Genre tips

#AtoZChallenge: Genres–Xperimental Fiction

The A to Z Challenge asks bloggers to post 26 articles on a themed topic. It’s supposed to be every day except Sundays during the month of April but I find that too busy and decided to post mine ‘about’ once a month. Yes, it’ll take me a couple of years. Sigh.

My topic, like the last three times, will be writing genres.

This genre:

2022-XXX

Xperimental Fiction

When this genre came up on my A to Z list, I had no idea what to do. I’d never heard of ‘Experimental Fiction’. Thankfully, efriend and author, Sheri Kennedy, aka Kennedy Quinn, blogging at Miss LiV Adventures, came to my rescue. If you haven’t met Sheri, she’s the author of seven novels including the completely original Feeling Human, an example of this genre. I’m thrilled to host Sheri as she explains what Experimental Fiction is, the process for this unusual genre, and examples. Be sure to drop in on Sheri at her various social media links:

Note to acflory: Didn’t know you too wrote this genre. Kudos!

I’m honored to be here to share with you today. As I told our host, Jacqui Murray, I’m not an expert on Experimental fiction. I’m not certain anyone is, since it’s always changing. But I’m happy to illuminate some of the features of this unusual classification. I believe I’ve written an Experimental novel, and Jacqui asked if I might give you some tips on writing one. So, I’ll also share my writing process with you.

What is Experimental Fiction?

This genre is hard to define since its basic definition is it’s fictional writing that’s falls outside of current conventions and standard genres. But let’s consider some characteristics and examples to get a sense of what Experimental fiction is all about.

One feature often associated with Experimental fiction is, ‘form is as important or more important than content, and/or it has an unusual form.’

Long Way Down

I’ve read (and own) a clear example, Long Way Down, published in 2020 by Atheneum Books, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster. Jason Reynolds wrote a National Book Award Finalist ‘novel’ in oversized text with unorthodox margins, format, content, style, etc. His writing is highly expressive, but tells a story at length, so it breaks the bounds of poetry. It takes place in the period of one minute – also highly unusual. The story is hard-hitting and outside my experience, but somehow completely relatable and moving. If it hadn’t been award-winning already, I would have suggested it win one.

Maeve Maddox, in her article, “What is Experimental Fiction” says, “Experimental fiction breaks one or more of the conventions that the reader expects to find… What is experimental to one generation of readers may not be to the next, as innovations become conventions.” So as soon as an innovative writing style, character type, moral expectation, genre mashup, thought concept, is imitated enough times to become accepted, it’s no longer Experimental. A tricky genre, indeed.

Classic Examples

A few classic examples are James Joyce’s Ulysses, Thomas Pynchon’s V, and Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Authors known for their Experimental fiction innovation are the likes of Kafka, Vonnegut and Beckett. But, as I understand it, if you write works imitative of their style, characters or ideas, yours will not be Experimental fiction as theirs was perceived, because these have already entered the canon of literature.

More Definitions, Explanations, and Examples

My favorite definition I’ve come across is from William Paterson University’s article “Experimental Fiction.” “Fiction that refuses to stay within the boundaries laid out either by traditional realistic literary fiction or by the standard genres… that often unsettles, that makes one feel uncomfortable or liberated, because it breaks rules and invents new ones… to realize that the world can be imagined in ways other than those by which we are so accustomed to imagining it. … Experimental fiction is a reminder that the universe has not yet been satisfactorily explained.”

In this vein, an online commenter named Greg, suggested ‘Experiential’ rather than ‘Experimental’ might be a good label since ‘readers can explore worlds that don’t work according to the patterns that we expect in our daily lives.’

Vokhtah

One of my favorite Indie examples is Vokhtah (The Suns of Vokhtah, Book 1) by acflory which introduces characters not immediately described and lets us see through their eyes a highly alien world filled with partially illuminated bizarre creatures. The unfolding of uncomfortably ruthless mores and plots, revealed through inventive and strange thought/speech patterns, sets the reader in an oddly bleak yet fascinating atmosphere, unlike any other I’ve encountered. So, I label it ‘Experimental.’ I also label it ‘Excellent.’

How My Writing Fits In

This ‘Experiential’ breaking of patterns in Experimental fiction is what drew me to contact Jacqui Murray. She asked for book suggestions to highlight when she reached ‘X’ in her genre themed posts for The A-Z Blogging Challenge. (Her twist of choosing ‘Experimental’ for ‘X’ is appropriate to this genre.) I told her I believe my book Feeling Human is Experimental. You can decide for yourself, if you’d like. The Kindle version is 99 cents for a limited time starting today – in honor of Jacqui’s generous invitation to feature my article in this guest post.

Feeling Human

I’ve created my own genre name to describe my novels, Reality with a Twist books, because my stories begin as questions or concepts based in known reality, but they each step beyond it in some way. Similar to Speculative fiction, but without the expectation of reference to hard science. (LIKENESS: What if everyone became the same? FEELING HUMAN: What if a person could observe others from the inside? THROUGH THE CRACKS: What if the empathy learned from one person’s pain could seep in through another’s pain to comfort them?)

Feeling Human’s Experimental status was confirmed by a book review titled, ‘Unique story,’ which said: ‘I’ve never read anything quite like this. You have a misunderstood youth, sure, but he’s very different from anyone else in the world or in literature. He also matures through events in the story unlike anyone else, too, gaining understanding and empathy for others in his travels. Engaging from the start, satisfying to the end. -KathyG’

I know this reviewer personally. She’s a very well-read author and a graduate of Clarion West. I’m humbled and amazed by her observations of Feeling Human. When she saw this character and journey as unlike anyone else in literature, I realized this story truly is outside the box and not just tricky to classify.

Explaining how Feeling Human, and my writing process, may fit this genre, will illuminate one potential process of creating – or discovering one has created – a book of this unusual classification.

Experimental Writing Process

I associated Feeling Human with the Experimental genre, since I’ve been unable to categorize it correctly with any standard genre. No matter which one I’ve tried, someone who’s educated in such matters has called me out. I also believe it’s Experimental because telling the story required creation of an usual form/format.

Much of the story is told by the main character, Jac’s, consciousness separated from his body, and the internal thoughts and feelings of the people whom his consciousness is ‘inside of’ and observing. So I had to invent a form to differentiate when those people were talking aloud to others, when he was hearing their thoughts, and when he was having his own thoughts. This required a modified format, using italics in an unconventional way. It also inspired invention of what I call ‘the wall.’ Jac could put the wall up or down consciously to muffle or hear the person’s thoughts or dreams in whose body he currently resided alongside its owner. This allowed Jac (and the reader) to observe clearly, so there wasn’t a muddled overlap of two streams of consciousness when the story setting was internal.

Tips for Writing Your Own Experimental Fiction

My best tip for writing the Experimental genre is to allow a highly creative process in your approach to storytelling and/or artistic expression with words. Don’t be afraid to express yourself any way you’d like. Study the rules and then throw them to the wind.

I start with a concept and write without an outline until I reach the end of the story arch. Then I back-outline and refine the story. But defining your path for you would defeat the advice of the tip.

While letting the characters and story unfold as they will, I create a form when necessary to express the ideas and character/story that evolves, rather than pre-deciding the form, elements and character development of my novels.

So my tip is profoundly tied to the genre name, Experimental: Feel free to experiment.

Especially if you have an unusual story idea, or if your personal perspectives are difficult to communicate to others using typical writing forms, allow yourself to express how and where your unique perspectives lead you and see what happens. Then consider feedback and/or editing to help make it accessible to readers. You might create a masterpiece that redefines literature. You never know – and that’s what Experimental is all about.

Bio:

Sheri J. Kennedy a.k.a. Kennedy J. Quinn is an individual who thrives on creating. She’s a visual artist and writer. Through the Cracks is her seventh novel. She studied philosophy, literature and communications which gave her a B.A. in Humanities. Thoughtful curiosity influences all her pursuits. She enjoys participation in her community and life with her husband in a small house on the banks of the Snoqualmie River in the mountains near Seattle, Washington, USA.

Websites:

RealitywithaTwistBooks.Wordpress.com
sherijkennedyriverside.wordpress.com
FreeValleyPublishing.com


 

Click for complete list of these 26 AtoZ genres

Click for a complete list of all genres I’ve written about

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Copyright ©2023 worddreams.wordpress.com – All rights reserved.


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Savage Land Winter 2024.

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104 thoughts on “#AtoZChallenge: Genres–Xperimental Fiction

  1. We’re back to this again. Yay! I feel like I’ve heard of this genre in passing… somewhere… maybe here? But it’s intriguing, for sure. And that book you first mention: “It takes place in the period of one minute.” Wow! Super unusual. Well done to him for his creativity.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What a great guest post, Jacqui and Sheri. And a very cool genre for the brave among us. I’ve read Vokhtah and was blown away by how original it was. Now, I have to read Feeling Human. I’m not sure this would be something I’d try as a writer, but it makes for fascinating reads, which I enjoy. Very exciting post! Thanks. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  3. At first I thought “wait, what and then I got it as I’ve never heard of this before. Wildly surprised and I’m with you as I could only do once a month too. This was an education!!! Clever and interesting with lots of good points and a plug for your book. 💞

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Such an interesting post, Jacqui and Sheri! I really appreciated the Xplanation of Xperimental Fiction. I was surprised to see how many of the books you listed as examples of Xenofiction, eXistentialist, and
    XX Erotica. That was thanks to my mother taking a world literature course by correspondence when I was 15, and she made me read all the books so she would have someone to discuss them with. I’d give just about anything in the world to be able to discuss a book with her right now. Thanks for the memories!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m heading out for the evening, but I’ll check back tomorrow to see if there is further discussion. It’s been such fun to chat with everyone today! I’m feeling newly inspired, and I hope you all are too. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you, Sheri. I’ve never come across the concept of Experimental Fiction before, but as soon as I read your definitions of the ‘un-genre’, I knew Vokhtah was finally ‘home’. I cannot tell you how happy I am at this moment. -huge hugs-

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Reblogged this on Meeka's Mind and commented:
    I’ve just met a Kindred Spirit and her name is Sheri Kennedy a.k.a. Kennedy J Quinn. Like me, she studied Philosophy at uni, and like me, she thinks and writes outside the box.
    In fact, the whole article is about Experimental Fiction, and I love it because for the first time ever, I know what to call Vokhtah. It’s not straight scifi. It’s not straight fantasy, and it doesn’t fit into any of the other sub-genres either. Until now. Vokhtah has a home, and I’m thrilled.
    I’m off to check out Sheri’s novel ‘Feeling Human’!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Pingback: Experimental Fiction and Feeling Human | FreeValley Publishing

  9. Pingback: Guest Post & Special Deal on Feeling Human | sheri j kennedy ~ Riverside

  10. This is interesting. I’ve read a good deal of Vonnegut’s writings, which I enjoy but never had thoughts of trying to write anything similar. Thanks for this introduction.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Jacqui I had a similar issue with Einstein’s Compass. The story was so unique I could not find a box to put it in. Science fiction? Historical fiction? YA? Where? My editor was equally confused. Recently discovered an artificial intelligence program called Scoreit! Barnes and Noble website had a link http://inkubate.com/scoreit-delivers-big-data-solutions-to-writers/ Inkubate’s ScoreIt!™ tool instantly analyzes and compares your manuscript to the titles of commercially published authors. It’s inexpensive to download your manuscript into the program. I downloaded Einstein’s Compass into the AI. The results were not even close to science fiction or fantasy. Three authors who wrote thrillers came up as the best fit for the category. Anyway, I have not tried the new categories in Amazon. But you might try it.

    Liked by 2 people

      • I am still downloading from my inspiration Poseidon’s Atlantis Adventure. Currently doing greater character development with some of the characters. The story is a human hybrid experiment with DNA research. Recent research in DNA PNA and RNA studies will be blended into the story. Hope to have it done by spring…of this year. We will see how my inspired channel cooperates.

        Liked by 2 people

    • I just picked up a copy of Einstein’s Compass, Grace. Thanks for sharing your experience and pointing to another example of Experimental fiction. I’m looking forward to reading it!
      And thanks for letting us know about Scoreit! I’ll share that link with my writers group and author co-op as well. I can certainly use the help figuring out where my books belong, since I just can’t seem to keep my imagination inside the lines! 😀

      Liked by 2 people

      • Wow Sheri let me know how you like Einstein’s Compass. I am using the results from Scoreit! in Amazon, where EC will be categorized as Adult Fiction and Adult Thriller. Scoreit named the authors of the Adult Fiction and Adult Thriller authors who match my writing style and published more than 30,000 books. The Amazon algorithms change so much it’s like hitting a moving target.

        Liked by 2 people

      • It’s definitely confusing to write about something that’s undefinable by nature. You set me up with quite a challenge! I enjoyed researching it further and learning more about it in the process of writing the article. And it’s fun to meet your readers, Jacqui!

        Liked by 3 people

        • My thanks for introducing us to this genre. It’s quite the challenge to explain it since, if I understood it correctly once it’s established it falls outside the genre again? Would sci-fi have been experimental fiction, then, before it got established as its own genre?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Absolutely. Even fiction novels could have been considered experimental in the publishing world in the early days of the printing press since up until then nearly everything printed was aimed at education or edification. Poetry was perhaps the most entertaining writing that made it to print, or fables – which, arguably were educational.
            But with the cheaper way to print, popular novels were born, and it took them quite a while to be accepted into literature circles.
            You likely know that sci-fi had it’s roots in magazines as short stories or serial fiction releases until it gained enough clout to be published as books. Most of the early books were anthologies rather than full length novels. Eventually small publishers took a chance and their success paved the way for a huge genre to emerge. But even today sci-fi is generally published by groups that specialize in publishing it, or at least separate imprints of the big publishers. It’s remained outside of general or literary fiction circles, even today.
            I’m seeing an interesting parallel with the history of comic books to current graphic novels.
            As another example of your ‘falling outside’ problem. Philosophy continues to stay on the fringe of Science even though nearly all forms of science have their roots in philosophy. In a similar fashion to experimental fiction, as soon as something is ‘proven’ accepted philosophy, it moves into the category of science, sometimes under a sub-science, like a sub-genre, such as psychology. Interesting question. Thanks!

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    • I agree, Another Blogger. Most Experimental works I read in small doses when in the mood, although many others are borderline to the genre and more accessible. They just don’t fit any other genre. I’m finding the borderline ones become some of my favorite books, since they give me that easy escape but add a new layer to my thoughts and understanding, or give my imagination even more room to play.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. I thoroughly enjoyed Sheri’s guest post, and, yes, Feeling Human just hit my Kindle! The takeaway from her post is, “I also believe it’s Experimental because telling the story required creation of an usual form/format.” I’ve always firmly believed that each story (or should I say expression of the human experience) has to find its own form.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I haven’t read No Country For Old Men, but I know of the film and the novel. It’s generally categorized as a Thriller or Suspense, but that’s somewhat unusual to mix with a Western setting. It was also accepted as Literary Fiction, which is highly unusual for something that can fall within the Thriller genre. So yes, I think this crossover of the difficult intensity of the violence with the literary depth of the human story in this novel could be considered experimental.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Jacqui – what an interesting genre … fascinating to read about and excellent having it explained so well … JasonReynolds has forged his own path … but great to read about Sheri … good luck to you both – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 2 people

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