Points made in the writing group as I discuss in the podcast:
– In literary fiction, theme is NOT message. A message is: “Be nice to people; it comes back around.” A theme is: “Overcoming grief.”
– Academics believe literary fiction is about questions, not answers. That, at least, there should be a polyphony of voices/ideas in a literary story, all vying for the reader’s attention and affection.
– Every detail chosen to be illustrated in a story should be an extension of its theme.
– Personally, I agree more with W. Somerset Maugham who said: “I want a story to have form, and I don’t see how you can give it that unless you can bring it to a conclusion that leaves no legitimate room for questioning. But even if you could bring yourself to leave the reader up in the air, you don’t want to leave yourself up in the air with him.” This goes against what most literary academics believe a literary story should do.
Characteristics of literary fiction:
– Complex, literate, multi-level. Wrestles with universal dilemmas, such as “The nature of reality.”
– Has Character, Plot, Style, Tone, and Pace as its vehicles.
– Inner plot is often more important than outer plot.
– The pace is often slow, and can dawdle longer on small details.
– The style is often elegant, lyrical, and layered.
– The tone is often more serious, darker than other forms of fiction.
– Can be found in classic literature, often uses “dry realism,” and in the post-modern era often features experiments with narrative and structure and meta-fiction. An example of such an experiment is “In media res.”