As a literature and writing major in college, I sometimes found myself bombarded by the current craze of the critics, literary fiction. As I tell inquisitive friends and family, literary fiction tends to be all-character-no-plot fiction, based in the real world and harnessing the power of the ordinary to bring it up to the extraordinary. The best literary fiction can make you laugh and cry and see things in your own life that you never noticed before. The worst (and sadly most common) literary fiction is a load of pretentious trash, a writer’s way of griping about his or her own life that’s more stylish than a wad of mopey Facebook posts.
Journals and literary presses don’t seem to distinguish between the good and the bad literary fiction, so far as I can tell–so why not take what’s easiest and turn yourself into a literary superstar?
1. It really is all about you! They say write what you know, and this is the time to do it! Think about your own life and the events that shaped you into the person you are. Then cut those events out and look at the status quo, the everyday. It’s okay to be sappy and emotional, people love that kind of thing! It’s also fine if you don’t want to be totally honest. So long as you come off as acting like you are honest, no one will care to know the truth so long as there is so much basis.
2. Wallow in emotions. People love emotions. What we’re looking for is essentially emotional porn. Give them the love stories, the heartbreaks, the stress and pressure of your own life, and build it up the the biggest emotional extremes you can. Especially negative emotions, though an occasional joke will help show people that you haven’t given up on life entirely.
3. Don’t make it up. This isn’t a challenge to honesty. It’s a challenge to creativity! Don’t bother coming up with rich worlds and characters. Your main character (a.k.a. you!) is the only one you need to think about and the world should never venture outside of your everyday. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a farm in Kansas where you grew up. Others will surely find it exciting!
4. Theme > Plot. Theme is greater than plot. Remember that. Your literary fiction can be little more than a series of personal essays, so long as it revolves around a single recurring theme. The critics will fawn over you for being so thoughtful and provocative.
5. Ordinary is Extraordinary. When writing your literary fiction, try to keep it as much in the real world as possible. That means that even possible-but-unlikely events are largely a no-no. Keep your farm girl on the farm because that’s what happens. Let the father recover his illness because he probably would. Maintain the status quo!
Following these tips is a sure way to ensure your own success as a literary author. It’s easy, low-key and doesn’t require creativity. Best of all, it will give you all the respect you could dream of from the writing community without your having to sweat bullets to get the words out!
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