I like a good piece of literary fiction as much as the next person, and better than a lot of next persons, depending on who the next person is. But come on.
Any fiction–literary or genre–needs to do certain things:
- Have characters who do things for reasons that make sense to them. The reasons don’t have to make sense to the reader, but they have to–believably–make sense to the characters.
- Have a plot arc with a beginning, a middle and an end. The plot arc may be all chopped up and shuffled around, the ending may be arbitrary because real life doesn’t have neat endings, but the story must have shape, or else it isn’t a story.
- Contain no elements that don’t serve the story. I don’t care how much you know about anything; if what you know doesn’t enrich your tale, save it for a cocktail party. If I’m too undereducated to get your allusions, that’s my hard luck, but don’t make me look something up for nothing. Just don’t.
- Not have too many words. That doesn’t mean “write short”. That means use as many words as you need, but don’t use more. Not a vast deal more, anyway. Beautiful language in a story is like butter on a potato. I’m partial to it, but I want more potato than butter. Way more.
When I finish your fiction, I don’t mind saying, “I’m not sure I got that.” I don’t mind saying, “I guess I’ll need to chew that over and read it again to get the most out of it.” I do mind saying, “There’s hours of my life I’ll never see again.”
Allen has had stories in on-line and print publications, on coffee cans and the wall of an Indian restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky. On Tuesdays, she posts on the group blog Fatal Foodies. Her novel, EEL’S REVERENCE, a science fiction/fantasy, is available through Echelon Press in various electronic formats.