Friday, September 5, 2008

What's Up, Cop?

A cop approaches, sits down and says to me, "Hey, can you write a story about me?" I tell him, "Not a problem," and dig in, or should I say, he digs in. Because that's how it's really gone since said cop paid me a visit, and by the way, this all took place in that vast gray area located between my ears.

Since 2003 this cop has told me his story. But his isn't a story about life as a cop. His is a story about life. Cop doesn't define him, and therefore doesn't define my story in which he plays a major role - he's not young and ripped, doesn't have a great head of hair and dazzling smile. He's just an older, emotionally bankrupt, guy.

So how do I sell this story to the genre fiction world? Ever since I created the story it's come under scrutiny for not depicting a cop by whatever the cop standard is. I've had comments such as, "I've never known a cop to act like that? Shouldn't he be retired by now? That doesn't follow standard cop procedure."

"Fine. You're all right," I say, but then do what I want anyway because it's not a cop story.

Follow my drift, please. I write about the human condition. The characters are based on people whose paths I've crossed somewhere in time. These characters come to me from deep in my subconscious where aspects of several personalities have accumulated. Cops, doctors, stockbrokers, artists and cowboys, to name a few. All people whose paths have crossed mine, leaving a bit of their blue print tattooed to my gray cells.

Yet, this could possibly impede my quest for publication because as soon as an occupation makes itself visible, then somehow scrutiny tries morphing the story into a play-by-play of the job description.

I do so hope that I'm wrong about that. To date no agent has rejected me because the story wasn't cop-ish. They seem to find other reasons for rejection, such as, "Not selling now; love your voice - hate the character, etc."

Another impediment that concerns me is that my stories have a strong male point of view. And again I face where to market my gems. Women's Fiction? I don't know. My current finished, but still a work in progress, has both hero/heroine, yet, it's the hero who gets the first part of the story. Her point of view doesn't come into play until much later.

Writing novels can be so baffling. At times I think that maybe I should stick to essays or poetry, but always there's a character popping in to say, "Hey, write my story." Doctors, cowboys, cops and artists, to name a few, all come knocking and sometimes so loudly they shake my cranium loose.

How can I ignore them all? How can I not allow one story to pigeon hole my career into several more of the same thing? How can I convince others that I don't write about cops, doctors, artists and cowboys, but that I prefer sticking to who they are an not what they do for a living?

For in my world what one does to make a living doesn't define who they are. There is no one personality that fits all cops, cowboys, doctors and artists.

It's the heart that defines my characters, their soul a back-up. Is there a genre for them? Must all my stories be about ones life occupation rather than pre-occupation with life?

Put on your agent hats and tell me how you'd market my work.


Devon Ellington said...

Gut instinct -- lit fiction. Try Algonquin at Chapel Hill Press.

I publish under a half a dozen names in both fiction and non-fiction. That way, I can't be boxed. Works better. Different names, different genres, but I can cross borders and do multi-genre when I feel like it.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like your stuff could appeal to both men and women. Probably more so women because they'd love to know what's going on in a guy's mind. Men because it is their head you're in, so they'll want to relate.

I guess it matters in terms of how your story is written. If it's character driven, then definitely literary. If it's plot driven, then commercial. Either way, I can't not see it appealing to anyone.

Kath Calarco said...

Devon, Lit Fic has crossed my mind - but I don't like getting too literary. Part of my plan is to query agents and let them figure me out. (Good luck with that one.)

Kath Calarco said...

Marcia, I'd want both sexes to read me,but I know if I ever get lucky enough to land an agent and they stick me in women's fiction, then in all likelihood, I'll be marketed to that audience. (I could be so wrong - I hope.)

At this stage of the game I'll take whatever shelf space is offered, but first I need better direction. Perhaps I should query broad spectrum agents.

Edie said...

Kath, this is something you'll have to figure out for yourself. I'm still working on what I'm doing. But mine is never about the career; it's always about the character.

Kath Calarco said...

Well, Edie, at least I'm in excellent company. But now that I'm secure in knowing my work is character driven, I won't feel so bad about lack of plot, lol.