Meandering tomes. Weighty descriptions. Subtle subtext. Sweeping themes. A thesaurus by my side.
Ah, the joys of reading literary fiction.
I’m a fast reader and I love literary fiction because it forces me to slow down. I love lit fic because it is the beauty of words on the page as much as it’s the story those words tell.
Sometimes, it seems that the author has actually painted the scenes with his or her words. Meticulously, painstakingly, slowly painted. Sometimes I wish those writers would just paint by number and get on with it. That’s when I crave balance — in some of what I read — and in all of what I write.
So, what do I learn from reading literary fiction? That sometimes I want to slow down and paint a picture with my words so that the reader has the time to breathe and imagine. A good pace in a novel doesn’t just mean it’s a fast read, a good pace also means the author knows where to slow down. An adept author micromanages the reader’s experience even though what every reader derives from the actual book is a little different.
I’m not seeking to write lofty volumes – but accessible ones. Yet, I want to write a book where phrases, sentences, even paragraphs are deemed underline or hightlight or dog-ear worthy by readers, because I’ve expressed something in just that certain way that’s a little different.
Not too much to ask of myself. I hope.
Literary fiction authors who pop to mind — Margaret Atwood, John Updike, Willa Cather, Brian Morton, Geraldine Brooks — these books make me think. Hard. Everything is not presented on a silver platter (and I do love silver platters) and is therefore a more difficult read. Not necessarily for smarter people, but for readers who want to look behind the curtain for themselves to figure out how the story works. Literary fiction has been called serious fiction. I think all fiction is serious (for the record).
What I miss when I read literary fiction, is a break in the intensity of the language and theme. That’s why I want to write something that straddles the fence — something that makes the reader think and also allows that same reader to coast in well-placed bits, as a reprieve.
I’m privy to the lyrical nature of language because of literary fiction. I also love to soar through a book that has great characters and plot, but where I am not enraptured by the prose. Then there are the books that do both. Those are my lifelines. Those are the women’s fiction of which I often speak and want to produce. I strive to not only create art with my words, but a wild ride. Without a hefty dose of literary fiction in my past, present and future, I don’t think I’d be able to articulate that wish, that goal, that drive — let alone write it.
Which genres have taught you what and how you want to write your own women’s fiction? Examples?