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Determining Genre : Conversation question • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Determining Genre

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
katiedog
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Determining Genre

Postby katiedog » Sat Feb 01, 2014 4:15 pm

Help! Please. I am writing a book about a span of years in my grandfather's life at the beginning of the last century. It covers a political scandal involving public figures in Pennsylvania which resulted in the murder of a police detective by thugs imported from New York.

Would this be categorized as a biographical novel? It not - please advise what genre this would be considered. Any and all advice is appreciated.

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MookyMcD
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Re: Determining Genre

Postby MookyMcD » Sat Feb 01, 2014 5:53 pm

For a bunch of reasons, I'd be inclined to call it historical fiction and change a lot of the names around. You can freely fill any gaps with speculation (or even change events just to fit your story better) if you keep it squarely in the fiction camp.

James A. Ritchie
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Re: Determining Genre

Postby James A. Ritchie » Sat Feb 01, 2014 5:55 pm


katiedog
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Re: Determining Genre

Postby katiedog » Sun Feb 02, 2014 12:13 pm


katiedog
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Re: Determining Genre

Postby katiedog » Sun Feb 02, 2014 12:19 pm


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MookyMcD
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Re: Determining Genre

Postby MookyMcD » Sun Feb 02, 2014 12:34 pm

This is a technical distinction, but worth keeping in mind if you plan to query. A historical novel is a book. Historical fiction is the genre that all historical novels are in. It's fine to say "my historical novel," and that will adequately define your genre, but don't identify "historical novel" as a genre.

And to expand on what James said a bit, even if you're trying to write it exactly as it happened, the moment you include a conversation you didn't witness, enter someone's POV or do anything beyond reporting facts you know happened, you're including things that "aren't true."

And you don't need to change the names, but you should tread more lightly if you don't. This is beyond the scope of a BB post, but I'm planning to put up a post in the Law for Writers section of my blog next week dealing with use of real people in fiction (because this question comes up a lot). It may end up taking a few posts to cover it. During the drafting stage, though, don't even worry about it.

katiedog
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Re: Determining Genre

Postby katiedog » Sun Feb 02, 2014 1:02 pm


James A. Ritchie
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Re: Determining Genre

Postby James A. Ritchie » Sun Feb 02, 2014 3:54 pm


katiedog
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Re: Determining Genre

Postby katiedog » Sun Feb 02, 2014 4:54 pm


James A. Ritchie
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Re: Determining Genre

Postby James A. Ritchie » Sun Feb 02, 2014 5:25 pm

This is also one huge advantage in having a commercial publisher, rather than self-publishing. Commercials publishers have IP attorneys who can and do vet your work, as long as you tell them everything up front, which I always do. If they say it's all right to publish, then it's all right to publish.

I use my own IP attorney for any project that won't go through a commercial publisher who has the ability to vet it.

Outside of image use in movies or advertising, there are really only two threats, libel, and invasion of privacy. You can't libel the dead, libeling the living is very difficult to prove, and invasion of privacy is pretty much never an issue unless you use information that was gained in an illicit manner. It's the same rules as writing an unauthorized biography.

Books and movies set that far in the past frequently use real people. All nonfiction books do, of course, but so do a great many novels and short stories.

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