Why Would You Do That? (Guest Blog: Marian Allen)

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.”

Marian Allen writes science fiction, fantasy, mystery, humor, horror, mainstream, and anything else she can wrestle into fixed form.

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.

Allen is a member of the Green River Writers and the Southern Indiana Writers Group, and is a regular contributor to SIW’s annual anthology.

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5 responses to “Why Would You Do That? (Guest Blog: Marian Allen)

  1. Here in Brazil we say that if a thing is not going well is because she hasn’t started the way it should. When we read some kind of fiction, we want the characters correspond exactly to the circumstances of everyday life, forming and act as any person of the world existentially concrete; but, here for us, this is almost impossible. The characters, once created, acquire life itself, are the way they are and may or may not find parallel in the daily life of simple mortals. It is the reader to make every effort to penetrate the world of fiction, without the illusion that it corresponds in its details to the real world.

    • You are absolutely correct! I’m a big fan of fantasy and magic realism, and I understand that fictional reality doesn’t have to be the same as everyday reality. What bothers me is when fictional reality doesn’t conform to itself. The writer establishes a context, and the characters and events should be consistent with that. On the other hand, a writer I very much admire just brought up the possibility of creating a fictional reality that IS inconsistent with itself. So I’ll have to rethink my position.

      Thanks for the thought-provoking view!

  2. lol, I think you like Literary more than I do πŸ™‚ But some of it is alright.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Julie

  3. Good post. I am always learning. We are all born to tell stories but t
    Transposing it to a novel is a daunting task. Good book. Love the cover. Reggie

    • Thanks, Reggie, for your comment. I was delighted with the cover. Er…When you say “good book”, do you mean you read EEL’S REVERENCE? If so, then THANK YOU for the kind comment about it. πŸ™‚

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