What Developments Would You Like To See In Literary Fiction?

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Prophecies

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Thought it'd be great to get some writers perspectives on this. As I'm writing my literary historical novel, and doing alot of reading, I find some things I love about literary fiction, and would like to see more of. This thread is an opportuntiy for writers and critics of the genre to share what developments they would like to see in literary ficiton.

For one, I'd like to see speculative elements outside of dystopia, alternative history and magical realism. I used to joke on Reddit that I was going to write an epic high fantasy like a Fyodor Dostoevsky novel. Then I was encouraged to do so, and I realised that I was serious the whole time. The less 'realistic' subgenres of fantasy & science ficiton like space opera & high fantasy could be great spingboards for literary storytelling. On the subject of magical realism, I'd like to see more originality in how authors approach it.

Also, more 'cinematic' stories. I consider the Wolf Hall trilogy to be one. Novels that deal with World Wars could as well. Classic literature gave us Les Miserables and War & Peace, and once my literary chops develop, I'm def writing an epic novel that long.

And this is more of a publishing point, but I want literary fiction to thrive outside of the MFA. They don't suit all literary fiction authors, and while I appreciate that some offer a form of patronage for writers, both students and professors, I'd like to see better financial alternatives available in the future. (journalism, online education, blogging, consulting are some things authors can do). I can't imagine myself doing a Masters in creative writing, because I'm finishing undergraduate, and I just having a burning need to travel the world. That ought to count for something in my literary development. Nothing against these programs, however.

Thanks for any responses, and Happy Friday! :)
 

Chris P

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I'd like to see my name on more book covers.

/lock thread

I don't read much spec fic, so I can't really say what tropes are underrepresented there. For the contemporary or historical that I like to read, I want to see more of the same, but each title with its own twist. If I had to summarize what I like, I like the stories that go deep into what it's like to be that person. What's their world like? How do they respond to it? What parts of their world are completely different from mine in a way that explains my world?

I'm thinking of things like Snow by Orhan Pamuk, A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter, Lolita by Nabokov, War and Peace by Tolstoy, oh so many great titles. Show me something I've not seen before but that makes total sense once you point it out, and do it with some clever brain tickler language and I am sold.
 

Helix

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For one, I'd like to see speculative elements outside of dystopia, alternative history and magical realism. I used to joke on Reddit that I was going to write an epic high fantasy like a Fyodor Dostoevsky novel. Then I was encouraged to do so, and I realised that I was serious the whole time. The less 'realistic' subgenres of fantasy & science ficiton like space opera & high fantasy could be great spingboards for literary storytelling. On the subject of magical realism, I'd like to see more originality in how authors approach it.

That raises the question of where the line lies between genre and literary fiction.
 

lizmonster

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That raises the question of where the line lies between genre and literary fiction.

I've always heard one (the?) defining characteristic of literary fiction is the character focus. Which isn't to say genre books don't do that, but if they lean more heavily on character (e.g. STATION ELEVEN and SOURDOUGH) they tend to fall more on the litfic side of the line (depending on who you ask).

I don't know. I kind of have an "I know it when I read it" sense of litfic.
 

Prophecies

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Hey everyone, thanks for your responses. A kind soul on here, mccardey, told me how previous threads similar to this got out of hand, and I'll try my very best to make sure this thread is civil and on-topic. Aware that I'm new here, and unfamiliar with the nuances of AW, but I don't want there to be a fight or anything like that.

Helix: Your point is interesting, and honestly, I see the lines between fantasy & literary fiction becoming more blurry thanks to the work by Gene Wolfe, Urusala Le Guinn and even GRRM (more on that). I think what makes Brandon Sanderson's books genre, not literary, is not because of 'magic' but because of character decisions, themes, and prose. Personally, I think it's possible to write a high fantasy with extremely superb prose, complex themes and realistic characters. GRRM tries to do that, and he's more successful in some fields than others. Do I think ASOIAF is literary fiction? No. The themes are meaty and deep, certainly literary, but some characters have far more depth that others. Maybe it's a matter of execution

My point is that having a dragon in your book shouldn't exclude it from literary fiction. If your prose, themes, execution, characters all fulfill literary fiction, then it's literary. Also, neither literary fiction or fantasy genre fiction will remain the same in fifty years time. Both will change, as how we see literature. That gets me excited, not because I hate the current state, but because I think future authors will work with exciting material, and have even more possibilities available to them.

Lizmonster puts it well with 'I know it when I read it' and the emphasis on character.

Chris P: I understand as well, and you put it beautifully about immersion. And yes, more of our names on books... especially the ones with yellow prize winning stickers!
 
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Ari Meermans

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Heh. A lot of older threads did get a tad out of hand but c'est la vie and all that jazz™.

Thing is, literary is not a genre, it's a marketing category. One thread you might find helpful, Prophecies, is the "Lit Fic Check-in?" thread where we discussed this. (And which pretty much explains my ":cry:" attempt at humor.)

Ari, who's gonna beat on this till she dies. Fair warning.
 

Curlz

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For one, I'd like to see speculative elements outside of dystopia, alternative history and magical realism.
On the subject of magical realism, I'd like to see more originality in how authors approach it.
Also, more 'cinematic' stories.
I want literary fiction to thrive outside of the MFA.

All these things do exist and there's plenty to read. So I'm not sure what you mean when you say "there should be more" when there is more. Some of them are even made into movies, so it's not like they are obscure or anything.

I'd like to see better financial alternatives available in the future. (journalism, online education, blogging, consulting are some things authors can do).
In order for those financial alternatives to exist, there need to also exist paying readers. And that's in short supply, so probably you won't see more of those financial alternatives available in the future, sadly. Unless, of course, you come up with something yourself.
 

Prophecies

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@Curlz: This thread is for what I personally want to see. I know that they aren't necessarily likely. That's not the point.

And I can't name alot of speculative literary fiction that isn't dystopia, alt history or magical realism. Can you?
 

Kjbartolotta

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Weird po-mo stuff like we had back in the eighties, where the writer is clearly having a nervous breakdown and binge-reading Hofstader and Foucault. I'd also like to see more stuff like we had in the sixties, when the writer is clearly having a nervous breakdown and just switched from a Freudian therapist to a Jungian.
 

Kalyke

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I found a really cheap MFA I got for 1/2 off the regular price, so I am going for it. The financial incentive is the ability to get some of those fine fine yellow prize stickers on the front of my not published by Amazon self publishing books (maybe). YOLO.

I have this real need to read "The Stranger" by Camus. Why. Is that about a dead guy found on the beach?

so what caught my eye is the need/want to " see speculative elements outside of dystopia, alternative history and magical realism." What do we mean by this?

Where are the other places? Is this just about neoclassisim where you can roll up any set of things together? I certainly hope there is that kind of freedom.
 

Iustefan

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This is a difficult question to answer, because I am not the most up-to-date on current trends.

I definitely want more quiet and weird books to be written (for me to read). Bizarro-fiction was weird, but too loud. I like my weirdness to be quiet and subtle.

Another trend I would like to see is for shorter forms to become more publishable. I wish we could get away with publishing novellas and short story collections again. This may actually be happening with smaller/indie presses. Most of my favorite books were either a short novel, or a novella, and that's the sort of thing I would like to write and get published one day myself. It's also more appealing to me as a reader, because I don't have time to read bricks anymore. But maybe that's just me.
 

bachaterobx

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I kind of like what I've been seeing in the last 20 years or so, and I would like to see it continue; magical realism with more of a real life edge, or realism becoming more magical and dreamlike, and all of it more political. Bolaños, Anna Burns, Ondjaki, Marlon James. I've really been enjoying my reading recently.