Last week, I shared small excerpts from a short story that was (intended to be) literary fiction and a novel that is very much genre fic. Now, there are some who argue that YA is mainstream and not genre but I think mine is pretty firmly set in fantasy.
Writing different genres is usually fun for me. I like playing around with horror, sci-fi, adventure, even a little bit of paranormal romance from time to time. But literary fiction is a whole other animal. A strange, frightening, uncomfortable animal. Like riding a camel, where you’re not sure how to sit and it spits at you when you’re not looking.
Anyway, back to the differences. First and foremost is how you think about the story. I’ll start with my comfort zone:my novel.
“Something Awesome and Also Fire,” or whatever I’ll call it, is all about the plot. The events drive the story and when I think about my outline or the timeline, the events are what I write down. The events are what the story is built upon.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my characters, but they can be changed or replaced and the story itself will remain, essentially, the same.
But don’t tell them that. They don’t need to know.
Literary fic, on the other hand, is all about the people, and it’s the events that can change. “Meaningful Loss” (do I get to put it in quotes if it hasn’t been published yet?) takes place in a hospital after a car accident but it could have taken place in a school after detention or at the scene of crime, or just some place where the characters sit and wait. The story is about the father and daughter, the catalyst that brings them to their crossroads doesn’t really matter.
So, how does it feel to write each? Twisted. Like I stepped over to the Dark Side when I started writing lit fic. Feel the power of the literary fiction, young padawan. It felt wrong but so, so good.
Thankfully, this isn’t Star Wars. I can return to my novel and switch back and forth between the forces of Dark and Light, lit fic and genre fic without facing any moral corruption.
Also, writing lit fic is good for the genre writer! While writing stories that are character-driven, I learn about writing characters. It was actually a bit of a struggle to rewrite “Meaningful Loss” (seriously, does it count if I put it in quotes?). Coming up with meaningful (ha ha, get it?) interactions between characters that were not dependent on the things happening in the story was difficult but enlightening. I’ve spent more time on my characters’ backstories to lend them nuance and credence.
I used to like to say my novel was a character-driven YA fantasy novel but I know better now. While it isn’t character-driven, learning how to write those stories will help me enrich my people and my world.
And really, isn’t that just one of the best parts about writing?