f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Day 13 (the Last) of Genre – General Fiction

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Friday, August 13, 2004

Day 13 (the Last) of Genre – General Fiction

Circus stories fall into this category. Books about dead girls looking down from heaven. Books about people trying to teach their dogs to talk. Novels about orphanages. Or dysfunctional families. Or baseball. It’s really a catch-all category.

We’re going to get into this further next week, but it appears that there are two ways you can go about writing. The first is to look at the market, see what people like, and write something for them. Almost always when you do this, you’re writing in a genre because peoples’ likes have been quantified and focused. You’re given boundaries and guidelines and pretty much a running start at a novel.

Your other option is to come up with a story and work on the principle that if you tell it well enough, readers will enjoy it to. I think that’s how a lot of general fiction gets written.
It’s an important distinction. (And usually it’s not an either/or situation. Usually you’re doing some of both.) But our attitude toward it guides our writing and our books and tells us a lot about what we want out of it and what we want readers to get out of it.

Getting back to general fiction, about the only rule is that you can’t be following any rules much beyond basic grammar and storytelling principles.

The names writing in this genre are legion. Irving, Updike, and Chabon. Erdrich, Tyler, and Proulx. Dale Cramer and Ann Tatlock. Lisa Samson and Melody Carlson and Vinita Wright. Me.

We are all, it seems, following the lead of Toad the Wet Sprocket who once sang (in a nifty, pulsing song) “I wasn’t looking for heaven or hell/ Just someone to listen to the stories I tell.”

More on Monday.

Also, on an incredibly last minute note, I will be away from blogging for over a week starting Aug. 20. If you’ve a thought or two you’d like to submit for posting, let me know. I like to have something new go up everyday and I may not have the time to double on my own writing. Mostly it needs to be coherent, somewhat focused to the topic of this blog, and less than 600 words.