On the Periphery

Things change. Life throws us curves and changeups. It's good to have a place to vent.

Friday, December 29, 2006

What makes writing literary?

One of my professors, apparently at a loss to find something more specific upon which to comment, suggested I try to elevate my work to a more “literary level.” But I really don’t know what that means. Does that mean I should try to write stories like those found in The New Yorker? To tell the truth, I find most of the fiction in that august journal to be boring and pretentious, often depressing, sometimes even missing a plot. In fact, the lack of plot seems to be a common occurrence among modern writing, yet that doesn’t seem to eliminate the piece from the ranks of “literary fiction.” Indeed, it seems to be chic and cool, as though transmitting, "look at me, I am a modern writer. Who needs boring conventions?"

One of the books I recently bought on writing describes the “plotless story.” The author suggests that something, whether it be tone or language or idea or atmosphere or character must be present to be considered good writing. Still, the author goes on to say that even in such a work there must be a story somewhere. Good writing is writing that keeps the reader engaged, that makes him want to turn the page to find out what happens. I also believe that good writing leaves the reader with something more than confusion, whether that be a sense of satisfaction. A good story has a beginning, a middle, and an ending that keeps the reader thinking long after the story has ended.

That’s the kind of story I want to write. “Literary” or not.


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