Sunday, December 23, 2012

Books (and other things) to Talk About


The past couple of nights, I’ve had dreams about writing things – very vivid concrete dreams I was taking as memories and trying to figure out where I was when they happened.
Both were about my direction and doubts about whether it’s the right direction.

What triggered the memory of the latest dream was the NOOK Pinterest folder titled “Books to Talk About.” Their page has several folders for different genres and categories. I found it interesting that the Books to Talk About are all literary fiction (Cutting For Stone, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Sarah’s Key, The Art of Racing in the Rain…). I think part of the reason for the dreams is due to a conversation with a fellow author. He asked my genre and I told him it’s a cross between literary fiction and romance. After the strange look I’m used to getting, he said he wasn’t sure why people wrote lit fic since it doesn’t sell.

I can’t argue. Lit fic is a hard sell. It is. They tend to be fairly long. The plots (or stories, since plot isn’t an essential element in lit fic) tends to be complex and wide. The characters tend to have, and reveal, their backgrounds and family history to the extent it affected their personal development, plus or rather, their societal history that does the same. You know, like real life.

The trouble is a lot of people just aren’t that enthralled with real life and would rather escape when they read. I don’t blame them for that at all. Real life is tough. At least for most of us it is. Now, during the Christmas season, it seems to be more tough than normal for a lot of people. I think the biggest reason for that is, just like we think we need things because the almighty TV says we are supposed to want them, during the Christmas season, we think we are supposed to be joyful and all is supposed to be right and we can see it’s not and it bothers us more than usual that it’s not.

Well, right. There are always things that aren’t “right” in the world and in our small areas. We are all struggling with something or the other. Granted. Still, I read literary fiction0420lkh100 for the same reason that during the struggles, I can still feel the joy there is in Christmas and in daily life, also. I choose to see potential for better. I choose to see the good things, such as the beauty of trees in fog even though it’s scary to drive in fog, and the beauty of swirling snow against a black sky even though it makes roads less safe and threatens power outages.

I read literary fiction because it helps me to understand what I don’t go through myself. I see the world in a much larger perspective. Yes, I see people struggling. I also see them get through it, or if they don’t, I can see that they could have if they had chosen to do so. I see choice. I see growth. I see potential. And I see the “why” instead of just the “what” and that enthralls me.

My personal opinion is that all lit fic should hold uplifting potential and should have light through the dark. I tend to do that with humor and with natural beauty and with a helping hand offered at the right time and such. I will rate a book low if it is too dark with not enough light added. I see no point in focusing on the bad without enough good to balance it. It’s my choice.

I also choose to add plenty of romance because, let’s be honest, romance/love/lust/passion are the center of our lives. Everything revolves around that. Romance is always the best-selling genre. People want it. [Unfortunately, “romance” is often equated with sex and lust. There should be a whole different category for sex and lust and they should be firmly separated, since sex is a whole different thing than romance and people should understand that, as well. What I write, along with my lit fic, is actual romance, the development of the relationship.] Plus, a good romance in a story helps dispel the dark just as it does in real life. We all know this.

In my dreams, I understand the opposing viewpoint, the one telling me I won’t get anywhere by bucking the tide. Well, maybe not, but I do hope my books will end up in a “Books To Talk About” list at some point. Conversation is good. It’s necessary. I’ve seen so many comments where people tell others, “This isn’t the time to talk about…” this or that. Well, I have to disagree. If it’s something someone needs to talk about, then it is the time to talk about it. Talk is good. Thinking and pondering are good. Understanding what you don’t live through yourself is very good. We need to do more of that.

So, as in my dreams, I will stick to my guns (so to speak) and keep writing about real life and real people and real events because these things are necessary to talk about. If my only success is that I get a handful of people to think about or talk about something they wouldn’t otherwise, that’s success enough … at least for my lit fic.

A little side project in the meantime doesn’t hurt. More on that later.

I hope all of you find the joy and happiness you wish for this Christmas season and always. 0385lkh

[Balloon photo ©K. Hawkins]


Valerie Rutherford said...

I used to not be that interested in anything that wasn't fantasy, when I was growing up. What I'm looking for now in a book is a strong emotional connection to what is going on. If I can't feel that connection, it's not worth reading for me; I don't care how detailed the prose is.
I love stories with real life and real pain. Real characters you can connect with. My aim is to put those things together with fantasy, because honestly, my brain sees magic at every turn: It's unavoidable for me to write it.

My characters are always the most important focus for me, and I want them to feel completely real, even when the rest of the plot isn't. But also, I want everything that's happening in the plot to somehow parallel something real. That part may not always happen, but those things are what I strive for.

I'm wondering... you made a distinction between plots and stories in Lit Fic. What would you say is the difference? Because I'm not sure I know what you mean.

I'm really with you on having a separate "Sex" genre, because I find it pretty alarming what people call "Romance Novels". It gives Romance a tainted name, if you ask me. If that's what people are looking for, fine. But give it a more appropriate name.

Christmas is a hard time for a person as lonely as I am. I'm getting pressure even from family members to get in the Christmas spirit and be happy. But it doesn't work like that, and it actually makes me feel worse.

You might not enjoy my books. First there's the fantasy aspect, but also, I can tell you right now that of the 4 books I'm currently writing, one might say they all have - at least partially - depressing endings. Not all of my books will be like that, but a lot of them will be. In the end, I think light does win over darkness, but because all of my stories tie into something greater, they never really end.

I guess you could also say that it's hard to write about happiness, when you've never really felt it.

And I've just typed way too much. Apologies.

thewritegardener said...

I've finally committed to writing a fiction piece. Not sure of its length yet, but it has taken on its own persona. And it'll be as lengthy as it decides it wants to be. I don't like labels, never have, but if you were to ask me what genre, I'd say it's magical realism. I'm not that far into it yet, a little over 2,000 words, we'll see where it takes me.