Tag Archives: literary fiction

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Empathy, Courage and Guilty Librarians

This week in the news….

This years Nobel Prize for Literature went to none other than the renowned short story writer, Alice Munro.  She is the first Canadian recipient ever for the prestigious literary award. You can read more about it here.

Literary fiction makes you more empathetic and perceptive, studies find, according to Publishing Perspectives.  Those who read it are more likely to determine the facial expressions of those around them.  If they are reading in public, they should be able to determine if the stranger beside them approves of their high brow novel, or is considering them pretentious.

20th Century Fox gets serious with Boom Comics.  The pair have arranged an innovative first look deal which would allow Fox the first opportunity in vetting any Boom comics for film development.  You can read more about it here on Publisher’s Weekly.

The PEN Pinter Prize has been awarded to international journalist, Iryna Khalip as this year’s “writer of courage”, the guardian reports. Khalip is a Belarusian writer, reporter and activist.  She has faced harassment, beatings, and detainment for her criticism of Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko.  You can read more about her work documented by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In lighter news, Librarians aren’t perfect.  http://librarian-shaming.tumblr.com/  Check out the Tumblr Librarian Shaming  for reasons to gasp and “tut-tut”.

Please leave any questions, comments or empathy-inducing literature worth sharing in the comment section below, or tweet them to us @sumbolacosi.

credit: Bob AuBuchon

Literary Fiction and Ten Tips for Writing Meaningfully

Last week, articles such as the Guardian’s Literary Fiction improves Empathy, Study Finds began popping up.  An experiment conducted by two social psychologists found that reading literary fiction “leads people to perform better on tests that measure empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence.”

While the study was not clear on what specific novels were used, we can consider including books that challenge us as reader in our to-be-read piles to improve our engagement with others.  As writers, whether we prescribe to a specific genre or the literary label, we can consider it a reminder to engage our readers, and place value on the writing, not just the plot.  It’s for the good of society, after all.

Below are ten tips on writing fiction worthy of the title “Literature”:

  1. Show, don’t tell. No, that doesn’t mean make it a picture book, it means leave a little bit of creative space for your reader.  Don’t tell them what to feel, and don’t tell them what to think.  Let the story direct their senses, not dictate them.
  2. Avoid clichés like the plague.  This is a list- I can use clichés until the cows come home. It’s your job to write a new story using your own ideas.  If you must use them, restrict clichés to the dialogue of your characters, and only if they suit the character.  Cliches aren’t just restricted to word choice either.  Think carefully before rehashing overused character types, story lines, or even character reactions.
  3. Use symbolism.  Symbolism is a great way to indicate the mood or the theme of a story, rather than just saying it.  When well applied, it adds texture to a story that is difficult to replicate.
  4. Don’t overuse symbolism.  Unless you’re writing National Treasure, you don’t have to insinuate that every object is a clue to something else- symbolism is wonderful, and powerful, but don’t let it get in the way of your story; besides, there are plenty of other wonderful literary devices.
  5. Consider your characters “people”.   Readers care about characters they can relate to. Whether they are humans, animals or aliens, they need to be as complex as the readers.  They need flaws, burdens, charming details, and they need a purpose. Take time to get to know who your characters are.
  6. Reconsider excessive exclamations!  Your story might be an action packed thriller, but your use of punctuation should have very little to do with it.
  7. Keep a thesaurus.  A thesaurus, a dictionary and a grammar guide are friends of any author, novice or veteran.  Be open to the possibility that you or one of your characters could phrase something better.
  8. Keep it simple.  You’ve dog-eared your thesaurus looking up some sensational synonyms, but use them appropriately. Be precise. Stay true to the voice or the novel.  Readers will know if you’re writing for a word count instead of for them.
  9. Don’t worry about commercial prospects.  Writers are incredibly diverse sorts of people, but we share a passion for a story.  Yes, paying bills or appearing on Oprah’s book club might be dreams that lurk in our imagination, but your love of a story should trump marketability when it comes to whether you should write it.
  10. Forget the ideal reader.  This one ties in to the previous tip:  write the story because you need to tell it, not to please the image of a grad student in a coffee shop or the ghost of William Faulkner.  As Joyce Carol Oates said, “He/she might exist, but is reading someone else”.

What are your best tips on writing meaninfully?  Share them with us in the comments or tweet us @sumbolacosi.