The Question is Not Why but Rather, Why Not?

Holy neglecting the blog, Batman! Ten days?! It’s been ten days since I’ve visited my blog and my happy place? (Note to newbs: That would be the handsome hunk of hotness in the upper left corner.) I’m a terrible blogger. Pull up your socks, Renee! These people come here to be entertained…or something and you are seriously falling behind. Give them something to keep them from doing what they should be doing. I’m so embarrassed to know you. Ugh.

Well, I don’t know about you, but that’s about as much self abuse as I can muster. Really, I’ve been busy doing writerly things. Articles about things you don’t care about, more articles about publishing and writing, and a new venture that I will tell you about in January. So y’all come back, ya hear!

And that’s about as much silliness as I can muster too. It’s time for business. I really do have something worth writing about: The perfect novel. Is there such a thing?

When I first asked myself this question, my immediate response was, “Pfft! The perfect novel? No such animal.” But since then Mr. Google and I have searched the huge abyss of information that is the Internet, found discussions, articles, and blogs exploring the possibility, and my answer is not so firm. Imagine it: The. Perfect. Novel. What a wonderous thing that would be. Envision a novel with just the right dash of literary brilliance, the ideal measure of heart pounding action, the right sprinkling of commerical appeal, and the best damn characters you’ve ever seen. What would you give to write that novel? I’ll tell you, I’d give…almost anything. Probably as much as I’d give to read such a wonder.

Literature isn’t as revered as it used to be. Well, what we used to define as literary isn’t as admired, the actual definition of literature today is evolving. Gone are the days where we stand and gasp at the awesomeness of a novel that we need a thesaurus and a degree in psychology and philosophy to understand. Literature today is being smushed and stretched and cut and pasted until it fits something that would have classic literary greats rolling in their graves; commercial fiction. “The heck!” you say. No, I’m totally serious. These days literature is bleeding into genre fiction with awesome results. We haven’t achieved the perfect blend yet, but it’s coming. I can feel it. And I say it’s about damn time. I’m sorry to those self-proclaimed purists who cringe in horror at the thought of literature becoming something that “not so smart” folks can read. Okay, I’m not sorry. I think that the days of separating greatness based on archaic rules that make no sense anymore should be gone. I think that romance, sci-fi, historical, mystery, and all of the other genre authors who can write the shit out of whatever they attempt should be seen as equals to the geniuses of old. Why? Because in my book good writing is good writing, whether you write about the meaning of life and your place in it or aliens taking over New York.

You see, I’ve always struggled because I can appreciate both types of fiction and I’ll read anything as long as it’s well written. I’ve fought my instinctive style, argued with my muse until it left in a flurry of feathers, tight ass, and cheap cologne (hey, my inspiration is my business) because nothing that I write from my heart seems to fit neatly into a genre or into what we view as literary. I want to use fancy words (occasionally) and I want the reader to question what they know and believe (often) but I also want vampires, murder, and the occasional (okay frequent) steamy romance. Why can’t I do that? Because, to include vampires makes it paranormal-something or horror. To include murder makes it suspense or thriller or crime. Romance…isn’t that self explanatory? Forget that the reader closes the book feeling as though they’ve learned something about something they thought they knew but really had no clue about. Ignore the fact that the reader cursed me for daring to question society’s status quo but had to keep reading to see if I was just kidding. That doesn’t matter. If it has genre it ain’t literary and if it’s literary it cannot be put into a genre.

Why not? Exactly. There is no law that says we can’t combine the two. Shouldn’t we all strive to write beautifully while still appealing to the masses? Does breathtaking prose mean that the zombie can’t fall in love with the werewolf transvestite or the uncharacteristically sexy scientist can’t discover (after a passionate affair with a scaly fish-woman from Pluto) that we all evolved from guppies and not apes or God’s hand and both camps (er–religion and science, if you’re wondering) had it wrong the whole time? Can’t that be literary?

I’ve always believed that can’t shouldn’t be in anyone’s vocabulary. Never is definitely a no-no in my world. So when anyone says “you can’t” or “that’s impossible”, my reaction is to say “Why not?”

There is such a thing as the perfect novel and rather than worrying about genre or whatever, I think our focus should be on striving to come as close to that perfection as we can. Why not?

6 thoughts on “The Question is Not Why but Rather, Why Not?

  1. I like your thinking, Renee! I agree that good writing is good writing, and more an more any attempt to pigeon-hole certain books to certain genres really doesn't do the book justice!I'll just continue to write what I write and hope that someone likes it!

  2. Nice one, señora. Sticking out our neck a little, what? I bet it feels good. But you’re right, of course, though I hate to think that Victor Hugo, Conrad and Virginia Woolf wouldn’t make it out of the slush pile nowadays. Think about it. They wouldn’t.In a way, and regardless of the million fools who refuse to polish their prose, modern fiction writing is harder. Tolstoy, Chejov and his cronies had reams of paper to develop plot, voice, establish pace, and impart excruciating characterization to their characters. Dimitri, the hotel porter we read about on page three—he had a pockmarked face and would hawk globs of phlegm after closing the patron’s carriage doors and pocketing a few kopeks—is the second cousin of Ivan’s aide, Grigory, whom we meet at page 1375. Surely you remember him.What about?A fine rain now made her still more dismal; vans with the odd names of those engaged in odd industries—Sprules, Manufacturer of Saw-dust; Grabb, to whom no piece of waste paper comes amiss—fell flat as a bad joke; bold lovers, sheltered behind one cloak, seemed to her sordid, past their passion; the flower women, a contented company, whose talk is always worth hearing, were sodden hags; the red, yellow, and blue flowers, whose heads were pressed together, would not blaze.Try to palm that sentence past one of the gorgons at editorial office. Virginia… love of my life, forgive them ‘cos they don’t know what the #### they’re doing. Then they divided his clothes among them by throwing dice. But I digress.How many pages you have to hook agents, editors and readers? One? Not even that? One paragraph?Literature is changing, of course it is, but the gulf between good and lousy fiction writing is a wide as ever, and widening.

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