Yesterday we had an agent visit this blog. She left an excellent comment concerning the difference between commercial and literary fiction. Thank you, Eva! Her explanation of literary fiction blew me away because it is, perhaps, the first time someone has explained literary fiction in terms that make complete sense to me.
Literary fiction . . . happens between the lines. The plotting may be as tricky as any thriller novel and the pace may be fast or slow, but what distinguishes literary fiction is what is left unsaid. Narrators may be self-absorbed or unreliable, things are pointed to without being explained. These are the novels that make you re-read every third paragraph because of they way it makes you think -- then you re-read the entire book and discover new things therein.It seems like literary should be easier to write, huh? Just leave a lot of stuff unsaid! Not so. What is left unsaid is obviously the key. The gourmet gummies, I like to say.
I was riding in the car with my dad one morning. He had a package of gummy candy between our seats. On the back it said something along the lines of: "Gourmet Gummies! We choose the finest ingredients and craft our candy for the ultimate gummy experience." Sounds great! And they were good. Really good. Like discovering a treasure.
The ironic thing about this ride with my dad was that we talked about literature that day. My dad made it absolutely clear that he'd rather not read something if he feels like he has to go back and reread things, or even worse, read the book again just to understand everything about it! I made it absolutely clear that I thought a good literary piece of fiction could entertain and offer more to chew on in a second read.
I used to think the gourmet gummies I loved in literary fiction were: symbols, deep and meaningful subjects/characters, and layers of meaning. These are parts of literary fiction - and any fiction - that get me excited. But what it seems I really love is what is not there. The interpretive part of the genre. What is not spelled out. What is built into the story without being built into the story. Tricky. Tasty. Like fine ingredients crafted for the ultimate reading experience.
Questions For The Day: Do you try and craft gourmet gummies into your fiction, or do you avoid the whole "literary" aspect of writing? Do you feel like this "going unsaid" theory needs to be done consciously in literary fiction, or do you think I'm high on sugar?
~MDA (aka Glam)