I never forgot that even back when I wrote supernatural suspense. As I evolved as a writer, some of my critique partners began to point out that I was getting a little literary. Like the author I'd interviewed, I took it as a compliment because it meant I was writing pretty. Who doesn't want to do that?
I recently won the blogger's choice INSPY award in the general/literary category for my debut, Crossing Oceans. This pleased me of course but it also got me thinking again about the subject of literary fiction.
There's a documentary on John Steinbeck's life that is fascinating. Even though he wrote what are considered masterpieces now, the critics hated him. Why? Because, in my opinion, he wrote literary fiction. By writing beautifully, I believe writers are opening themselves up for closer scrutiny.
When Nicholas Sparks puts out a book we're not admiring his prose. We're just reading the story for the story's sake. When we read someone like Lisa Samson, Khalid Hassan, or Arthur Golden, we expect the language to be unusually beautiful.
But there's a problem--sometimes the story doesn't call for that. Sometimes literary writing in certain chapters or even in certain books would be out of place. Literary fiction, is a genre, in many ways like any other, and a writer can get pigeon-holed there and criticized if they don't live up to the literary genre expectation that demands gorgeous language and imagery.