Literary vs Commercial Fiction

moneyWhen discussing literary fiction and “commercial” fiction, I’ve often read that they are two different schools of thought. Maybe that’s because in today’s world, we are trained to divide any concept into two and then pick a side. I don’t think you have to choose one or the other. Stephen King once wrote an article of writing tips where he said, “Write to entertain. Does this mean you can’t write ‘serious fiction’? It does not. Somewhere along the line pernicious critics have invested the American reading and writing public with the idea that entertaining fiction and serious ideas do not overlap. This would have surprised Charles Dickens, not to mention Jane Austen, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Bernard Malamud, and hundreds of others. But your serious ideas must always serve your story, not the other way around. I repeat: if you want to preach, get a soapbox.”

It’s weird how so many groups do this. For a long time I was really in to swing dancing. I still love it, just don’t have a lot of time to do it anymore. Anyway, a while back the scene split into “Hollywood Style” and “Savoy Style” and you had to be one or the other. A while after that, it was more of a “raw” versus “smooth” debate. The terminology of swing dancers may be meaningless to you, but I’ll bet that no matter what your hobby, the community around it had created an artificial split.

In writing, I think the real debate should be “What techniques will work for my writing to meet my goals?” The “Show vs. Tell” fight should become less of a “right vs wrong” and more of a “Which works better in this scenario?” discussion.

I know this was a bit of a ramble, but at least it’s over now…

By the way, this is what got me thinking. 

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