Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Language of Literature

What sets literary fiction apart from commercial fiction?  Is it the complex, literate, multilayered language?  Is it the relatability of universal dilemmas? The answer is “Yes!”

Among the arts, literature is unique in that it uses as its medium the language of everyday communication. One major difference is that literary language remains present in the reader’s mind in the form of stylistic questions or multiple interpretations in a way that everyday language does not.

This is not to say that literary fiction is all about the wording at the expense of the plot. In good literary fiction the characters must still face challenges and evolve just as they do in commercial fiction.  However, in literary fiction, the plot tends to be more subtle, often unfolding within the mind or emotions of the character. More often, in commercial fiction the plot involves continuous action. It is more about how a character interacts with events in the outside world. Thus, the reader becomes an observer rather than a participant who brings his or her own meaning to the work.

In Windborne, most of the plot is inferred by the choices the characters make. It requires a great deal of empathy to relate to the characters as humans and to deduce the hidden motivations and desires that lurk beneath their actions.  Things happen on the surface, but what is really important are the thoughts, desires and motivations of the characters as well as the underlying social and cultural threats that act upon them. The reader has to recognize the small tuning points as well as the highs and lows of the plot based on what they know of the characters.  They must bring their own experiences and knowledge of human nature into the work.  

In The Stone House Legacy, I am attempting to fold more action sequences into the inner life of the characters. The plot is more overt, but what happens out in the world isn’t as important as what happens within the minds of the characters. By using an Epilogue and Prologue to foreshadow the action of the plot I hope to refocus the reader’s attention on the characters’ inner struggle rather than how they defeat or are defeated by external forces.

The prose is pretty straightforward, but I am attempting to use more literary devices such as symbolism, allusion and imagery that will leave more room for interpretation. The plot points all relate to the inner mind and may be hidden in quiet moments and small, but powerful, revelations.  I realize that this may make it more challenging for the reader, but I believe it will be worth it!

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