There has been quite an interesting thread or threads about various features of writing going on at Sarahlynn's blog. I've posted a few comments, but I keep feeling like I have way more to say than what I should put in a comment. By "feature" I mean something like a piece's structure, characters, plot, writing style, genre.
I am not a big fan of stereotypes. I have long fought against the labels that people like to assign to categorize the people around them. In many ways it makes it easier on us to deal with the world to be able to break it down into small but meaningful chunks. Most of my work as a software developer is doing just that--breaking large, hard problems down into small pieces of logic that is easily written, understood, combined, debugged, etc. To do that you have to make decisions about abstract problems ("I want to order a pizza online") and be able to break it up into meaningful components that can interact (a virtual storefront, an order slip, a pizza, a customer). I'm starting to sound like the intro to an object oriented programming book. This approach works well for code (and probably other complex things too--electronics, consumer goods of all types, etc). It is horrible for people. To apply a label to a person boxes them in, and tries to make them fit into a preformed package. I do not fit the stereotypes of many labels you could apply to me--what you think of if I say I'm blonde, catholic, a software engineer, etc, does not define who I am. I take great pride in shattering those tiny boxes that others would have me live in.
I feel much the same way about various "genres" of fiction. Romance, Sci-Fi, Mysteries, Westerns, Literary Fiction. Those labels do not define the boundaries of the writing that falls under them. To say that literary fiction focuses on character development seems to imply that characters are not developed in books with other labels. To assume that romance implies nothing but brainless sex trivializes the exploration of emotions, relationships, and yes, sexual experience of humanity. I do not feel that I move in "literary circles", because, as I've said many times before, I frequently feel that my opinions are not shared and are frequently denigrated by those who do. I have found worthwhile and thought-provoking material among every "genre" that I've read. There's also a whole lot of crap.
I loved the Time Traveler's Wife. Let's see, the primary topic is a love story, with plenty of sex. Is it shelved with the romances? Nope. Erotica? Nope. The main character does quite a bit of time travelling (duh), so is it a sci-fi? Nope. It has an unorthodox structure--not strictly chronological. It falls under a lot of labels, so it's given the default--literary fiction. Another book to ponder in the category of literary fiction (or maybe it's classical literature, who knows) is the classic Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. Where does that one fall? Let's see, we have a man gallavanting through time with a series of ghosts--SciFi/Fantasy? And yet, it's never shelved next to Robert Jordan or Stephen King.
In my (possibly unshared) opinion, the labels that you apply to writing are not more meaningful than the labels that you apply to people. You can either define yourself by them, adn box yourself inside someone's proscribed idea of what the label means, or you can treat it as another sticker or an easy way to shelve your work, and ignore that there's anything else to it.