On Genre

In honor of World Book Day, I thought we could have a discussion on genre.

What’s your favorite genre? Do you switch around or stay put?

I’ve been reading so much over the past couple of years that I’ve meandered through several. I always have a tender spot for the classics – especially British literature, but I took a long detour through the science fiction/fantasy aisle that led me into some pretty fantastic worlds (GOT, WOT). I always enjoy a thriller/suspense novel that keeps me guessing and I’ve read some good modern lit lately. I also have a soft spot for guy humor (it’s a guilty pleasure but Tropper makes me laugh out loud.)

I love to read and now that I’m not knee deep in baby dolls and Barbies, I’ve discovered a thing called “time”. When the kids got their cars, it went from “Daddy’s Home!” excitement to “see you later, old man” in what feels like the blink of an eye. But I’m not complaining; I want them to be independent and get on with life. It’s good for them and leaves me time to read.

I listen to books on my commute, too. Do you consider that reading? I do, but some people are opinionated about it. I will always be partial to paper and there here have been a couple that I’ve stopped listening to because the language was so beautiful I wanted to see the printed word. The Goldfinch was one of those.

I stumbled across a title that intrigued me recently: They Both Die in the End. It was listed as YA – which isn’t typical for me. About a year ago a trusted friend recommended a YA book and one of my girls asked me how my vampire love book was coming along. To be precise, it was vampire-werewolf love and It wasn’t going well, either. I don’t understand love on the whole, nor do I want to read about it – especially across monster species.

Anyway, They Both Die in the End has a fantastic premise – there’s a company that knows the day you will die and as a service to you, they let you know early in the day. That way you can do whatever you need to do to make your end day count. We’re introduced to these two young men who both got the call. They are very different, but meet on the “Last Friend app” and spend their time together.

It was so well-written. The characters leapt off the page and the story: WOW! The takeaway is that we should all live every day like it’s our last – a lesson I have learned the hard way. Check out this line, “Every new minute we’re alive is a miracle.”

It is a great book – even with a little romance thrown in because it was handled so well that a guy who doesn’t like to read love stories (me) was okay with it. Anyway, it wasn’t until I was sharing the link to it with my book friend that I noticed on the details tab that it isn’t just YA, it was YA-LGBT – a genre I didn’t know existed. At the same time, I also realized the genre label didn’t matter all that much to me. A good book is a good book.

I’m not sure how 25-year-old Mark would have responded, but the 51-year-old version is much more mellow about such things. Actually, I do know how that young, judgy knucklehead would have responded and it makes me a little sad. These days I think that books should be judged by the content of their pages, not what label classifies them. And we readers should read whatever genre we want or read them all.

Whatever makes us happy.

What’s Your Story?

When I was a boy, I was big. Despite my size, I had great hands and a good arm. But none of that mattered when I put on my helmet and shoulder pads because the coach only saw big. I got in line with the boys trying out for quarterback and wide receiver, but he moved me to the offensive line and told me that the only time I got to touch the ball was if there was a fumble. And if there was a fumble, I was only allowed to fall on the ball – never, ever, never, ever, never try to pick it up.

Note the discontented #63 who is not #12 or #88

I remember one game, we were losing late and the coach called a screen to my side of the field. The play developed and I ran ahead to block. I couldn’t see the action behind me, but we kept moving downfield – no whistle, so I kept blocking. As I approached the end zone, something strange must have happened and I saw the ball in front of me at about the 5 yard-line. I wasn’t engaged with a defender at the time, so nature took over and I grabbed the ball and ran into the end zone. An offensive lineman’s dream. I scored the winning touchdown!

Everyone was cheering and crowding around me… except my coach.

At the ensuing practice, my coach yanked my facemask and pulled me all over the field while yelling, “You had one job. One job! Fall on the ball!” I ran suicides for hours and then a drill where another coach would throw a ball and I had to plop on it.

Fair? Maybe… maybe not. But it is a part of my story.

 

We are all living a story.

 

I believe stories have power. I believe that a good story, well-told can change the world.

 

There are five basic elements that a story must contain:

  • characters
  • setting
  • plot
  • conflict
  • them

 

Let’s take the Bible. It is a story book – a love story between the characters of God and Man, with Satan thrown in as an antagonist. The setting is three-fold: Heaven, Hell, and Earth. And the plot is played out over several thousand years as man demonstrates his inability to achieve holiness. The Old Testament points out continual conflict, usually brought about by the weakness and folly of man. And the New Testament shares Jesus the Savior and his atoning sacrifice as the theme and resolution of the story.

Just like he did in the Bible, God is weaving a story in and around each one of us. All of our stories are different but they will all contain the basic elements of story and they are all worth telling.

Here are seven things experience has taught me about story:

You are not the author of your story – Of course, you have input on the action – often through human fault, weakness, and disobedience. But God is writing your story and mine.

You can alter the plot – Twists and turns happen in stories. If you are dissatisfied with your story as it is being written, consult the author and look down a new path.

There will be conflict of some kind – Conflict is not a potential, it is an assurance.

Your story can be used for good – No matter how unexceptional you think your story is, remember that the author is the preeminent best-seller.

You may not be the main character of your story – For every quarterback on the football field there are five linemen. Just like when I was a boy, I did not get chosen to be the quarterback or wide receiver of my story. I am made to block for a twelve-year-old little girl.

You may not like your story – Loss, heartache, and pain may make your story seem unpalatable. But that doesn’t make it any less your story.

The resolution of a believer’s story will not take place here – For the believer, the story remains unresolved until he or she hears, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Although you are not writing your story, you have three very important roles to play:

  • Pay attention to how those elements that make up your story come together.
  • Decide how your story can be used to benefit others.
  • Share your story as often as possible to help as many people as possible.

 

 

Your story matters and deserves to be told.