When people ask what kind of fiction I write, I find the question rather difficult to answer. For one thing, what does any writer scribble about? In my stories, I like to think I am writing about the psychological development or deterioration of a certain set of characters. Most of my stories deal with the notion of self-identity versus prescribed identity. And more often than not, somewhere in my stories social norms are placed in an interrogation room.
However, if I tell someone the aforementioned when they ask about my writing, they will mostly likely fall dead from immense boredom. Take Excluded for example. When I created the novel some four years ago, the notion of change was in my mind and not because of any certain democrat's campaign. I wanted to call forth the notion of change and whether human being were capable of accomplishing it. In my scenario, I felt the need to use extremes to make change apparent, if and when it occurred. But if I tried to interest people by telling them that, what would be the result? Would they really understand what takes place in the book?
No. Six individuals+change= any number of possibilities. In order to encourage people to read my book along with others, usually I describe things in terms of the set-up, premise, or an example scene. So there are six people in the house with a fear of dying. They are lost, and time is irrelevant. On the other hand, the past is crucial, for none of them knows how long they've been at the house. Now to survive, each of them has to change (sure all stories require change or no change, but I don't want to spoil anything) in some dramatic way relevant to their character.
Locked in a house. Six people. Survival. "Does anyone die?" Yes, some people die. "So it's a horror novel."
And I cringe, although I really shouldn't. Somehow slapping a genre label on any piece of literature is a sort of disclaimer: This is genre fiction, which is meant for entertainment purposes, rather than intellectual ones. Don't believe me, Google it.
Genre fiction is often called "popular fiction", which is a fairly strange phrase, because in the land of academia, what is often deemed popular is often to the contrary. For some reason, the popularity of the genre form makes it less credible. What I find interesting, though, is that there is no true separation between genre and literary works. The argument is that writing should somehow mirror real-life--that is, the content should be plausible and able to happen in real life. Genre fiction, on the other hand, sometimes dips until the unlikely and unrealistic. While some may argue there are several other reasons, I believe the somewhat unrealistic nature of genre pieces is exactly what makes them possible.
But like I said, most of the lines are blurred. Flannery O'Conner's "A Good Man is Hard to Find" is undoubtedly a literary work. But if you think about the scenario at hand, it is largely fear-based, which is a convention of horror fiction. Also, the final scene uses a few more horror conventions. Conventions, sure, but does that make O'Conner a horror fiction writer? No, it's still literary.
For another example, check out 1984, a paramount work by Bret Easton Ellis. 1984 is arguably a science fiction novel. Genre. Yet, overtime the novel has grown to become a favorite amongst the masses as well as a classic in the literary world. In this case, time erased the lines separating genre and literary, or at least, stabbed the stigma (genre is not as serious) to death.
And, of course, before you are completely bored, I need to address the giant elephant standing in bookstores across the world and everywhere on the Interwebs. Stephen King. A horror novelist once shunned for simply being a genre writer. However, over time King, like Ellis, has become recognizable by the literary world. While we may classify him as a horror writer because of Carrie, The Shining, The Stand, and so on, it's worth noting that his other works include The Green Mile, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, etc.
(To be continued . . . )
Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.