Some Things I Don’t Get About the Literary World

  1. Erotica: It isn’t erotica itself as a genre that I don’t get. It’s popular, I can totally see why people read it. What I don’t get about erotica is why people are trying to defend it as something more than literary porn. It has a story? Okay. So does a lot of visual porn, like hentai, for one thing. Can we just get rid of this idea that erotica somehow has a higher status than porn simply because it’s the written word? There is no shame in reading erotica, but trying to elevate it above visual porn is something that I don’t get. I don’t read erotica, but I’ve seen enough bad blurbs (and god-awful covers) to know that it’s not something I want to read, and that it’s just sex, sex, story, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, story is in here somewhere, and more sex. Maybe I just don’t get it because I don’t read it. But I have no interest in reading it because I’m the type of reader that wants to take something meaningful away from a book. I don’t read purely for entertainment, which there is nothing wrong with doing.
  2. New Adult: Okay, so I get its existence because college-aged kids don’t have any books for them. But I feel like all the genre is right now is sexed-up YA, which is what it’s currently being described as. Isn’t the genre something more, or is it really just all sexed-up YA romance books? Because that’s all I’m seeing in the genre so far. I see no one really trying to push the boundaries of NA and make it into something more meaningful. I suppose I could be that writer, but I’m not interested in writing college stories. They don’t appeal to me.
  3. Writing males and females: Why do we worry so much about how to write male and female characters? Why don’t we just write people? Not all boys fit into the stereotypical boy box, just as not all girls fit into the stereotypical girl box. In my current book, the main character is a boy, but I am not worrying about how to write him as a boy. I am worrying about writing him as a person because he is an individual with his own personality. Like I don’t get it when people write reviews about boys that read like girls. What do girls even read like? For that matter, what do boys read like? The best writers tend to not differentiate, I think.
  4. Brand: There is this obsession with branding authors so that authors inevitably force themselves into a box. There is nothing wrong with wanting to write only one genre, but it becomes problematic for someone like me who goes from paranormal romance to contemporary fantasy to someone who really does want to write just a contemporary book but is afraid to confuse her readers because people who stand by branding claim writing outside of genres will screw you over. Libba Bray did it. Why can’t I?
  5. Literary fiction: I seriously don’t get what makes a book literary and what makes a book commercial. John Green is apparently a literary author but has commercial appeal. I’ll admit I want to make my current book have more literary elements, but the more I think about it, the more I don’t quite know what I mean. I have heard that literary books have more meaning than commercial, but I have read commercial books with just as much depth. So I really don’t get it.

 

Is there anything you don’t get? Anything you can help me get?

 

 

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Author:

Also known as The Dancing Writer, she is currently working on The Stars Trilogy, among other works.

16 thoughts on “Some Things I Don’t Get About the Literary World

  1. I think for the erotica one (and here I’m just speculating) is that it’s a concerted effort between erotica writers and readers to give their genre a more sophisticated bent. Kind of like with movies — if a movie is mostly sex, then it’s a porno … but if you have it set in a foreign country and make it black and white, suddenly it’s an “art film”. So I think that’s where they’re going with this — trying to sophisticate erotica up. And fair enough — I’m sure there are some excellent, though provoking eroticas out there. But for the vast majority of the erotica books out there … yep, just literary porn 😀

    1. Even if there is sophisticated erotica out there, I’m sure it’d still be porn. I’m sure there is sophisticated porn out there, but it’s still porn at the end of the day. 😛

  2. On erotica — I think people try to elevate all types of porn by saying “But it has a story!” because they are ashamed of enjoying it. There is a stigma against it. Also, as with sex in movies, what gets the label of erotica? I have read books with a lot of sex (Jacqueline Carey comes to mind) that I wouldn’t classify as erotica by a long shot. And what does erotica take away from literature, exactly?

    Not having read New Adult, I can’t really comment. I don’t understand the need for it as a genre because I would assume people in college (i.e. adults) would read adult books, but that is just me.

    Branding is largely up to the author and publisher. Seanan McGuire has one name she writes as for Urban Fantasy, and another for horror (Mira Grant) where Libba Bray does it all under one name. I think it just depends on the choices of the author and/or publisher.

    From my understanding, a literary book is primarily character driven, focusing on the personal growth and journey of the character, while a commercial book is primarily plot driven. To classify your book as one or the other generally means to exclude it from the other, which I don’t agree with. I think it is possible to have books that feature both characters and plot. Though of course nothing comes to mind.

    I skipped over writing male/female because it is something I have been dealing with a lot lately. I didn’t know how long-winded I might get, so I saved it for last. There seems to be so much emphasis on the non-cis lately that people are forgetting that the cis does still exist. It comes down to who you want to cater to. I agree with writing your character first without thought of male or female-ness, but if someone wants to write a character that is definitively female, then they shouldn’t be looked down on, either. A character can be non-cis, but unless they are identified as such, then a feminine male is generally going to be misunderstood by the masses. Is that OK? I don’t know, and I don’t think it is for me to judge.

    WALL OF TEXT!

    1. I approve of WALL OF TEXT!

      As for the literary thing, most YA books are character driven, but most are still classified as commercial. I mean, I guess the plot is more definitive than in literary, but most books I read are character driven.

      And I have no problem with people writing girls who are girls and boys who are boys. My issue comes out when people read a book written by a woman who wrote about a boy, and people start complaining that the boy read like a girl. Just how? If the book had been written by a guy, would they have complained?

      1. Re: the binary gender thing. I think it comes from complaints of the author not “understanding” the presented gender, if it is being presented as cis. So, a guy “reading as a girl” might read very emotional, into talking about their feelings, things that are generally attributed to women. A woman who reads as more male would be more “macho” and “butch”. Even though most people don’t fall into these categories, people still look for them.

        Now, something else to note is that the people who generally complain about these things are the people who are most stereotypically cis. So, the person who is most likely to complain about a boy reading like a girl (in my opinion and experience) is the boy who is into monster trucks and has been raised to feel that feelings are bad. Generally speaking, women are less likely to have issues with gender roles (and I personally find that I have more issues with overly macho men than feminine male characters), but the ones who do are the ones who want women to be everything good and nothing bad.

        It is such a complicated issue, tangled with gender binaries, stereotypes, misogyny… It makes my head hurt to think of it. I think, as authors, all we can do is write the characters we want and realize that not everyone will love them.

  3. 1. Erotica: It is literary porn. I read -a lot- of romance, and I’m almost always disappointed when I find my “romance book” is actually “erotica”. They have very little plot, and there’s sex every two pages. I read a really REALLY awful one (on accident) not too long ago that involved a woman having an affair with her husband.. and not realize it was him. She also had 8 kids. It was somewhat disturbing to say the least.

    2. New Adult: I really think NA is an attempt by publishers to make YA okay to read for the older crowd. The characters are usually just out of high school but still Teen enough to act immature, and sex is of course, suddenly okay (because they’re not teens and we don’t want to send a bad image! I think it’s a pretty needless category… I don’t know why we can’t all be adults and a) admit we read YA, and b) admit that teens have sex.

    3. Writing males and females: This one I actually get. Sometimes books come along where you can actually tell what gender the author is just from reading them… it’s hard to explain, but the narrative will have a distinct gender to it that translates over to the characters (particularly if the author isn’t upfront about the character’s genders right away) and it can sometimes confuse the reader. I’ve read plenty of books where the author chose not to say any of the character’s genders and it was only 4 chapters in that I realized the main character was male. I was certain he was a girl. It can be distracting. It’s not any one thing the author does to cause the confusion.. it’s just little subtle hints in the word-choice and character’s actions that stick out. Sometimes the character will just seem awkward in the way their written compared to the characters of the same gender as the author. To my understanding, usually when writers talk about writing the different genders it has less to do with making men manly and girls girly than trying to weed out this subconscious presence of the author’s gender in the writing.

    4. Brand: brands are stupid. Nora Roberts writes crime thrillers and romance novels… no one’s complaining about her being outside her brand. I don’t prescribe to brands, and I don’t get upset when I find an author who writes a lot of different genres.

    5. Literary Fiction: I’m still trying to get my head around what “literary” really means myself. I tend to think of it as fiction that is character-driven and doesn’t belong predominantly to one, obvious, genre. Usually they seem to have a really strong message to the story, or one really predominant emotion. It’s a tricky category. I think commercial novels tend to be more flashy, genre-specific, and are more about plot than character.

    My two cents. Now I will go finish my morning coffee! NOM.

  4. I’m no expert on erotica, but I have to wonder if it has to do with how porn has been stigmatized by our society. People seen porn as this dirty, skeevy thing done by creepy single guys or attached men that are intent on screwing up their marriages. I have to wonder if erotica fans look at that stereotype and just think “That’s not me!” and reject it, despite the fact that both are narratives with a primary purpose of titillation. There’s probably a big thing about gender in there too.

    Again with New Adult, I’m no expert, but perhaps it has something to do with the fact that it’s such a new genre? I’d be curious to see what it morphs into in 10-15 years. YA is certainly a different field now than when I was a teenager.

  5. I will give you my two cents. I don’t like branding although I understand the justification. I am so much more interested in what attracts me to the book. I hate the influence branding has on our culture and my own artistry. Regarding gender, I have not heard of this issue, but I care much more about thorough complex character development. I think gender distinctions are more important in historical writing or new writing that covers the early 2oth century and back. Or in cultures where these distinctions apply. I don’t think they apply in contemporary First World culture.

  6. As for erotica, it’s popular among the female readership. It’s literary porn in my opinion.
    Brands are stupid. A writer should never be boxed in writing one category.

    New Adult, well you lost me there. Either that I am way behind in literary realm, or that its a recent thing. As for topic number three. I will leave it to others to give their two cents.

  7. Erotica is literary porn, plain and simple. There is nothing wrong with reading it, different strokes and all that jazz, but to try and elevate it above what it really is, porn, is ridiculous.

    Brands are the reason Dean Koontz had to kill his pen names when he decided to publish all his books under his own name. I like authors because of the way they tell their stories, not because it’s a fantasy novel, or because it’s a sci-fi novel. It’s the storytelling, plain and simple.

  8. I wanted to add that I’ve only very recently heard of this New Adult genre, and I’m actually thinking of changing one of my YA WIPS into a NA story. And I’d like to think that it’s more than just YA with sex LOL. But time will tell on that one I guess.

  9. I like your thoughts on all of these points, but I want to exchange a little on New Adult. I think this genre is fascinating–well, what it’s supposedly about anyway (I was wondering what the heck it was and found some good articles on it), as I do not think I’ve read anything that has been intentionally designated New Adult (although I’m sure I’ve read plenty of New Adult before the genre was introduced). I think there is a difference between the mindsets and reactions to experience between young adults and people in their late teens/early twenties. As a “new adult”, you’re facing the consequences of your actions and decisions in a new way; you’re taking more notice of and responsibility for them (where “young adults” face consequences from their actions, I don’t think they have the ability to perceive them with the same critical eye and objectivism that you get when you’re a little older). In my experience, I became more introspective as I grew out of my teens (as I was more obsessed with how others perceived me back then), and as I underwent that shift in world view from the sensitivity of teenagedom, I grew more comfortable with myself, more confident, and happy with how I presented myself to the world and the decisions I made, and realized they were for ME, no one else. And I would be the one that would have to deal with them for the rest of my life. I think that this shift, this changing worldview does affect a person and those around them and their, and it changes how they experience things (education/career/sex-life) and perceive them. Therefore, as an example, I think the “sexed-up”edness of the genre is important to explore those things. In my own New Adultish YA, I explore my character’s evolution of her self-esteem and the realization that she can’t control those around her, only the actions that she makes. I can understand why you would think the genre kind of pointless unless it’s pushing boundaries that YA doesn’t traverse with anything other than just a few steamy scenes, and I totally agree with you. I think it should push boundaries, and hopefully, as the genre matures, we’ll be seeing a lot more of that. 🙂

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