Thursday, September 17, 2015

Am I a Fiction Snob?

Because I've been reading non-fiction almost exclusively lately, I have challenged myself to pick up fiction. I never really thought of myself as a fiction snob, but I frequently am disappointed about the novels I pick up.

And I don't know why.

I'm interested in discovering this answer, both as a reader and a writer.

As a reader, I obviously want to be swept away to another time or place, fall in love with the characters, and/or be otherwise entertained. I usually stick to literary or mainstream fiction because I prefer a strong character arc to my books. I don't care so much about the plot, and I lovelovelove beautiful language.

I assumed that genre novels (romance, scifi/fantasy, mystery/thriller, horror) didn't focus on character development and were more akin to Hollywood blockbusters for the ADHD crowd.

But that's ungenerous.

So I've specifically challenged myself to read more genre fiction. I purchased seven genre e-books--mostly romance, but two darker ones. I thought maybe the romances would surprise me. I do, after all, enjoy romantic comedies. Though, I have to admit that my favorite rom-coms are independent ones, and not the Hollywood blockbuster ones. (Strike one for genre.) And my only experience with romance novels were a couple of unfortunate Danielle Steels and Victoria Holt's gothic romance in my high school years, Harlequins in middle school, and some Nora Roberts when I was desperate for a book to read in my early thirties.

But that's ungenerous. Again.

So maybe I am a fiction snob.

But that doesn't add up either, because there are plenty of "classics" and award-winning novels that I couldn't wrap my head around (or even understand sometimes) and even stopped reading before the end--unheard of in my earlier days of reading.

I think what I really am attracted to is voice. The author's voice.

So, as a writer, I'm interested in what makes me turn the pages as a reader. What is it about an author's voice that I like?

That's harder to identify. And--it seems--is completely subjective. Which makes it hard to duplicate as a writer.

Right now, I am reading Crescent, by Diana Abu-Jaber. More mainstream fiction. I know, I know.

But what's a girl to do with a To Be Read pile like this?

I'll read one of the new genre e-books next. Promise.


Anastasia Poirier said...

If you haven't already, you should read The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss. It's essentially 100 percent character while still being engaging and intriguing. This book is tied into (very loosely) his other books, but I don't feel it's necessary to have read the others to understand/enjoy this one. It was beautifully written and a great study for writing well in third person. Bonus, it's very short! (Though maybe that's not a bonus because it's so great.)

Valerie Willman said...

Thanks so much for the recommendation! 'Cuz, you know, I need more books on my list. ;-)

I'm looking forward to finding it. Thanks, Anastasia. Nice hearing from you.

Sondra Kelly-Green said...

Great article, Valerie! Diana was my mentor at Antioch. Her first book, Arabian Jazz, is a gem. The Language of Baklava Is fun too. But right now I've been swept into the vortex of Elena Ferrante's Neopolitan novels. Everyone's all achatter about her and it's well deserved. Don't let the corny covers fool you. Even in translation she does things with words that have never been done. I'm on book three and I just got them less than a week ago. Blistering, jaw-dropping prose at its best. Check her out!

Valerie Willman said...

Hi Sondra! I haven't seen you in awhile. Are you still in Eugene? I'll add these books to my ToBeRead pile. Thanks for the suggestions.