Monday, June 08, 2009

Confessions of a Plot Junkie

This is the title of an article in this month's Writer's Digest. It's an interesting piece that talks about the difference between "literary" and "genre" fiction. FYI, the first is usually considered to be more character-driven, with a focus on word choice and phrasing, and the second is considered plot-driven, with less focus on diction and more on conflict and storyline.

Which is better?

Well, of course, it depends who you ask. The "classic" works of fiction are usually considered literary, and MFA programs often feel that literary fiction is what "serious" authors should aspire to write.

Then, of course, you look at best-selling authors like Stephenie Meyer or J.K. Rowling, and the mammoth success of their books makes one think that popularity and sales trump all.

I don't know that I favor one over the other. I love certain works that would be considered literary fiction, and as an English major/teacher I probably lean in that direction when I think of my favorite authors. But then again, every once in a while I'll pick up a page-turner that definitely falls into the genre fiction category, and it will captivate me.

A New York Times best-selling author I met this past year said (more than once, because I heard this from her at 2 different venues) that she wants to be the author whose book you cannot put down, the author whose book makes you stay up until 3 am or call in sick from work to finish. She is a genre fiction author and proud of it.

In the interest of full disclosure, the Writer's Digest article concludes that genre fiction shouldn't corner the market on plot-driven stories, that literary fiction authors could learn a thing or two about writing stories that are beautifully crafted AND impossible to put down. So here's the question that concludes the article, and I'll pass it along to you:

Which do you think is more important in your writing: A well-plotted story, or a tale with less action and more robust language and meaning? Or is it possible to have both?

1 comment:

Marianne Arkins said...

To be honest... none of the above. If a story has well drawn characters that make me care about them, I'll read just about any book (provided, yanno, it has a happy ending *G*).