notes: composite novel, novel-in-stories or just plain stories

I’ve been obsessing over this question for weeks now. What to label the book? I’m putting the final touches together for my first book and after reading more and more on the subject of genre I seem to be more confused than ever. After reading The Composite Novel–The Short Story Cycle in Transition I am more and more informed on how I make fiction and how that fits into a tradition and also into a developing genre—I have a better sense of where my work fits rhetorically. Sort of. I mean I’ve always known I have a sort of disjointed sort of style. I have always wrote smaller stories following the same characters and I’ve always felt these smaller stories as “complete and autonomous” as labeled in the book. Interrelated enough yet at the same time creating a complete whole. Creating a story arc the way a novel would. And I’ve never liked fiction too on-the-nose. I like a rougher feel to the writing. Like punk music or something. But as it comes down to the wire on revisions and I get closer and closer to turning over the manuscript to the publisher I struggle with labeling the work a novel-in-stories, composite novel or just plain stories.

The one guiding organizational principle to the book is thematic but also follows the same characters and quite nearly stays in a similar place. Like Drown or Jesus’ Son and also All My Friends are Going to be Strangers, the books that have inspired and guided me, and they all have a guiding principle bringing the stories together.

The books feature what Chapter 1 from The Composite Novel classifies as the following:

Setting–(all my work takes place in the old neighborhood)

Protagonist–(I follow the Ortiz family)

Collective protagonist–(the family in different time periods and perspectives)

Pattern/patchwork—(identical or similarly themed stories focusing on trouble, problems, work etc.)

And I recognize this in my own work. The telling of a longer story as in a novel with the form of shorter and more disjointed stories making the reader work a bit harder in understanding the time and arc of the overall story. Though the stories do shift from first to third and to a mix of first and third…

More on this as I think of it and finish reading the book.

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john paul jaramillo

John Paul Jaramillo’s debut story collection The House of Order was named a 2013 Int’l Latino Book Award Finalist, and his most recent work Little Mocos is now available from Twelve Winters Press. In 2013 Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature listed Jaramillo as one of its Top 10 New Latino Authors to Watch and Read. He is currently a professor of composition and literature at Lincoln Land College-Springfield, Illinois.

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