Fiction that explores the monsters and strangers among us.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Literary fiction is… well… literary

Authors of literary fiction focus on the art of writing as the main interest of the author and the reader. Literary artists write novels that have plot, but they are more concerned about creating a sort of onion effect. The more you read the story, the more you discover. As you peel away one layer of story, say the plot, you find a second story built around the theme. Read the story once for what happens. Go back to ask why. Another reading gets you thinking about how the author created such a beautiful, cohesive whole. You may enjoy the way the author developed the character as the story moved forward. The main character goes through a big change of some sort. Literary stories may or may not have a beginning, a middle and an end.

One example of an artistic onion layer can be found in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. Read the novel a few times and you begin to see that all the characters equate to bulls or cows of one sort or another. That’s why the author spends so much time telling you about bullfighting and the different types of bulls. Gaining that understanding from a single reading is difficult. Knowing it helps to make the story come together for you.

Meanwhile… back to suspense/thriller novels
Serious writers of suspense/thriller novels or other genre fiction will tell you they do the same thing literary novelists do in creating character depth and layers of artistic merit. And they will point out that most literary authors actually write genre fiction. For example, Charles Dickens, if not the first author of a murder mystery novel, was certainly an early adapter of the genre. So what’s the difference for you as a reader?

The first rule is to find novels you enjoy. Read other novels written by the same author or authors. If you enjoy the classics, you may enjoy modern authors who pride themselves in writing “literary” novels. If you enjoy murder mysteries, read them.

The point is simply this: the better authors invest themselves in developing the literary quality of their work as well as entertaining you with a good plot. “Literary” authors generally are not concerned as much about plot as they are character and literary tradition. They mainly write for themselves as artists. They trust that literary readers will find their work.

Genre authors emphasize telling a compelling story within their genre to entertain their readers. Their stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. They know how to develop a character so you can empathize with her. They know how to make you weep or laugh. They are not afraid to kill off a character, but also recognize there are consequences to their actions. They know how to make you want to turn the page, something literary authors are less concerned about.

Read literary novels when you enjoy an author who plays with the language, writes poetically and provides insights into philosophy and why the world works the way it does. Read genre fiction when you want to enjoy a good tale well told.

And speaking of tales worth telling, please consider my suspense/thriller novel Fulfillment, click here for Amazon or click here for paperback.

Here’s another novel idea…
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