books / publication / writing

How Do You Classify Your Writing?

It has only been on the hunt for publication that I have ever questioned the sort of thing I was writing. To me, it was literary fiction — but is it?

A friend of mine once lent me Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, saying “This is one of those children’s books that just stays with you forever.” As I read the book, I thought, it’s not really a book for children in the same way that Spongebob Squarepants isn’t really a cartoon for children.Classifying-fiction

In fact, there were many references in Bradbury’s book that children wouldn’t even understand and many words that were unlikely to be in their vocabularies. But if you look at the story on the surface, or came up with a blurb for it, it would indeed seem like the plot to a children’s adventure book — and yet there is so much more to it. I am sure children can enjoy it on one level, and adults on another entirely. The same is true for the famous sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea.

But if you’re sending in your writing to literary magazines or agents, you must classify it. If you don’t, you’ll probably pick the wrong lit mag or agent. And even if you do chance upon an agent who might be a good fit, they want to know where it might be placed on the bookshelves or they’re not interested.

Many books with children in the lead role, especially those written in the first person, such as To Kill A Mockingbird, have been classified, in the past, as children’s books. It has only been with time that they have transcended that label and are now called classics, read by adults and young readers alike.

There are many books that defy labelling – such as the Gormenghast Trilogy, which I reckon should have a genre classification all of its own.

I still have a real problem classifying my own work. It’s certainly not genre fiction. It does have elements of literary fiction. I like to play with words, sounds, images, themes and psychology, and what I write does, I hope, have a greater meaning than the words on the page.

Some of my short stories would not look out of place in a horror magazine, but they are not stories written for the sake of gore – they are about psychology and humanity. Others contain elements of Magic Realism, and yet I would not label them solely as that.

At the moment, I’m sticking with “accessible literary fiction” and will wait until I get greater feedback before I can honestly say what it is I’m writing. Have you run into the same issue?

 

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6 thoughts on “How Do You Classify Your Writing?

  1. I really think that sticking to one genre or classifying a story under one genre is sometimes not fitting. My stories do have fiction to them but I like to combine fiction with real life situations that I couldn’t just call it one or another.

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  2. I’m a Ray Bradbury fan also. I read him when I was young (at age 11) and loved how his short stories moved between science fiction, fantastical scenarios, and psychological horror. Though these are considered genres, I think his stories were grounded in real human motivations. His characters felt “real.” That’s all I would want from my own fiction : )

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can not speak well enough of Ray Bradbury. He plays with words like Naboknov, conjures images I only thought possible from childhood reading. And he writes what makes sense to the imagination, not necessarily to the conscious mind. He’s a genius.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have noticed many modern writers do not wish to be trapped by genre. Perhaps it is time to renew how we see writing. To my mind you can see things as historical, current, and future focused – yet you could also view works in regards to how they intersect with the plane of reality, Bradbury’s works for example are often way, way out there.

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