People can have surprisingly strong reactions to the category of literary fiction. Some I understand, some I feel are the result of being locked in a dryer by a tv-level-masochistic older brother who first taped his gamey socks in one’s mouth. Misdirected hostility starts wars, people.
I can’t say I completely changed horses with Avrilis – actually more than anything I’m discovering that it is more entrenched in that category (albeit in others, as well) than I first imagined. But being as it’s also sci-fi and steampunk to its own respective degrees, I think I can make that claim (that horse-switching claim…stay with me) – and say that doing so has changed all of my writing. (Because of it, I’m inactively revising the White Whale – that’s not the title but…you get what I’m saying…)
Here let’s add a sub-title: Whycome Genre Fiction Is Difficult To Write
Let’s start (and possibly end) with a question one doesn’t so much encounter in literary with which one will – do not kid yourself – invariably be confronted in genre fiction: “But…why?”
Take a classic example – and one that has been proved and critically acclaimed so that no one has the inclination to say, but that didn’t work! (I’ll give you the test results right now: Yes, it did. Beautifully.)
Sethe becomes obsessed with Beloved to the exclusion and tacit rejection of Denver.
Literary reader: *gasp* Marvelous. Oh, the richness.
Genre reader: Why?
LR: Why what?
GR: Why would Sethe treat Denver that way?
LR: Well, it’s not about Denver, precisely, it’s more about Sethe and her history.
GR: You’re doing that thing.
LR: What thing?
GR: That thing where you make excuses outside of the text for what wasn’t clear in the text.
LR: Oh, it was clear. .. And I am not.
GR: Then why?
LR: Because. Beloved is the only child Sethe successfully spared by slaughtering and is therefore Sethe’s “best thing”. Can you imagine what her presence is stirring within Sethe?!
GR: I saw Sethe and Denver together. I have been convinced that they are the only family they have had for a long time. Why would Sethe emotionally abandon her daughter?
LR: …I just told you.
GR: I don’t believe it.
LR: How are you not overwhelmed by the subtle and poetic way in which Sethe’s internal wounds –
GR: Her heart hurts. Got it. Why? What happened between her and Denver?
LR: No, it’s moreso –
GR: Then why.
LR: You’re looking for a tangible, present tense conflict when there’s clearly –
GR: Show me.
LR: You have to encounter the literature and decipher the clues that –
GR: Show me.
GR: *opens mouth*
LR: Show you, I got it.
Right. That should be offensive pretty much to both camps, so I think I did that just right. Literary readers are pretentious philosophers and genre readers are demanding and tactile to the point of dismissing all emotional context. The world according to Bethany.
But seriously, this has slapped me in the face with The Audience. Writing Avrilis, I mean. There is an audience that I really want to reach who are not afraid of things that literally happen and motivations that can be mapped within and out of that action. This perspective has completely disassembled the White Whale (elsewhere, in a blog comment, I referred to this as having dismembered her and how it stinks in there now – wherever I do revision surgery, I suppose) because I suddenly want to make sure the inciting event is thoroughly exposed. Will it be as strong as I think it is? (Can anything truly be? This is why I have that plaque that reads: You Cure No Diseases. Well, I mean, why I’ll eventually have such a plaque made.) I don’t know. But only so many people are going to jump headlong into a character portrait when they have no idea where it’s going. Aaaand reading literary fiction did *not* teach me that. 🙂
So. Writing YA has thus saved my life.