The curse of the Literary Novel

May 29, 2016

 

I'm a genre reader and I'm not a fan of what I call 'the great american novel' (from the movie Finding Forrester) I have often had this argument with colleagues. Literary novels bug me because they do not follow a story arc. I want a story with a beginning, a middle and an end where the character develops and changes and have a happy ending. In the grand scheme of things it isn't a lot to ask. Hemmingway was great at writing about a snap shot of a person's life who are pretty much where they started at the start of the novel. Maybe a little older and a little wiser but nothing has changed. The other thing that really bugs me with this genre is the descriptions.

 

In the past, books were written for the same reason we watch movies and play computer games. I'm a fan of Final Fantasy because it is just so darn beautiful. The novel no longer plays that role of being pretty. Like in Donnie Darko when they talk about Cellar Door being one of the most beautiful phrases in the English language. But so many new writers are bogged down with this idea that their novel has to be beautifully written. All that achieves is that good books don't get written.

 

And you don't have to take my word on this either. I got this idea when I went to a workshop with William Taylor. I gave him the first chapter of my baby. A book I'd been working on for almost a decade. That first chapter must have gone through a hundred revisions or more. When William saw it he said he had never seen someone repeat themselves so often. I remember I had started the novel with this beautiful description of the forest. Almost two paragraphs on how the light moved through the trees. He was right. In my attempt to write a beautiful book I had written self important drivel. And worse I should have known better. I'm not a fan of the Tolkien books. I know, sacrilege. But he goes on and on and never develops the characters. I actually liked the movies better because the director attempted to fix that. 

 

When I started thinking about what books I actually liked reading they had robust characters, humour and a subtle world building (like Patricia Briggs' Moon Called series). I struggle with humor but I can do the rest and so that is what I started writing. But still I talk with people who want to be the next Margaret Atwood. Sadly enough though, these are beautiful books they are not the kind of book that is selling. I love Harry Potter but I struggle to read it as I want to correct all sorts of things in it and make it better written. And don't get me started on 50 shades, Oh my!

 

The other thing I want from a book is a HEA. I saw that on a bloggers site. The Happily Ever After. It is why I'll read mystery romance but not straight mystery it has no happy ending. Yeah, they get he bad guy but people are still dead so sad ending either way. Put in a romance and catching the bad guy and finding the love of your life is now a HEA.

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