On Literary Fiction


I once read what Dean Koontz had to say about literary fiction. His feeling is that literary fiction is written primarily for the ivory tower type people, not for the masses. Who reads their stuff after they're gone? he asks. No one. Who buys it when they are alive? Few.

The authors who have mattered and made a real difference were those who appealed to the masses. Think Dickens, London, Steinbeck, and hundreds of others who's works have survived and are still loved long after their deaths. They were not literary writers. In fact, Dickens was considered a hack in his day, as were London and others. But they wrote what appealed to the people, to their audiences. They wrote about what mattered. And, they made a difference in people's lives.

That's what's important, I feel. To make a difference.

I hear so often that writers must NOT insert their own agendas into their writing. We have to be neutral and let the characters work out their own stories.

Balony! I think if we writers don't have anything worthwhile to say, then we have no business writing. Do you for one moment think Dickens, London, Steinbeck, and the hundreds of other great writers in this world didn't have anything to say? Why else are their works still being read today? Because the DID have something to say, something that mattered to the people to whom they wrote.

That, my friends is what makes for great literature, not the literary style that ivory tower professors like to tout.

About Paul West

Paul West is a freelance writer and novelist. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Paul claims to be a "Prune Picker," though he now makes his home in Taylorsville, Utah.

You can follower him on Twitter: @PaulWWest

Published: Thursday, September 28, 2006

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