Literary Fiction versus Popular Fiction

My dear friend Lauri over at Thoughts From Botswana wrote an interesting post on Literary Fiction versus Popular Fiction. These are my thoughts in response:

For me plot is art. Characterisation and character relationships are art. There is a real art to constructing a work of fiction that both shows and tells a compelling story with characters the reader can feel, but without the reader being aware of the scaffolding involved in such construction. I agree with John Grisham's points that you don't want to distract the reader; you want him to become absorbed in your book.

That said, there is poetry and beautiful writing that also stands as art, and stands out because it is beautiful. It does tend to be distracting, in a good way. There is a limit, I think, on what type of story one can tell entirely with writing that is meant to be savoured for itself. Certainly not a fast-paced or suspenseful story.

I haven't read Dan Brown's book, but I suspect if Pullman has noticed the writing style, this means one or both of two things: either Brown's writing construction is too obvious, or Pullman reads like a writer and is overly sensitive to scaffolding.


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Elle Carter Neal

Elle Carter Neal is the author of teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, holding childhood slumber-party audiences entranced until the early hours of the morning. Elle decided to be an author the day she discovered that real people wrote books and that writing books was (sort of) a real job.

2 thoughts on “Literary Fiction versus Popular Fiction”

  1. I agree with you about plot and characterisation being art. Sometimes language can be too florid and can end up overwhelming the plot. For me one of the writers most guilty of this is A.S. Byatt. I love her, but she is very heavy-handed with the imagery. Ian McEwan can fall into that category as well. However, I am still a great fan of them both!

  2. I think it depends on your mood, too, when you read. Sometimes you want to read lovely description; sometimes you just want to sink into the story without noticing it.

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