Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Literary fiction and the 'rules'

One interesting thing I've noticed about literary fiction is that it doesn't really obey the same 'rules' as genre fiction. I'm not talking about the rules of structure or the formulas of plot, although it certainly doesn't do those the same way. I'm talking more about those simple little rules that everyone (particularly on the internet, and usually including me) feels are so important to successful writing.

Take the big one. Show, don't tell. In popular (genre) fiction, this rule has been fetishized to the point where it's practically a crime to say anything directly about a character. Yet for those literary writers I've read, it seems to be almost a given to tell a story at more of a distance, with less moment to moment immersion and only a few telling details.

Another seems to be the primacy of dialogue. Genre writers like to put things in dialogue. I like to put things in dialogue. Some writers go so far that there's very little else, perhaps because description looks more like telling. Yet literary works often seem to have much less, perhaps again because of that sense of literary distance.

These differences are just things I've observed, and I'd be interested to see if anyone else has seen the same things.

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