Thursday, June 17, 2010

I can't classify what I write!

I often struggle when asked to categorize what type of fiction I write. Many times I even go out of my way to avoid labeling my work. If I must choose, I look over the grab bag of ‘in style’ terms that come closest: fantasy; romance; erotica; paranormal; urban fantasy; time travel. I’ve included a list of those below with definitions. Usually, while gritting my teeth, I select by process of elimination. Fantasy is the only label that fits all of my work thus far. I happily accept that one, but the others leave me wanting something else.

I’m just finishing a short story, Sea Glass and Sand Memories, that I’m pleased does allow me to sticker with “paranormal.” It has a ghost and a witch who function in present day, real life. However, once again, elements of erotica exist, so do I call it paranormal erotica?

More difficult to classify is my upcoming book, Tears on a Tranquil Lake, which involves a young woman, Ciel, who is turned into a mermaid by a merman. As a human, she is sad and he sees her crying. He wishes to take her into his world so she will be happy and ease his own loneliness. However, a pirate captain puts a kink in his plans and works hard to gain her attention. This rivalry involves plenty of magical and romantic adventures, including sex. It’s not a strict romance in form, so cross off that label. Check the box for erotica – there is sex, although nothing kinky. I’m not into the idea of the merman and pirate captain having an intimate encounter. The definition of paranormal includes ‘operating in the normal world.’ That won’t get a checkmark, since I created the world. Same for urban fantasy. So, I’ve selected fantasy and erotica, which seems good to describe the content to readers, but is not a typical bookstore category. Usually, they divide into fantasy or erotica or fantasy romance.

My novel in progress, Illusions of Intimacy, would follow the same analysis, but I’d also accept the label of time travel. Fantasy + Time Travel + Erotica – even more difficult to neatly define. At this point, frustration hits and I’m just dying for a new term to wrap around all those parts. Since I’ve started yet another long work that fits this same pattern, maybe I should coin my own term? Time Travel Trysts?  

I’m open for ideas.
 ***
Fantasy is many things to many people. These tales contain at least one 'fantastic' element; something that it's not 'grown up' to believe is real. The setting may be our own Earth or some imaginary realm. Often the characters (humans, and/or elves and more) can do magical things, thanks to some innate 'talent' or arcane secrets. Those of good character usually win through, if only in the long run.

Romance might be between a hunky sailor and a fair maiden, or a cynical vampire and a scrappy werewolf, but after a lot of sparks and trials, that is what they will secure. The settings and intensity may vary, but the overall 'finding happiness together' formula is familiar indeed.
Erotica: Focuses heavily on the sexual relationships between the characters. Erotica usually pushes sexual boundaries with topics such as multiple partners and kinky situations.

Paranormal means a phenomena outside the range of the normal. Paranormal romance is often about creatures of another kind/species/race operating in the normal world, whether humans are aware of their existence or not. Some typical paranormal creatures include werewolves, fairies, vampires, or witches.

Urban Fantasy: Fantastic elements are incorporated into a modern-day, urban setting. Often protagonists must navigate a fantasy world that coexists with the “real world,” and includes elements of magic, or magical/paranormal creatures such as werewolves, fairies, vampires, or witches. Usually, female protagonists struggle to come to terms with their powers and world.

Time Travel subgenre tales are interstitial, with that 'fantasy' (or 'science fiction') type element adding both opportunity and challenge. The lovers are separated by a normally insurmountable barrier, whether a few years or many centuries.

References:
CLARIFYING SUBGENRES & THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CATEGORY AND SINGLE TITLE,A cheat sheet by Virna DePaul (http://www.virnadepaul.com/)

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2 comments:

Lin said...

I have trouble figuring out what label to tack onto my writing too. I finally decided to not bother pidgeon holing myself...just accept what my muse churns into life and let everyone esle worry about the label. I'm eclectic!

Karen McGrath said...

Hi Marsha, I always have trouble defining mine as well. As an editor, for classification when there's Erotica, it goes under that label first. Then it would be Fantasy for the fantastic elements of the mermaid. After that it would be Romance for the flavor of the story. So Erotica Fantasy Romance. Sometimes genres blur, what can you do?!

I appreciate the definitions you posted. Wikipedia is good as well.

Karen