Defining Your Genre

Q: I have authored a horror novel, and am delighted with the finished product. However, as I worked on the piece, I came to realize that it was not only about the supernatural themes involved. It was more about the struggle and empowerment of the four main characters.

All were from different backgrounds, with contrasting lives, yet one event thrust them together. They weren’t ready for it, they each had issues of their own. But, they came together and learned much about their own abilities. The novel ends with a deep friendship between all of them. They formed a special bond and it has stayed strong a year after the event.

Would a novel such as this still fall into the category of general horror? The emphasis is on many different elements. It has been difficult to choose a single quality. -Laura

This book sounds like it’s got more to it than a genre, or general, horror story. Depending on the complexity of the storyline, and the quality of the writing, it may fall into the category of literary horror.

In literary horror youll find more complex character development, and a plot that moves as the characters change and grow as much or more than it is propelled by actual events. Two fairly recent titles come to mind: Incubus, by Ann Arensberg (Knopf), and The Sabbathday River, by Jean Hanff Korelitz (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).

A quick trip to Amazon will give you summaries and reviews of these books. As an Amazon reviewer wrote of Incubus: “Arensen raises many questions about religion, marriage, and the supernatural, and handles the subject matter with unflinching objectivity.”

As you can see, her book handles a lot of different elements as well. Check out the reviews, and the books themselves, and if they feel familiar, youll know its literary horror youve written.

Anne Bowling
Editor of 2001-2005 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Markets
Writer’s Digest Books