When Literary Fiction Meets Genre

I’ve always loved noir, and nothing appeals to me on a windy autumn evening like a Wilke Collins novel. I adore finding fine writing in a good story, or an exceptional tale with well-developed, nuanced characters. We like to make distinctions in the writing world, and the idea that a novel or story cannot fit comfortably into both literary and genre strikes me as odd. I suspect such distinctions make things easier for marketers, but not for writers.

When I designed this workshop (Wednesdays, 4:30-9:00, Jan 13, 2016 – Feb 17, 2016) for The Hudson Valley Writers’ Center, I wanted to share what I learned while writing and then shopping around my first novel, THE SINGING BONE. It’s general fiction, it’s thriller, it’s literary suspense. While writing, I enjoyed playing with the edges of genre, turning things this way and that, and sometimes subverting traditionally expected outcomes.

I’ve included the course description here, but I’m also teaching a one-day workshop (Saturday, January 9, 4:30) on the same topic, so check that out if you’d just like to join me for a day. I think it will be really fun.

When Literary Fiction Meets Genre

Course Description: This course addresses the special needs of the writer who would like to close the gap between literary fiction—which often focuses on social dynamics and the inner lives of characters, and genre writing, which is more dependent on plot and story dynamics—to create a tighter, more plot-driven style of fiction that maintains a rich grasp on language and complex interpretation of our inner and outer worlds.

Readings: Each week, we will discuss excellent writing that meets the genres of mystery, thriller, noir, sci-fi, romance, and horror. Among others, readings will include the works of Cara Hoffman, Tana French, Donna Tartt, Colson Whitehead, Phil Hogan, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Jim Thompson.

Assignments: Assignments will be based on readings. They will range from one-paragraph in-class work to weekly longer writing assignments. At mid-point in the workshop, a student will have the choice to turn one of his or her pieces into a more sustained work.

Feedback: Each student will receive equal feedback from the instructor. Student writing will be subject to group critiques.

Goal: This course will inspire students to delve into the genre toolbox to create layered and meaningful page-turning fiction.