Tales of a Genre Orphan

Okay, here’s the thing about genre: I don’t know where I fit.

The first novel I ever wrote . . . (well, let’s be honest, it was the first novel I tried to write) was a terrible science fiction story about a civil war between the Earth and the moon. It was amazingly awful and it clocked in at just over 50,000 words.

I’d written it for a class and my professor gave me a kind and much understated critique:  “It needs work.”

Boy did it ever. I think there was only a single scene in the entire novel where she’d penned “This is good.” Everything else was a blood bath of editing marks and suggestions.

Still, though, I was undeterred. I had the overconfidence of youth and I was sure that my genius would eventually be recognized. (Did I mention that during the writing of that novel I had decided that dialogue was overrated and that the reader would spend most of their time in the characters’ minds and the majority of my novel would be told through story action? I don’t think I can accurately describe what a train wreck this was.)

Under the tutelage of this same professor I also attempted several horror short stories. Years later, I would describe those efforts as truly awful and my professor set aside her tact so she could agree with me.

“They really were,” she said.

Ouch. Can a brother get an emotional Band-Aid?

I am nothing if not resilient, so I shrugged off this body blow and continued to work. At the same school, but under the guidance of a different professor, I completed two mystery novels, one as an undergrad and one in graduate school. Both stories were gritty and hard-boiled because, you know, I’m hard core and deep in the streets.

The results: both lacked authenticity, neither was compelling. As my newfound mentor put it, “Maybe you’re too nice for this.”

I was. I still am. I’m admittedly soft, and semi-privileged, so unless snark ever becomes deadly, I’m pretty much harmless.

But I still wanted to write, damn it! So I kept at it, even though I had no idea where I belonged.

The things I write about now, more often than not, either amuse or intrigue me. I love crafting a good joke and I’ll create an entire piece of flash fiction around a character speaking a single line of dialogue just because I think it might produce a chuckle. I also like to be freaked out, so I’ll go dark if I’m in one of those kinds of moods.

But I’m not consistent, and if I’m honest, that worries me a bit.

The novel I just completed is called Diptastic. It’s part mystery, part adventure, more of a treasure hunt than anything else, and it’s mainly me just screwing around and trying to be funny. When it was time to slap a cover page on that bad boy so I could send it out to some of my friends, I froze at the line just under the title.

That’s the place where you’re supposed to put “A Mystery Novel” or “A Horror Novel” or “A Suspense Novel.” I didn’t know what to say, so here’s what I wrote.

“Diptastic: A novel that might make you laugh, unless you’re dead inside.”

I like it. It works for this story and I think I’ll keep it. But I have no idea what I’m going to do the next time out.

I never do.

Larry Jenkins is an aspiring Word Pimp. Has laptop, will travel. Let's make this happen, people.


  • Meghan Barnes says:

    You are funny. I laugh out loud at every status update. You have found your voice. I want to read Diptastic.

  • I would like to read Diptastic, as well. I always wished I could write humor, but I’m just not funny and am seriously lacking in snark department. I have huge respect for people who can write funny, and you have the perfect voice for it. I’ve loved all of your short fiction the past year, so I am super excited for your novel!

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