Jump to content

Disclaimer

Photo

Ambiguity in Genre


  • Please log in to reply
11 replies to this topic

#1 jmarshburn

jmarshburn

    New Member

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 93 posts
  • Literary Status:just starting, emerging, unagented
  • LocationUS Southeast

Posted 18 March 2012 - 12:57 PM

Hello AQC!

I am a newbie, but I'm very excited to have just finished my second draft of a novel I've been working on for (too long) six years. I am doing quick spell and grammar check, and carefully picking a select few friends to take a look at it while I put together a query. My problem is I'm not sure where the story falls into a genre. I know queries should include the genre, but what do you do when genre is not so clear cut. Let me practice writing a synopsis, and see if anyone can find a genre for what I've written:


For eight months, Liz repeatedly explained to family, friends, and strangers that she was not pregnant, only to arrive in the doctor's office and discover she was wrong. Now, a week after giving birth and choosing to surrender her child for adoption, she is recounting the story to her therapist, Dr. Benning. Dr. Benning, concerned at the layers of denial and avoidance inherent in her story, helps Liz to realize that the loss of a child, even by choice, is cause for grief.

Thanks in advance for any help. Having read the genre descriptions, my first inclination is Women's Fiction, but let me know if you see anything different.

-Jenn

Jenn
http://writingsonwri....wordpress.com/



Becoming a writer is not a 'career decision' like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don’t choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you’re not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.' - Paul Auster


#2 KrystenH

KrystenH

    Lady of the Dragons

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 701 posts
  • Literary Status:just starting, emerging, unagented
  • LocationCanada

Posted 18 March 2012 - 01:03 PM

Sounds like literary fiction to me, maybe women's fiction.

I would market it as women's fiction but that's just me. Wait and see what the other AQC-era say.
Shadow's Dawn (EF) -- Querying/ Editing

Morning Darkness (EF) -- WIP

Evening Light and untitled fourth book (EF) -- Outlining/Planning

#3 Tom Preece

Tom Preece

    Word Warrior

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 939 posts
  • Literary Status:unagented
  • LocationUS Northwest
  • Publishing Experience:Virtually none. Long long ago in college I was published in a couple of student magazines

Posted 18 March 2012 - 02:05 PM

Hmmm. I think it's important to remember that "genre" is a marketing device. I think everyone writes for an audience. Not everyone is interested in history, but when our colleague Litgal publishes a novel about historical characters she can be certain that her audience are those who take an interest in such things.

Your synopsis is way to brief to let me hazard a guess. Women's fiction is but one possibility.

I can imagine your MC emerging from a psychological fog in a suspense thriller. How is it that she came to be pregnant but did not know of it? Was she aware of taking a lover, or was perhaps drugged and raped? Is the father a loving human who wants her to love him, or is the father a villain, indifferent, diabolical and manipulative. I can see the end of our story, but not the conflicts that propel it too that end,and I think the nature of the conflicts has everything to do with the possible genre's that might be used for marketng.

Let me share with you some of my own marketing dilemma's at the risk of boring AQC members who may have already read too much about it.

My first three chapters are set in combat in Vietnam. According to most of my beta readers, these chapters are the most vivid, riveting, confusing as combat is etc. etc. etc. I think I would lose a bunch of readers if I cut these chapters and they in fact establish the major basis of conflict for four main characters in the balance of the book. Chapter 4 is set in 2005. The inciting incident is a telephone call from the platoon commander to one of his men announcig that some sort of investigation may be in progress to place blame and responsibility for a murder that maskd as a death during combat.

I know I am writing about the scars of war. One of those scars in many men and women is the ambiguity of truth in the fog of combat. This is a serious topic, and one I think that has serious literary merit. I am trying to convey the full cost of war to a country that seems oblivious to it. I am a veteran of that old war and I have reestablished contact with all but one of the men who were my companions. All of us were marked, some more deeply than others, and not all to a bad purpose, but I would guess that a least half of my companions paid disability benefits today and of those half of them suffer from some deep and penetrating psychological harm.

When I began to write this book, I thought of it as a literary novel, but I realized finally that I was writing this book to the audience of my old platoon. They weren't going to read literary tome. They would be more likely to pick up a paperback in a bus station or an airport, and I had better write something that was entertaining.

The form of the book is that of mystery,but one that develops in an odd way. The problem the MC sets out to solve isn't the real problem. When he solves the given mystery, he is confronted with the other. When he solves that one, he appears to be freed from a burden he knew he was carrying, but by the end of the book has (fairly poetically I think) taken full responsibility for another one.


The Last Lost Warrior is about certain kinds of lives, but it's also about story itself and how we answer our doubts with the stories we tell or can't tell about ourselves. In that regard I think this book is a literary novel.

The combat sequence is a real as I can make it, and clearly from my test readership it communicates very clearly. This novel would be at least of some interest to those who are fond of military stories. Marketeers of military fiction may be interested.

Finally, this book is clearly a thriller, (one of my beta readers refers to it as page turner whenever the subject comes up among mutual friends,) as well as a mystery. The hero is a retired Police Chief. One of the characters is a working undercover detective. There is a major crime figure who gets taken down.

I can put many, many genre labels on this book, but whic one to use isn't really my problem. The term genre is simply something I'm going to use while I shop for an agent.

So... on our parent website agentquery.com I select full search. I check the boxes next to all of the following genre's: mystery, commercial fiction, military/espionage, and crime. I don't check literary because as a lifelong student of literature, I think I know what that is, but I think publishers have less of an idea, and are mostly afraid of it unless folks in the literary canon business have lionized somebody. When I clicked on search with this much narrowed selection 21 agents pop up. When I have finished drafting my synopsis and have completed my outline, I will research these 21 as my first candidate agents. If this list becomes exhausted I will tinker with fewer selections to find more agents. Finally I will simply look for agents in each of these genre's.

You don't need to decide what your genre is. Your agent and/or publisher will decide that. Try to imagine every possible genre it might be fit into.

#4 Darke

Darke

    ~Official AQC Cookie Provider~

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,048 posts
  • Literary Status:self-published, unagented
  • LocationCanada
  • Publishing Experience:I've had several short stories published with online magazines within the last two years. Currently, I am self-publishing my paranormal series. See my blog for more details.

Posted 18 March 2012 - 03:33 PM

Unless there is some kind of paranormal or scifi connection, I would consider this literary fiction.

No disrespect to Mr. Preece, but you should figure out what category your novel falls into, as you would not query a paranormal mystery story to an agent who doesn't represent that genre and vice versa. First rule of querying--know the genre the agent reps. You send them something they don't rep, and they'll delete it and send you a nice form letter back saying they don't rep that.

~I am neither an author nor a writer; I am a storyteller with good grammar.~

darkes_cover_4_sparkletn.jpg Book2TN.jpg darkescovenwtTN.jpg

 

demonthumbnail.jpg


#5 jmarshburn

jmarshburn

    New Member

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 93 posts
  • Literary Status:just starting, emerging, unagented
  • LocationUS Southeast

Posted 18 March 2012 - 04:28 PM

Thanks for the advice. I have to admit I'm surprised to hear the Literary Fiction suggestions, but maybe that's lingering lack of confidence issues. I will post a query draft when I get it ready. Thanks again!

Jenn
http://writingsonwri....wordpress.com/



Becoming a writer is not a 'career decision' like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don’t choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you’re not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.' - Paul Auster


#6 Tom Preece

Tom Preece

    Word Warrior

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 939 posts
  • Literary Status:unagented
  • LocationUS Northwest
  • Publishing Experience:Virtually none. Long long ago in college I was published in a couple of student magazines

Posted 18 March 2012 - 09:59 PM

Don't think you disrespected me one bit Darke. I just think that many works belong in several genre's I agree you have decide how to present it and to whom.

#7 AQCrew

AQCrew

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • 2,205 posts
  • Literary Status:industry insider
  • LocationPacific Islands

Posted 06 May 2012 - 07:13 AM

This sounds like women's fiction. You will get more interest from agents if it's women's fiction. And the prose that you use to describe your book don't evoke "literary fiction" to us.

#8 vondrac

vondrac

    New Member

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 111 posts
  • Literary Status:just starting, emerging, unagented
  • LocationAustralia/New Zealand

Posted 06 May 2012 - 11:04 AM

It was my understanding that Literary Fiction was simply character-driven stories rather than those cut-and-dry plot-driven stories. I don't know, it sounds very emotionally and character driven so my vote would be women's or literary fiction, the former being a hot ticket at the moment, I'm told, so that's where my vote lies.

#9 jmarshburn

jmarshburn

    New Member

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 93 posts
  • Literary Status:just starting, emerging, unagented
  • LocationUS Southeast

Posted 06 May 2012 - 11:33 AM

I am anticipating querying under both genres. Is this done sometimes, or will I risk losing agents interest?

Jenn
http://writingsonwri....wordpress.com/



Becoming a writer is not a 'career decision' like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don’t choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you’re not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.' - Paul Auster


#10 vondrac

vondrac

    New Member

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 111 posts
  • Literary Status:just starting, emerging, unagented
  • LocationAustralia/New Zealand

Posted 07 May 2012 - 02:55 AM

Many agents represent both literary and women's fiction so you gotta pick a team for those sorts of agents. Otherwise, if an agent reps lit but not specifically women's, I don't see why you couldn't go that way.

#11 Cat Porter

Cat Porter

    Kitty

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 86 posts
  • Literary Status:just starting, emerging
  • LocationUS Southeast
  • Publishing Experience:Published in a poetry book displaying the work of young authors in Kentucky. I also had two articles published in my high school yearbook, but does that really count?

Posted 08 May 2012 - 09:17 AM

An agent won't dwell on one mistake in your query, especially if the genre is ambiguous anyway. At least, this is what I read here http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/08/how-to-write-query-letter.html from author Nathan Bransford. If your book sounds interesting, a little discrepancy with the genre won't deter the agent from reading it. I read this article http://dosomedamage.blogspot.com/2012/04/in-more-just-world-womens-fiction-vs.html and basically learned that Women's Fiction at one time fell in the category of Literary Fiction until the advent of the Women's Fiction category. I would probably categorize your book as Women's Fiction.

#12 jmarshburn

jmarshburn

    New Member

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 93 posts
  • Literary Status:just starting, emerging, unagented
  • LocationUS Southeast

Posted 12 May 2012 - 02:31 PM

Thanks for the advice, Cat. I will look up the articles you referenced.

Jenn
http://writingsonwri....wordpress.com/



Becoming a writer is not a 'career decision' like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don’t choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you’re not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.' - Paul Auster





0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users