For the love of brevity, why can’t I ever blog about something that can be addressed in under 500 words? Maybe I should just blog about comic books and YouTube videos, heh.
In any case, I think today’s post was partly inspired by one of T.S. Bazelli’s.
Literary Technique & Snobbery
I’d like some perspective on this because I think it directly affects my work and has been on my mind recently.
I have this notion in my head that literary fiction is still somewhat regarded as “snob” fiction today, and also that the use of literary techniques such as metaphor, allusion, alliteration, etc. is something that’s paid more attention to in literary fiction than it is in genre.
Is this true?
Admittedly, I don’t read a whole lot of literary fiction these days. I still cherish certain classics I had to read in high school and have come to appreciate them way more than I could have at that age, but really I haven’t read much more of that stuff since then. Though, I distinctly recall that the literary techniques used in those novels were a distinguishing feature in what made them so special (along with their characters’ stories). But maybe this is only because that’s what we focused on in class!
It’s strange…ever since it’s been suggested to me that I’m working on a character-driven story, I’ve been thinking more about what, exactly, makes literary fiction literary (and genre fiction genre). I’ve been wondering if my own perception of it is skewed. I’ve also wondered whether I’m writing something that straddles the border between genre and literary because character-driven stories and literary fiction are so often linked together, and plot also gets some prominent stage time in my WIP, mostly in the second half.
Didn’t you just write a couple of posts on the difference between genre and literary fiction when you talked about plot- and character-driven stories? I thought we’ve been over this before.
Yes, I have, but I still feel the need to contemplate on this. I originally wrote those posts because I wasn’t sure which one I was writing. To be honest, I feel like I may be writing both. (Of course, it’s hard for someone else gauge these things if you’ve only shown your work to one person, heh.) I like to focus on character and use literary techniques–not because it’s been ingrained in our brains in school to look out for these things but because that is naturally what I do. The more I edit and get past plot inconsistencies, the more I seem to pay attention to my writing style.
At first, it was all about getting the story right–the plot and characters and whatnot; now, I feel it’s more about getting the execution of that story right aesthetically–paying attention to things like rhythm and cadence (sometimes I will switch out a word simply because it doesn’t fit the “rhythm” of a line as I hear it in my head).
Anyway, all of this makes me wonder whether my developing writing style is more fitting to genre or literary fiction.
What does it matter whether your work is more “genre-ish” or “literary?”
It doesn’t really, per se; I’m just not sure where I stand.
Naturally, I don’t like to pigeonhole myself into categories, but you kind of have to know how to explain your work to other people if you plan on selling it eventually, right? If you tell people you’re writing fantasy and you give them something that reads like The Puttermesser Papers (not comparing myself here, just pulling out a crazy example), then is “fantasy” really an appropriate genre description? (The same goes for the flip side, too.)
Essentially, I’m writing fantasy because there’s a fantastical element. I just wonder why it seems like mostly literary fiction uses literary devices more prominently than genre fiction does. I’m not saying this is good or bad, but when I read something like Grimspace by Ann Aguirre, or Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder, the use of literary techniques doesn’t exactly pop out at me. They may be in there every now and then, but they don’t really stand out (which, to me, seems is what happens in literary fiction). I don’t remember these books because of their literary style but rather the plot/adventure and worldbuilding.
Which is fine.
I guess I just want to learn to write fiction that has both sides to it–memorable worlds and adventures as well as a distinctive style (and memorable characters.) Maybe that’s why it’s taking me longer to finish my WIP? Heh.
I know there’s more and more crossover fiction being written these days that traverses genre and literary, and I really should read more of them. I think this would give me a better idea of what I’m trying to explore/understand. (I suspect Neil Gaiman fits this bill, though I haven’t read him yet–don’t stone me!–and I’m currently reading Susanna Clarke now. After reading Windup Girl, I think Paolo Bacigalupi might fit into this category, too, but I’m not all that sure.)
Am I making any sense today?
I find all of this hard to sort out and express clearly. I just feel like there’s a lot of greyness in my understanding of these things. (And maybe that writer’s/blogger’s “identity crisis” I mentioned the other day has something to do with this.)
So…am I asking a question here? Hm, I don’t know. Let me see…
All right, so here’s my question to you: What do you make of the role of style in genre and literary fiction? Does that matter to you? Also, would you say your style seems to be a better fit for genre or literary fiction? How come?
I’ve read plenty of articles on the old genre vs. literary fiction debate, but really I’m more interested in the general public’s perception of this issue. I wonder how well that perception lines up with everything that’s been written about it. Sometimes, I wonder why the distinction is even necessary, and if people even care. (And by the way, I don’t want to seem like I’m getting overly caught-up on this stuff. I’m just trying to get some perspective.)
Okay, break time’s over for me. Back to work. ~