Deep POV: Confessions of a Christian Writer

The ramblings of an emergent-realistic-edgy-working-for-God-and-the-pay-isn’t-that-great-sometimes-confused-christian-fiction writer (uh, that would be me).

Friday, May 13, 2005

Why I Will Never Be a Literary Writer

I love beautiful language, really, I do. I'm reading Tender is the Night right now--how could I not? Read this:

Knotted at her throat she wore a lilac scarf that even in the achromatic sunshine cast its color up to her face and down around her moving feet in a lilac shadow.

or this...

When this died away on the summer air, she walked on, between kaleidoscopic peonies massed in pink clouds, black and brown tulips and fragile mauve-stemmed roses, transparent like sugar flowers in a confectioner’s window— until, as if the scherzo of color could reach no further intensity, it broke off suddenly in mid-air, and moist steps went down to a level five feet below.

Both excerpts are wonderful. I wish I could write description like that, where a shadow can be lilac-colored, and flowers are sugar. My strength is in dialogue, though, so I always struggle with good description. I also, if truth be told, find that my eyes glaze over at too much of it. Or too much interior monologue/focus on the character's every thought. Although I'm not a person who likes action/suspense books, mysteries, or spy thrillers, I do enjoy a good plot in whatever I'm reading and I sometimes find that lacking in books labeled "literary." Take Walker Percy's novel, The Moviegoer. This came highly recommended by several writers I know and one editor who has a list posted on his blog, a list I've been attempting to read through. So, I bought a copy of the book. I've read well into it, but so far, nothing is happening, at least nothing that captures my interest. It's well written, it's interesting given the period in which it was written, but it has very little plot ... at least for me.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, who, for some reason, I did not read in school, has been a notable exception. I fully expected him to be like Walker Percy, but when I read The Great Gatsby, I was surprised to find there was a plot. It took awhile to get there, but it was well worth the wait. Maybe the Percy book is that way too, but I'm not sure I'll ever be able to finish it.

My conclusion? I'll never be a literary writer so it's good that I don't want to be. I am not attracted to the idea of writing in first person and while I enjoy deep character studies, I like them done within the context of a story that moves and propels the protagonist forward. I like to see the characters set into situations that stretch and challenge them. If they are sitting around musing about the state of the world or what color blue the lake is or how often they've been in love, well, I am bored. I do some of that in my own writing, but there's a plot, too, one that compels them to act. Which is just the way I want it.