My new edition of Writer’s Digest arrived and it’s all about genre. I’ve been hearing a lot about genre lately and it’s got me questioning my own categorical preferences. How do I want my own story to be classified?
I think of “Talulah Jones” as literary fiction. The stories that I love, and that have influenced me so far in my writing of this particular tale, are other works of literary fiction such as The Secret Life of Bees, A Thousand Acres, and Winter’s Bone.
Second to literary fiction comes magic realism – Jitterbug Perfume, House of the Spirits, the short stories of Gabriel García Márquez’s Leaf Storm. I find my self absolutely swept away by the whimsy of these works. I strive to incorporate subtle magic and almost-impossible angles into my own story because I love the dynamic they add.
Third, since my story takes place on a farm in the American southwest, the genre my story could be stuck into is (eep) western. I love GOOD westerns. My favorite book of all time is Lonesome Dove. The reason I dread the label of western is that most genre western, with the cowboys and the fainting women on the cover, are filled with tired cliches and predictable stories. Believe me, I know. When I first realized that my story is western-ish, I forced myself to read a bunch of the westerns from the rack of the supermarket. Ug. At least they taught me what not to write. While I guess I have to accept that on some basic levels my story is a western, there will be no whore with a heart of gold, no misunderstood Chinese man who saves the scarlet fever-stricken child with acupuncture, no tall, handsome stranger who rescues the town from El Guapo.
If I had to label my novel (in its current, uncompleted state) it would be “a work of literary fiction with touches of magic realism, set in the American Southwest.” When agents ask, I simply say “literary fiction.”