Read Like a Writer: Part III


Literary vs. Genre

Before I go into Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, I’d like to look at what makes a genre and literary novel.

Honestly, I wasn’t aware of the contention between these two types of writers until I began my MFA. I’m still a bit baffled by it; however, I understand the surface-level conflict. On the other hand, I know my heart resides with genre, and that’s the writer I want to be.

I began thinking of a metaphor for these two types of writing, and I was reminded of the 1984 movie Amadeus directed by Miloš Forman.

Literary novels are Mozart. Genre novels are Salieri. Both are artists of a different breed. And, I have to add that some forget writers are artists. To me, this metaphor simply serves the emotional and interpretive purpose of those two types of writing rather than defining them concretely.

Generalizing and characterizing two characters in the film Amadeus only, Salieri is a composer jealous of Mozart’s unique compositions, natural talent, fame, and recklessness while Salieri wallows in his own seemingly uninspired and unrecognized art.

No, I’m not saying genre writing is uninspired and unrecognized nor does literary writing garner fame and rely solely on natural talent.

To clarify, literary novelists push the style of literature and what literature means. They produce unique compositions that inspire a critical eye and emotional investment while perhaps challenging our understanding of what literature is: Forman’s Amadeus.

Meanwhile, genre novelists produce creative content within the relative confines of industry classification while attempting to speculate how humanity would change and adapt under fantastic conditions with the primary purpose to entertain: Forman’s Salieri.

Some novels blend and bend these types of literature.

Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist is one such novel that bends and blends the two, but that’s for my next post.

Author: Chuck Lang

Chuck Lang is a writer of science fiction and horror. Influenced by his years as a carpenter, four years serving in the US Navy, and his fifteen years teaching literature, he holds an MFA in Writing (Fiction) from Lindenwood University. After completing his first manuscript, the supernatural horror novel DEAD GODS, in 2019, he has begun work on its two sequels, DEAD GODS: INHERITANCE and DEAD GODS: RESOLUTION. He is currently developing two additional projects, an urban fantasy horror novel and a military science fiction novel. He lives and writes near the frequently flooded Red River in Fargo, ND with his wife and two redhead sons.

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