In today’s comments, Daan asked 3 questions, and since two of them are easy to answer, I’ll do so. Then I’ll critique another first paragraph that was submitted some time ago by Yeggy. But first, the questions. Daan asked:
1) What is a literary novel viz-a-viz novels such as Pillars of the Earth, The Firm, Transgression, etc.?
2) What is chic(k) lit(erature)?
3) What is a cy(?) yc(?) novel?
1) A literary novel is a novel in which the usual “Four Pillars of Fiction” (StoryWorld, Character, Plot, and Theme) are supplemented by a Fifth Pillar–Style. A novel in which Style plays a leading role is a literary novel. Of the books Daan mentioned:
* THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH, by Ken Follett, is not a literary novel. I’d classify it as a blockbuster historical suspense novel. Follett is one of my favorite authors, and PILLARS is my favorite of all his books–it’s in my all-time Top Five list.
* THE FIRM, by John Grisham, is not a literary novel either. It’s a legal thriller, and a fine one. Grisham has been routinely mocked for writing fast-paced, workmanlike prose. The man had the #1 selling novel in America for roughly 8 years in a row, so I suppose a little mockery is all in the day’s work. I’ve enjoyed some of Grisham’s work, and my favorite is probably still his first, A TIME TO KILL, which was a little rough but it showed a lot of passion. Gotta love that.
* TRANSGRESSION, by that pesky Randy Ingermanson, is not a literary novel either. I have never aspired to write literary fiction. I always considered it a work of historical suspense (it’s a time travel novel in which a physicist tries to kill the apostle Paul). Oddly, it won a major award in the “futuristic” category. I never thought of it as remotely futuristic, but I’m not going to give back the award, either. Daan, by the way, has recently finished translating TRANSGRESSION into Afrikaans, and I hope he finds a good market for it.
2) “Chick lit” is fiction about young women looking for Mr. Right. Chick lit is generally considered fluffy and “not serious fiction”. Fer crying out loud, who cares if it’s “not serious?” Not everything in life has to be serious. “Chick lit” has long ago branched out into “mom lit” (young married women with brats on their hands–the natural fate of the lucky young gals who found Mr. Right), and “hen lit” (older women who like to have just as much fun as the chicks, but who found Mr. Right long ago and have got used to the fact that he is more Mr. Left than they had intended.)
To my knowledge, the parallel categories for guys don’t really exist, though there have been some novels written along those lines. But the fact is that American society doesn’t lay the same expectations on men as on women, and a guy just doesn’t believe that life will suddenly be swell if only he finds Miss Right. That’s my take on it, anyway.
3) I have never heard of cy or yc novels. A YA novel is for “young adults”, but I’m not sure if that’s what Daan is asking about.
Now, let’s turn to Yeggy’s one-paragraph submission:
“Mum!” Rissa yelled as Lauren ran up the staircase. “It’s just a photo album!”
“Not just a photo album, it’s your baby photos.”
Rissa turned to her dad and gave him the look. “You’re the one that got us into this in the first place. You and your stupid feud with Richard.”
Colin gritted his teeth. The knuckles of his hands whitened as he tipped his head back and shouted up the stairs. “Lauren, it’s nearly sunset!”
“No need to get agro. I’ll be down in a sec. You said they never attacked before dark.”
“The latest report had them down river fifteen minutes ago. With this cloud cover it’ll be dark in ten.” He slapped a hand on the banister. “We have to leave now!”
Randy sez: This shows a lot of promise, but methinks it’s a little crowded. I count somewhere between 4 and 6 characters, 3 plots, and 4 exclamation marks. That is 3, 2, and 3 too many. Let’s look at each in turn:
The characters: We have Mum, Rissa, Lauren (is Lauren the same as Mum?), Dad, Richard, and Colin (is he the same as Dad?) We also have an unnamed group called “they” who are likely to attack. I recommend using the same moniker for each character early on. If Mum is Lauren, then call her one or the other consistently. Ditto for Dad/Colin. We’ve just been introduced to these people and it’s hard to keep track of who’s who right now.
The plots: We’ve got The Mystery of the Baby Photo Album–what’s that all about? Then we’ve got Dad’s Feud With Richard–could be interesting, especially if machine guns or exploding cats are going to be involved. Then there is The Trip Past Them After Sunset–again, this could be scary, if Them turns out to be zombies or werewolves or politicians.
The exclamation points: The Rule of One applies here. The Rule of One says that “1 + 1 = 1/2″. I stole this from several brilliant people, all of whom think they invented it. (You know who you are, and you deserve the credit, you genius, you.) So the Rule of One says you can never do better than by limiting yourself to just one. The Rule of One applies to exclamation points, cheesecake slices, and wives. You violate the Rule of One at your Xtreme peril.
Yeggy, can you trim down this passage so there are 3 characters, 1 plot, and 1 exclamation point? I know you can. Do it!!!