Sunday, September 19, 2004

Contemporary Fiction: Genres and Beyond

Contemporary Fiction
Writing fiction is an art, and although I am probably not the right person to talk about contemporary fiction since I currently only write non-fiction, any constructive comments or advice on the subject will be welcomed at this blog.

Now that my stand on the subject of fiction writing has been explained, I wish to add that although I am not an expert in the fields of fiction writing, I am however academically trained in the subjects of Contemporary Fiction and Authorship and Writing. Over the past few years, months, and days, I have the opportunity to read a number of fiction novels as part of my academic curriculum. The many novels and genres I have been tasked to read and analyze include Oranges by Jeanette Winterson, Psycho by Robert Bloch, Nice Work by David Lodge, The Memoirs of a Survivor by Doris Lessing, On the Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin, Guerrillas by V.S. Naipaul, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, and Beloved by Toni Morrision.

The novels mentioned above are writings consisting of many different genres, and although these are not the usual types of books that I would have preferred to read, an important lesson learnt from all these readings is to be a good fiction writer, one must read more than these and understand the many different genres of writings.

Analyzing literary is not exactly an easy task and to comprehend the many different genres and then categorize each type of writing content is only for the purpose of identifying the different kinds of writings represented. The pitfall of this is the generalization of different genres in writings and the assumption that all writings fall under a certain type of category. Unfortunately, this approach is not always correct, since there may be multiple genres represented in a single writing.

For example, an author may choose to include humor and suspense in a romance novel. To categorize the novel under romance alone will mean limiting the audience's perception of what the novel represents as a whole. If a reader is only interested in books of thriller or sci-fi, what are the chances of the reader entering a bookstore and going to a section selling books on fantasy or folklore instead?

There are of course many areas of fiction writing apart from genres and these include setting, characterization, plot, point of view, style, target audience, historical and literary background, narrative and narrator.

In the area of style, the writer may wish to consider content such as dualities, binaries, layered meanings, connotations, reminiscence, reflections, rhetoric, metaphors, folklore, and others. Examples of these are the dualities and binaries of academia versus industry in Nice Work, the layered meanings and connotative resentment of enlistment to fight the war, the reminiscence and reflections of events in the past in On the Black Hill, and the metaphors in Memoirs of a Survivor.

In a story setting, aspects such as historical background, constructed society, realism, context of past, present and future may be considered. Experiential content such as historical events that happened in the life of the author may be used to add constructed realism to associate the content in the story that readers may identify. Examples of story setting are the association of colonialism in the writings of Guerrillas, the depiction of societal chaos and the future in Memoirs of a Survivor, the folklore of telepathy of twins in On the Black Hill, and the classical example of Ben-Hur in the times of Jesus.

To write a fiction book or novel for a large audience in the international market, the author must explain or eliminate aspects of writings that contain associated content that is confined to a local context. These will include aspects of language, culture, words and literary terminologies.

For guides on modern language and literary writings, visit the web site of the Modern Language Association at for more details.


Writer n Journalist said...

Share your thoughts and experiences on fiction writing here. You may also post your commentary on any of the novels mentioned in this entry.

Joey Alarilla said...

hi thanks for visiting my blog but no, i don't write for Education :) i'm an editor and infotech columnist for a philippine online news company.


Melanie J Watts said...

Thanks for visiting my blog and posting a comment.It is interesting that you live and work in Singapore. I lived in Singarpore from 1975-1978. I went to school as a boarder at the, United World College Of South East Asia, on Dover road.
I usually spend my mornings writing, sometimes this extends into the early afternoon. In the afternoon I send stories to prospective publishers, garden, cook, bake, go for a bike ride, or read books.
I love to read, I think it helps me with my writing. Thte most difficult part about writing is trying to attract the attention of publishers, most of whom recieve hundreds of manuscripts a month. Scroll in space is a new,unknown literary magazine. Fewer writers are aproaching it so it is easier to get noticed although your writing still has to be good.