1. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    differences in character for different kind of writers?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Tesoro, Nov 22, 2011.

    A thought crossed my mind today and I would like to hear your opinions on it.

    I admit I don't read much so called 'literary fiction', I'm the classic 'commercial fiction' reader, but after having seen the latest awardwinning author of my country and getting a glimpse of the book he's written (basically he got the award for his debut novel, which took him 10 years to finish) I got to thinking that there is a huge difference between people who writes literary vs commercial fiction. I mean, they are not just different writers but different kind of PEOPLE too.

    I'm not talking about just the kind of books they write or even read or their intelligence or education, somehow I don't think these things has much to do with it or do you think it has? what are your thougts on this? What do you think are the most common differences between literary and commercial writers AS PERSONS? are there certain characteristics that make them write this kind of literature? Or does it all come down to your preferences as a reader? Do we 'automatically' write the kind of literature we read most of? To me they seem to be the introverted kind but I might be wrong...
     
  2. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    I wouldn't call myself an expert on writing or literature, so take what I say with a grain of salt... but here goes:

    It would be easy to go "Horror writers do this; Fantasy writers do that". You could probably draw some conclusions by splitting it up that way, but I think your writing genre has more to do with what your interests are rather than your personality/character. For example, I like mysteries so that's the way I choose to write. I probably wouldn't be caught dead writing a fantasy story though. And we could extract the sample size to include readers as well as writers. I wouldn't consider everyone that is into sci-fi to have the same personality.

    I think the better way to go about categorizing writers/readers is to do it by skillset. No matter what the genre is, there are skills that different writers are good at and ones they struggle with. I couldn't name all of the different "skills"... but lets say two skills a writer can have are plot creation and the ability to describe a scene. I think you could say that if a writer finds it easy to develop plots, that maybe it's because of a certain aspect his personality that makes that part of writing come natural to him. Using myself as an example... I consider it VERY easy for me to come up with a plot to a story. And I think the reason why is because I'm an introvert, and as a result of that I have a very analytical mind. But I suck at being descriptive for the same reason.

    Now, I don't know if it's a simple as that... but I imagine if you come across a writer that is very technical in the way he does things, that tells you something about what kind of person he is. And vice versa if it's someone that is very poetic.
     
  3. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    Seems to me that someone who writes literary fiction would have to have a 'serious' streak in them and have more of a sober, practical take on life. I suppose I have serious moment but it never lasts long enough that I could write literary fiction. To me, being serious for very long equals boring and depressing. That's not neccesarily true but that doesn't stop my mind from thinking it.

    And commerical fiction writers would have to be able to let their daydream run away with a story. I'm not sure if you'd have to do that with literary fiction, maybe some but not so much as commerical.
     
  4. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    AmyHolt: I agree with you, that is the impression I've got too about the differencies, but I wasn't sure if it was just me or if that was a general opinion. I get bored after just a few pages when reading that kind of books, unfortunately, because I really would like to discover them better. I'm sure they hide a whole lot of useful knowledge, viewpoints and opinions, as well as writing skills, but as a reader my first interest is to be entertained and to dream and therefor I rarely stick with these books long enough to finish them.
     
  5. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    Tesoro, you're doing better than me because I rarely even try to read them. I don't have enough time to even read all the books I like to read. I have read a few that my friends have recommended and they are okay, just not nearly as fun as what I would usually read.
    As far as what the general opinion is, I'm curious.
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I enjoy reading both literary fiction and genre/commercial fiction. I don't know that one can broadly characterize differences between the writers themselves. In some ways, it comes down to the distinction between artist and storyteller - or at least it feels that way to me. I find that literary fiction writers are more likely to emphasize fiction as an art form to be played with. In commercial fiction you want to tell a story that immerses the reader and pulls them along.

    Of course, both aspects of writing are of importance in both literary and non-literary fiction. And when the classics were written, the elements of what we might now view as genre or mainstream fiction were important to those literary works. Look at Moby Dick, for example. One of the great english-language novels, and considered to be a work of literary fiction, but the action of the story is important. It is a great adventure in the sense that a commercial work might be today, as well as a literary novel. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov, is a brilliant literary novel, and also a compelling story that demands you keep reading in the same way watching a train wreck unfold demands that you keep watching. It is a remarkable accomplishment, in my view.

    Somewhere along the way, the two separated. Commercial fiction was distilled to the essence of bare storytelling and keeping the reader involved with the sequence of action and not the writing itself. From this, we get the "rules" of fiction - active voice, show don't tell, you can't address the reader, and the like. All of the "rules" you hear so often on writing sites. When you go back to the classics, and even to current literary fiction, the rules are thrown out the window in many cases. Going back to Lolita, which is a modern novel, you have the word-play itself becoming as important as the story, you have the narrator speaking directly to the audience. It was a commercial success, but breaks many of the rules of commercial fiction.

    Today, the distinction between art and storytelling (to the extent the distinction really exists) is what comes to my mind. With much commercial fiction, the author fades into the background as much as possible. For much of what is on the shelves, the "voice" of a given author is interchangeable with many of the other authors whose works are on the same shelf. The focus is almost entirely on creating a movie that plays out in the readers mind. That's how I see a lot of it, and maybe the advent of the motion picture had something to do with it. In literary fiction the focus is on the novel or novella or short story as an art form. Many will say the focus is also on character versus plot, or on making statements about grand themes, but I see a lot of this sort of thing in both genre/commercial and literary fiction, so I'm not sure the distinction holds up.

    I can't say how much distinction there is between literary and non-literary authors themselves. Many literary authors are academics, so maybe that academic mindset plays into it (sometimes to poor effect - I have to say I found Don Delilo's National Book Award-winning White Noise to be tedious). But I look at it more along the lines of literary authors worrying first and foremost about the art and achieving something artistic, and commercial authors worrying about story and pulling the reader into the events of the story.

    You can't make bright dividing lines between the two these days, however. There is a lot of cross-over.

    Readers and writers of literary fiction do tend to have a rather superior view of themselves in many cases, and there is literary fiction I've read that has left me with little doubt that the writing was meant to be pretentious and praised only by a few eggheads in University offices. But we all know there is commercial fiction out there where the author appears to lack even the minimum level of skill required to produce a well-written work (which again takes me to the focus being on the story, not the work as art).
     
  7. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Steerpike: I agree, the old classics had the best of both, I wish people would write more books like that today. And that reminded me that I never finished reading 'Lolita'. It's still here somewhere...
     
  8. Kube
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    I don't know, I read and write both types of stories. I look at it as the difference between types of food. To me, genre fiction is like cake. Sure, it's good and puts a smile on your face, but sometimes you need a good hearty meal. I write sci-fi and fantasy as a form of play for me, but if I feel like I have somethng really important to say, or I'm looking for answers, my work comes out as more literary. Of course I have been accused, jokingly I hope, of having mild multiple personality disorder, so maybe it just depends on which of my personalities is dominant at a given time.
     
  9. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah, that's interesting. I never heard of someone who writes both kinds before. That must be fun. I don't think I'm even able to produce something that with todays measurments would be considered 'literary' fiction. ;) Maybe if I start reading more of it? I guess that fact could be that I haven't really read much of it.
     
  10. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure if there's a different personality type, but I think when one writes literary fiction, it tends to be a bit more introspective, and that could reflect on the writer's mood at the time. It may also be a matter of focus - writers who like getting deep into their characters may tend toward literary fiction more. Based on the various definitions/descriptions I've seen for 'literary fiction', I think I could say I've written both over the years, and I do more on the LF side when I'm 'thoughtful' than when I'm feeling... adventurous (?), which is when I write my action/adventure stories.

    Hard to say when the very definition is hard to pinpoint.
     
  11. Kube
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    Kube Member

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    Another thing to remember is literary fiction is kind of hard to pinpoint. I've seen just about every genre shelved in the literary section.
     
  12. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    "Somewhere along the way, the two separated. Commercial fiction was distilled to the essence of bare storytelling and keeping the reader involved with the sequence of action and not the writing itself. From this, we get the "rules" of fiction - active voice, show don't tell, you can't address the reader, and the like. All of the "rules" you hear so often on writing sites. When you go back to the classics, and even to current literary fiction, the rules are thrown out the window in many cases. Going back to Lolita, which is a modern novel, you have the word-play itself becoming as important as the story, you have the narrator speaking directly to the audience. It was a commercial success, but breaks many of the rules of commercial fiction."

    Interesting points on the divergence of literary and commercial fiction. While in general commercial fiction focuses on compelling stories while literary fiction focuses on provocative prose, sometimes you see convergence as well. Commercial fiction can tell us provocative stories or impart important life lessons. Literary fiction can contain action/drama sequences, but often this is a platform for subtly getting us to think about deeper issues.

    In addition, the conventional 'show, don't tell' rule has mostly been discarded by literary and commercial writers alike. We know it's important to utilize both effectively. Sometimes stories contain one or the other, still with brilliant results. Lolita (telling) vs. Hills Like White Elephants by Hemingway (showing) are prime examples.
     

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