Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Departure: A Discussion About Thrillers and Literary Fiction

I'm departing from my normal posts to discuss an interesting article about the divide between literary fiction and genre fiction. It's a direction I'm going to continue to take on this blog as I expand my writing in the thriller genre.

In the article (click here), four thriller writers discuss this divide between literary fiction and genre fiction - thrillers in particular. Two of the participants, David Morrell and Karen Dionne, just happen to be two of my favorite writers. Karen also uses one of my favorite books, FINN by Jon Clinch, as an example of how a work of literary fiction can also have large commercial appeal. As Karen writes, the opening to FINN "could well be the opening of a thriller".

Here's the beginning of Karen's input: At one of my Backspace conferences an accomplished literary fiction author participated in a panel discussion on creating living, breathing characters in literary fiction. One of the things she discussed at length was the musicality of words, and the care with which she chooses each one. When I told her that I, too, spend a great deal of time crafting individual sentences even though I write thrillers, I could tell she didn't believe me.I think this is one of the misconceptions literary fiction authors hold toward thriller authors: that we sacrifice quality for the sake of the story.It’s true, the fast pace in thrillers means there’s little time for lingering descriptions or deeply introspective character development. But that just makes the opportunities more precious. And even in the most intense action scene, the rhythm of the sentences, their length, whether or not a sentence ends on a hard or soft note — all of that matters. It isn't that we don't care about elegant language, or that we can't write anything else; it's that we choose to write thrillers.

Well put.

The contributions by all four writers are all excellent. Give it a read.