Friday, January 13, 2012

Commuter to Reality: 'Pulp Fiction'

Many--perhaps most--teachers of fiction writing do not accept manuscripts in genre, and I believe there's good reason for this, which is that wereas writing litary fiction can teach you how to write good genre fiction, writing genre fiction does not teach you to write good liteary fiction--does not, in effect, teach you "how to write," by which I mean how to be original and meaningful in words.--My textbook

I stumbled across this quote from the back of my textbook while glancing through it (finally arrived yesterday, much to my relief). Ironically, the professor mentioned the difference between genre fiction and "literature" in class today. Her points boiled down to:
1. Genre writing is plot-based, literary fiction is character-based.
2. Genre fiction does not have pyscological realism.
3. Genre fiction relies heavily on large, often unrealistic events.
At least, that's what I heard.

My response:
1. How do you show character except through events? Also, if you cannot take out the specific character and replace him without the plot collapsing, doesn't that imply a certian degree of character-basis?
2. To quote G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy/:
The fairy tale discusses what a sane man will do in a mad world. The sober realistic novel of to-day discusses what an essential lunatic will do in a dull world.

3. In certian worlds, big events may be quite reasonable.

And examples for all three (All from Doctor Who for consistancy)
1. The Doctor may enage in many adventures, but those adventures often stem from/are complicated by his nature. One episode that grows directly out of the Doctor's character is "Amy's Choice."
2. While no one now alive is responsible for the genocide of their home planet (we think), the Doctor shows the scars of that action even when he tries to hide it. One of the first things mentioned about him in the revived series comes in conversation with the Nestene Concious,
That's not true! I should know, I was there. I fought in the war. It wasn't my fault! I couldn't save your world! I couldn't save any of them!

3. In the Whoniverse, it is perfectly reasonable that aliens invade Earth (especially on Christmas) and are scared off by a screwdriver, because they know who they are facing.


  1. I'm a character writer, reader, and watcher, and I have very little experience with literary fiction. Right now I'm reading Les Miserables for its characters, and it's full of unrealistic events, such as Valjean's escape from the galley ship.

  2. *sigh*

    Those are fairly narrow-minded views of genre-fiction. Genre fiction can be character driven, just look at the Bourne movies.

    Psychological realism? I'll have to look that one up in the dictionary.

    Large, unrealistic events? Going back to the Bourne movies, how would a CIA assassination program be unrealistic?

  3. *Shakes head*

    Sad, that. You should give to her the example of C.S. Lakin's book "The Wolf of Tebron". Mrs. Lakin even said that she considered it a type of literary fiction. ^_^ AND IT'S A FAIRY TALE!

    And besides that, I've read a lot of genre-fiction that is totally character driven, and the plot stems from the characters' actions, not from happen-stance events. Not to mention the fact that a story - whether literary or genre - has no point and no reason to be told without a plot. Even if the plot is mundane, there is a plot. Why else would we retell the story, unless it was worth telling? At this point in time, based on the description I've read above, literary fiction sounds more like the uneventful happening of someone telling someone else the mundane actions of a regular, monotonous day. No plot, nothing of interest. Who would want to read that?

    Now, I've read a few books that would stem as "literary", but as far as I can tell, those stories could have just as easily fit into a genre if the need arose. Even the title "literary fiction" is, in and of itself, a genre. Therefore, how is writing literary fiction writing outside of a genre fiction? Even fiction itself is a genre!!!

    For example, here is the definition of "genre":

    "A category of artistic works: one of the categories, based on form, style, or subject matter, into which artistic works of all kinds can be divided."

    Literary fiction is a category under which a writer writes a certain form or style or uses a certain subject matter, and it is a title under which certain aspects of artistic writings are labeled. Sounds like genre fiction to me. :P

    I really don't like it when people like that try to imply that they are better than other writers because of what they write or how. In my mind (and no offence to your teacher) it's the speculative fiction writers that decide to think out of the box and take the genre, the style, or the art to the next level. Perhaps the literary fiction writers should take a lesson from the speculative writers. ;)