What is My Genre?

I am hard at work determining what genre might best fit my novel Seep. Knowing your genre provides scaffolding and direction for story development. Genre clarity also makes your work more attractive to publishers.

The basic premise of Seep is that in a typical, mundane world, the door between the realms of the living and the dead has been jammed nearly closed for centuries. This has resulted in an overabundance of starving, earth-bound spirits.

Based on my experiences as a reader, I wondered if this story might fit into the genre of magical realism, so I went researching.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Within the bounds of this genre, I discovered a specialized candy shop of ideas: Glass jars brimming with bright gumballs of fabulism, boiled sweets of the marvelous real, sugar whorls of the baroque, lollipops of Latin literary forms, and caramel creams of German art critique.

Like anyone with limited pocket change, I had to keep in mind what I really wanted the most in the face of such bounty. I was here to identify my genre, not to overindulge in too many sweets. With a mighty application of willpower, I only sampled enough to get a taste.

In a Nut Shell

Magical realism is a sub-genre of fantasy. Here, stories are set in our everyday world alongside a coexisting element of magic or the supernatural. The people in the story, and the narrator, take this combination of the regular and extraordinary as read. What the reader might perceive as fantastical is not questioned or explained, forcing the reader to also normalize the premise. These stories surface the magic of everyday life and allow for explorations into the nature of reality.

(Above my pay grade is more academic discussions of how this form can be a  platform for political subversion, exploration of societal mores, and facilitating revolution. But, I do love this quote from 1920s art critic Franz Roh: “With the word ‘magic’ as opposed to ‘mystic’ I wish to indicate that the mystery does not descend to the represented world, but rather hides and palpitates behind it”.)

Books in the realm of magical realism that I have read:

What is My Genre: Reprise

So, does Seep belong to the genre of magical realism?

In some ways, it does. It is housed in a realistic, contemporary setting with a supernatural element. However, I think I am going to be violating the rule of narrator reticence. I have deeply explored the whys of my supernatural elements. I am looking forward to threading that explanation throughout the narrative.

Also, my research about magical realism made its stories feel like high art with deep underlying meaning. When Seep plays out in the theater of my mind, it has the feel of indulgent escapism. I’m not trying to make a commentary on anything, just telling a story.

So, the jury is still out, but my gut tells me that what I am writing isn’t quite magical realism. It’s not fancy or meaningful enough.

I think I have some more genre exploring to do, starting with urban fantasy.

Not an Excuse to Stop Writing

In the meantime, I am going to keep writing Seep. It would be very easy to let this exploration get in the way of the essential work of getting the words on the page.