Writing Tenses & Genres

How does one handle the pluperfect when narrating backstory or flashback elegantly? I’ve come to the opinion that I don’t much like streams of ‘had’s and feel that maybe a couple would transport the reader further back into the past so long as the author makes it clear when he returns to the main narrative.

I’d forgotten (pluperfect!) that a common flashback technique is speech. Have a character narrate the event, then it’s in the immediate past for him/her and the simple tense will do. I think Shakespeare uses this in Hamlet so if it’s all right for him, it should do for mere mortals. (David Mitchell also employs it in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet.)

And while I’m on matters literary what about fiction genres? Wander into Waterstone’s and you’ll only find a few of these: science fiction, of course, and fantasy (with an interesting subgenre of dark fantasy); horror; crime; thrillers; war; westerns; romance; that’s about it. Amazon has a broader range: the old standards of mystery, adventure and so on join some unexpected categories like biographical fiction, lad lit, psychological and metaphysical & visionary.

I like this last genre. Using Wikipedia’s more comprehensive classifications, I’ve been describing Let the Time Come as apocalyptic or philosophical fiction. This sounds cross-genre but M&V could sum it up quite neatly. I feared that the novel might have to lump in with literary fiction, which is a difficult field to shine in. For a start it implies that the writing is out of the ordinary.

Clearing the Brushes is either (auto)biographical fiction or lad lit. It’s certainly not going to interest girls. This business of managing the reader’s expectations via genre and blurb is critical. I’m struggling on YouWriteOn because its genres are about as restrictive as Waterstone’s, which does begin to imply that they may be the ones most of the world deals with. This’ll make it hard to place books with publishers and agents. Thank God for self-publishing.

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