Various Categories of Genre Fiction - Where Does My Book Fit?

When I first began querying Ripple the Twine a couple years ago, in an early attempt to garner an Agent, I thought I knew exactly what category my book fell into.  Sara Quinn is a spunky, single, thirty-something who lives in the city, works for herself and considers her friends her family.  Obviously Chick-Lit.  Bingo!

But then I started writing up the queries and it hit me that this book is almost a polar opposite to the standard accepted definition of Chick-Lit.  Because, although all of that above information is true, Sara isn’t really the girliest of girls either.

Sara has no real interest in fashion; she’d rather have a snazzy pair of jogging shoes than Jimmy Choos.  She doesn’t meet the girls for cocktails in trendy locales; she drinks beer at her friend’s bar.  You won’t find Sara at the opening of a new must-see; she’ll be singing along every Thursday night to support her best friend’s band.  She’s a Sportswriter, a Tomboy, analytical and somewhat shy.

So then how can I justify Ripple the Twine as Chick-Lit when all of everyone defines the genre with someone like Carrie Bradshaw?  Carrie is a still-hot-in-her-thirties, spunky and culturally diverse woman with loads of internal baggage, but clear career focus, living in the city.

But that’s my character too!

Sara’s trends are just Boston, not NYC.  In Boston it is perfectly acceptable to wear your “nice” button up Red Sox shirt to dinner; especially on game days.  Her culture comes in the form of sports and live music and the fun sides of knowing a bar owner.  She’s been hurt viciously and carries it with her still.  She’s been blocking out the possibility of finding a real relationship for the better part of a decade.  But the girl is driven – she approaches her career with vigorous determination to succeed, and that, she does.

Carrie and Sara are practically the same person.  Aren’t they?  Oh, they aren’t even close?  Okay…

So then I had to consider the issue – where exactly did my book fit?  Could I label it Chick-Lit after all?  If not then how was I supposed to classify it?  How did I fully describe Sara and her life without knowing a category for it to fall into on book store shelves?  Would it be shelved incorrectly and reach the wrong audience?  Would Sara resonate with girlier women even though she was a Tomboy?

My brain was swimming as I dove into researching all the various genre fiction out there.

I came across the category of Speculative Fiction with high hopes.  It was something I’d never heard of before but speculation is always present when a girl-meets-boy.  I mean ‘speculative’ pretty much means a hypothetical situation and aren’t all happy ending love stories nothing more than imaginary (pure conjecture!) anyway?  Turns out, however, that genre is reserved for all things fantastical, dystopian, sci-fi.  Think The Hunger Games.  Next…

I considered Romance.  No dice.  My desire to write sentences like “Her head tossed back in ecstasy, he gently pulled on one end of the ribbon, the only thing stopping him from exposing her generous, milky-white bosom…” was only overshadowed by the fact that Sara would pretty likely roll her eyes at the thought of some damsel in distress scenario, not to mention the word ‘bosom’.  Moving on…

There was the possibility of being placed into Contemporary Women’s Fiction but while researching the genre I didn’t find any titles where the female gets wooed by some cute guy.  Mostly they’re stories of the woman on her own, making it her own way, and don’t generally include wit or humor.  Think Laverne and Shirley without Laverne.

Literary fiction was all around wrong.  While I feel my book has merit, the category is more along the lines of ‘can it win a Pulitzer’ than ‘will it be the perfect beach read’.  And we all know that the comedy never gets the Emmy no matter how much it made us laugh.  Think Bridesmaids.

So in the end I decided to go back to placing Sara and her friends into the category of Chick-Lit.  Although she may not be the standard definition of the genre, it is probably safe to say that no one woman really ever is.  At least she'll be in wonderfully dysfunctional company.

What genre do you write?  Does your fiction cross over into multiple categories?

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