Monday, August 12, 2013

Mainstream Versus the Quirky Monster

Once upon a time a friend of mine, an English major, told me that he didn’t want to write fiction. He wanted to write LITERATURE. When I was done laughing in his face, I asked him to define the difference.

He said it was something you just had to know.

Frankly, I guess I may never know what his version of literature is. Mine is a happy coincidence. That’s all literature is to me. Listen, you’re either writing fiction or you’re writing non-fiction. If you’re writing non-fiction, you’re likely not writing literature. There are exceptions, but what I mean when I say that is you're not likely writing literature if you're reporting on the stock market or the latest trends in pop culture. 

According to Wikipedia the word literature literally means, “things made from letters.” That gives us a lot of room for interpretation. For me, personally, literature is prose that moves me emotionally and works on multiple levels. I would dearly love to say that I have written literature. I certainly strive to, but that doesn’t mean I ever have or ever will succeed in that goal.

Quirky is another thing entirely I write quirky every day. Most people call that “genre fiction.” (Yes, I’m being snarky. But only a little.) Stephen King, by MY definition, has been writing literature for most of his career. It’s taken most of that time for any of the mainstream critics to agree with me. This, despite the fact that the man has made insane amounts of money over his career. If popularity guarantees a place in literature’s heart, then Fifty Shades of Gray is literature, and that might require anyone saying it is with any sincerity to come on down here and have a knife fight with little old me. So, literature and mainstream success obviously don;t go hand in hand in my estimation. Or if they do, it takes more than a case of writing the right fan-fic at the right time. 

Literature is something we should strive to write. It’s a fancy way of saying art. In this case it’s the goal of any worthwhile writer (in my opinion). Literature is the written word taken to the level where it evokes emotions and lingers long after the reader is finished with the reading.

By that definition, quirky is just a bonus. The only time anything is too quirky is when it fails to help deliver on the goal of moving the reader on an emotional level.

Really, that’s about all I’ve got on this particular subject. I write what I please. I write what I want to read. That’s all I know how to do. The rest of the matter is just semantics and, well, word games.

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