrop of this, that or the other... holding a seed buried in it that is a thought I've had. 

The current novel in progress, Forms of Frost, has a good story in it. It has a great character in it, an interesting world and some cool science projections in it.  But most importantly in it is a personal discussion thru the protagonist of what is real heroism : saving the world or the harder, meaner path of simply surviving in a universe without the kind of order to it that allows you to "save the world"?

But hopefully THAT seed is never as obvious or blunt as stated here.

MT O'Shaughnessy

The Muse is Master of ALL!!! I write whatever comes to mind... as in I get an idea and the genre that best suits that idea is what is used. I have a mystery short, horror, SF, fantasy, and on Christmas Eve wrote a Fairy Tale in the old mode.

Of course, writing in a particular genre does not address the question of being able to SELL what you wrote in that genre.

Michael E. "Missouri Mike" Picray

I write "contemporary fantasy" or "urban fantasy" or "magical realism" (except I guess that has to be written in Spanish), mainly because that seems to be what I visualize most clearly.  Or maybe I'm lazy, because that means I live inside my world-building efforts. :-)

James A. Hetley


I write all genres. But spec fic is my favorite H and F. Fantasy probably because I found so little that appeals to me lately I had to write my own to entertain myself ;). But I found out its like cooking -it tastes better when someone else does it.


I write romantic fiction because I can think of nothing more interesting and exciting then watching the relationship of two people develop into a commitment that can last a life time.

Tina :)

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Asimov was the first real author I read when I started reading. And, the first Asimov book I read was "I, Robot". This started my fascination with computers and robotics. I have been involved with computers ever since, well over 30 years.

So, when the writing bug bit, I already knew what genre I wanted my main works to be written in. However, I do want to write in a couple of other genres, such as historical fiction. 


I write mystery, fantasy, romance, some sf, an occasional mainstream, children's, YA, and some stuff that defies genre labels.

Why? Because my writing tastes mirror my reading tastes. I get ideas in all of those genres because I read in all of them.

Linda Sprinkle

I write Fantasy, mostly because that is what I read and enjoy. I have also written romance as again I found a niche market that I like to read so I've tried my hand at writing for that market as well.

I am considering slip-stream/dark fiction next. This is based on a novel idea I have floating around that best fits this genre. The other ideas I have will fit into slip-stream and SF, so I guess the genres I'm trying to write are based on the ideas I get and which market they fit in.

Sandra Durham. 

I write fantasy and sf, because those are the two genres where I feel like I have the most freedom. I enjoy making up my own rules about society and technology, instead of limiting myself to what's already happened or exists now. 


I write what I want to read, only not much of it exists. Very little science fiction has been written (that I know of) based on a Christian worldview. I want to change that. I don't see the two genres as needing to be incompatible, and I have several novel embryos swirling in my brain to use in this way.


I generally write fantasy, science fiction, and magical realism (mostly set in the real world, but with a couple of fantastic elements added in), for the same reason that I prefer fiction to nonfiction. I like to be able to make things up, and create new things. I don't like to be held back by what really exists and how things really are; I like to write about how things aren't, and let my imagination take over. 


I like to write romance, which is what I read most. It's the only genre (that I know of) that encompasses, in its sub-genres, nearly all the others - fantasy, mystery, etc. 

Ryla Rowan

I like to write science fiction, specifically character-driven stories set in far-future societies. Having been the odd kid out all my life, I love writing the underdog characters that end up saving the day. Character-driven plots appeal to me because I'm drawn closer to the unfolding of the story as I follow the changes the characters go through.

Jon Chaisson

I write mostly fantasy because it's the 'place' I go to when I want to escape reality. I lose myself in these worlds, reading and writing, and want others who need the escape to lose themselves in my writing.

I needed books growing up, needed that place to be. I'm happy with my life, but I still need that someplace 'else'.


I prefer to write in the fantastic genres, be it horror, fantasy, sci-fi, or a mix of the three. I think that these genres offer the most room to explore new ideas and to play with unexpected themes that arise out of the extraordinary circumstances that these genres entail.

And it's also a hell of a lot of fun. What could be more fun than sorcerers, monster, and spaceships?

Crista Rucker 

I write fantasy mostly, but I do write a few mainstream fiction short stories from time to time. My passion lies in fantasy and the new worlds and strange creatures I can create. I've never wielded a sword in real life to fight a magical villian, but I can put myself into that scene within my stories.

Shana Perry Norris 

My genre is thriller. Thriller is kind of an odd genre--there's virtually nothing written on it and no professional organization for it. If you go into the bookstore, it's either lumped in with the mysteries or with the general fiction. Yet, it's had numerous blockbusters like John Grisholm's legal thrillers, Robin Cook's medical thrillers, Tom Clancy's techno-thrillers, and Clive Cussler's action-adventure thrillers.

I actually started writing thrillers before I realized I was writing them. There was so little on them when I was trying to find a genre that I didn't know it existed. So I thought I was writing a mystery because it was the only place it seemed to fit and not all that well (it was actually a psychological thriller). Co-writer introduced me to thrillers, and I realized that's what I'd been trying to write all along. An action adventure is pure escapism to me, like Raiders of the Lost Ark. That's a movie that keeps you wondering what's going to happen to Indiana Jones next and how will he get out of it. Pure entertainment, pure fun, all suspense. Oh, and I use women as the main characters. Why should guys have all the fun?


I write fantasy simply because I like magic. There's no getting around the feeling of power when you have a wizard throw a ball of fire at an enemy, or have a priest cast a spell of healing which saves a life. There's also the challenge of coming up with the rules that your magic needs to follow. If you can write it so that it makes sense, and is believable within the context of your writing, then you've done good.

John Westendarp 

Until a handful of years ago, I was at a total loss for how to describe what I write. I usually just said "fantasy" and dropped it at that, letting people draw their own conclusions about "fantasy", true or false. But the term/genre "fantasy" doesn't really describe what I do, except in the broadest brushstroke sense.

Myths and legends from around the world, elements of horror and the bizarre, romance and a bit of sensuality including "alternative lifestyles", magic realism and the occasional pinch of science fiction (Don't ask me, I'm still wondering how the android ended up in the fairy mound!) dance in the streetlight of the "real" modern world, hand in hand. What was I supposed to call that?!

Then I picked up the books of Terri Windling, Charles de Lint, Jane Yolen, and others, and I saw myself in the mirror. And I learned the name for what I write, because they write it, too...

Interstitial Fiction... That genre that isn't a genre, for anything that "falls through the cracks" of genre labeling.


I write, and have written in, a number of genres. My favourite to write is probably fantasy, but I've also written science fiction, horror and romance (sometimes with a bit of mystery thrown in!)

I write what I love to read. I would have to say fantasy and horror are my favourite genres to read, but I also enjoy science fiction and mystery novels. I will also read a bit of light romance as well occasionally.

The first novel I wrote was fantasy, which is probably a little strange, as I'd never read much fantasy at that point in my life, and I certainly wouldn't have considered it a favourite genre at the time. My interest in writing fantasy actually came from playing fantasy based computer games!

At the moment my main focus is on my fantasy writing, but who knows where my imagination will take me?

Fiona Shearer-Hann 

I write mainly Fantasy and Science Fiction, and I'm planning a little Horror on the side.

Fantasy and Sci-Fi... I write in these genres because it is so much fun to create my own worlds and play in them. Who wouldn't love to hang out with sword wielding heroes and friendly dragons?

Horror... I have been both cursed and gifted with an overactive imagination when it comes to imagining things that want to eat me. So, instead of just hiding under the covers, I decided to harness that imagination and make it work for me! *grin*


Well, I really wanted to write a sweeping historical novel like Gone With The Wind, or a classic romance novel in the tradition of Daphne du Maurier, but alas my mind is too complex, my vocabulary too abstruse. The novel I am working on right now has a mainstream theme, but the style I am writing it in is probably best described as literary.

As far as genre is concerned, I think the best description is "psychological fiction."


Historical Fantasy and Romance

I've always been fascinated by history, once I discovered it wasn't just the names and dates beloved by public schools. I tend to wonder, "What if this hadn't happened this way?" or "What if these legends were actually real?" When I look at history, I see so many injustices done, I feel compelled to "fix" them, at least in my own version of the world so I write historicals. My present MIP is Historical Fantasy because it's not only righting a perceived wrong, but involving the legendary peoples of that place and time. My first love in reading was historical fiction (Taylor Caldwell rules!) and biographies. It's something I never want to shake.

I write Romance because it challenges me like no other genre. The interpersonal conflicts demanded by the genre are hard to plot and even harder to write. It's a very emotion-based genre and that's a challenge for me to write. I like challenges. As I've gotten older, I've discovered that I like the elements of Genre Romance in what I do for entertainment, so it fits snugly in with my interests.

Andi Ward

Though I write in several genres (primarily Fantasy, but also Regency Romance, Horror/Dark Fantasy, and S.F.) they all have a common thread: escapism. Through my writing, I'm transported to another world. I can fight the forces of the Darkness, fly to other planets, hunt vampires--or just dance with a handsome man, while other women look on in envy.

Kit Russell 

I write Fantasy with a big dose of Romance. I love picking up a book and letting myself visit wonderful new non-mundane worlds and I can't imagine writing anything else...ok take that back I do have one project that has been nagging at me thats sorta modern worldish (with vampires and that sort of fun gory stuff) but mostly my stories are set in non-earth, non modern technology places.


Here are some others: Mystery (cats, vampires, dinosaurs, etc. as detectives) -- plus cookbooks and crossword puzzles. Science fiction. Fantasy. Christian fiction. Thrillers -- that's "He's the only man who can defeat the Big Bad Conspiracy" fiction. Political fiction. Horror.

But if you prefer the romance to be the main element, don't rush right out and get, for example, _Atlas Shrugged_. I like fantasy and I like mysteries; but I haven't yet found a fantasy mystery I really like.

Dan Goodman

I write, so far, fantasy, sometimes with a little science fiction feel as well. I have a few pieces set on other worlds, in more or less standard medieval settings, and I have a few pieces set on modern day Earth, too.

Why do I write sf/f? Well, mainly because it's what I most like to read. I grew up reading Madeleine L'Engle, Susan Cooper, Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffery, etc. One of my favorite fantasy authors is Stephen R. Lawhead, who is a Christian author that is able to appeal to the non-Christian market.

I've also dabbled in mystery, writing a short short intended for a contest (never got revised, so never got entered).

I also write poetry, because that's a very compact and powerful way of communicating emotions. My best poetry comes when I am feeling strongly; for example, I wrote a poem last year titled "Longing for Language" that was probably the best poem I wrote that year. As I was writing, I was caught up in the longing the poem was about.

In comparison, another poem I wrote that year is somewhat lackluster, due to it being merely an assignment (I was in a poetry class at the time).

I write poetry to record and release my emotions, basically. There's more to it than that, of course, but ...

Joshua Johnston 

I write because I love to tell stories. My grandfather told me fantastical talking-animal/fairy-tale bedtime stories when I was a child and I am just continuing the tradition.

I currently write medieval fantasy because I love magic, sentient animals, and simpler times. I am just beginning to write dark mystery that is a weird cross between Nero Wolfe and Angel since I have always loved 30s-40s style and demons.


I write because I have to. It keeps me alive.

Iíll write most genres eventually. Itís just a matter of time.

Michael Kellogg