« Back to main blog page

An Empathetic Fictional Character is Multidimensional

Editorial Opinion
William H. Coles

The importance of empathy in our lives is enormous but underestimated and often ignored. Empathy is a concept and an experience, and it seems that you may have it or not, and probably if you have it, it fluctuates throughout life. Although empathy is esoteric and impossible to define, it can be a profoundly useful concept in fictional character development … as well as in our lives.

Psychologists try to corral an individual human understanding of others because of its social importance. And writers of fiction stories benefit from psychologists’ research to understand transference of mental states between minds.

Empathy is related to Theory of Mind, a phenomenon of mental transference between minds that is the ability to attribute mental states like beliefs to others that are different from your own. Most Children develop theory of mind around five years of age. It is absent or deficient in Schizophrenia, autism, alcoholism, drug addictions and other conditions.

The phenomenon affects social interaction and is deemed crucial for everyday human social interactions when analyzing, judging, and inferring others’ behaviors. And understanding the concept is a great resource for writers developing significant fictional characters, especially as protagonists. Here’s an example to bring the phenomenon closer to home.

You’re driving on a two-lane highway. You’re adjusting directions slightly to stay in lane, signaling, accelerating, braking, listening to the radio, and above it all, as a good driver, you’re aware of what may be in the brain of a leather-coated dude on a souped-up Harley Davidson coming from the opposite direction. He’s behind a truck, and you’re sure, by how he looks and the way he’s riding, he’s going to try to pass an eighteen-wheeler. You sense the “intent” in his brain. It’s an awareness, an acceptance of what another might think–Theory of Mind. And you pull off to the side of the road to avoid collision. It is a Theory-of-Mind experience resulting in a positive “social” interaction.

If you’re interested in quality of life–and since empathy is an active process of anticipating the thoughts and souls of others–you’ll be inspired to know that Theory of Mind can be improved by learning.

You can read books, especially literature; improve our education by studying and learning about everything possible; and we can take an interest in people without thought of personal gain. Making music together binds individuals into cohesive social groups, and dancing forms synchronous behavior. Sharing attention and intention and simply being aware that if you’re far away from others, meaningful connections are detrimental to improvement.

Loss of empathy is associated with social isolation especially in contemporary society: digital devices trap our attention, and the average attention span shrank from minutes to a few seconds making feelings hard to experience.

Humans need social competence for an integrated, functional society. There are ever present symptoms of individual empathy loss in society; we’re self-centered, uncaring, obsessed with excessive wealth, unconcerned with the well-being of others, uncaringly witness a widening gap between rich and poor; and passively watch as empathetic governance disappears.

Will the future of America be an apathetic society void of empathetic caring for others? For the excellence of literary fictional stories, adjustments will be needed.

For character development, empathic characters would: denounce apathy in any form … especially apathy for compassion and empathy, encourage caring for others, and refuse to practice greed over altruism, inhumanity over benevolence.

They would be socially active but oppose support for politicians, public figures, and famous artists who have so much influence on lives and opinions and who display a willful, self-centered apathy toward empathy and quality of the soul in order to attain their own selfish gains.

And to dismiss the actions of characters without, or deficient in, empathy (maybe as many as one out of ten) will mutilate the fabric of social-caring communities that must be nourished to sustain justice, opportunity, trust, and advancement in culture.

Thank you for your attention.

Read the original essay: “Understanding Empathy: An Empathetic Fictional Character Is Multidimensional”

Announcement: NOW AVAILABLE. The online course: CREATING LITERARY STORIES. I’d appreciate your telling those who might be interested.

Email This Post Email This Post RSS Feed

A Secret of Great Literary Fiction Stories as Art

Editorial Opinion
William H. Coles

We live by stories, descriptions of people and events, real or fictional, that inform or entertain. Stories are ubiquitous as air, essential as a heartbeat, and as varied in the telling as there are humans to tell.

The story as a fiction art-form in prose has evolved over the past few centuries, but recently has declined as literature, a regrettable fact emitting from failure of contemporary authors to strive for "art" in their "creative" writing. What is lost? Imagined fiction and literature as written works considered to have lasting artistic value. The loss of written story as an art form distresses few and those enriched by fiction-story as art increasingly must reach back to past authors. So what makes a literary story so unique?

Virginia Woolf, in A Common Reader, helps sort out the values of literature as art; in essence great literary fiction is about understanding humanity. Charlotte and Emily Brontë's books are Woolf's prime examples, classics of English literature. Charlotte, when she wrote about Jane Eyre, said the passion of " 'I love', 'I hate', 'I suffer' ", although more intense, was on a level of her own (Charlotte's passion). Having quoted this, Woolf proceeds to point out the difference to Emily's Wuthering Heights. In both books, settings carry emotion and "light up the meaning" of the books as powerful symbols of "vast and slumbering passions in human nature" that fulfill the needs of a reader better than words or actions "can convey." But it's humanity that dominates the telling, and it's where Woolf discovers differences between the two sisters that are revealing of the process of created fiction.

Woolf considers Emily the greater poet and points out the stature of her talent. "There is no 'I' in Wuthering Heights. The love is not [just] the love of men and women. The urge to create Wuthering Heights was not her [Emily’s] own suffering or her own injuries. "She [Emily] looked out upon a world cleft into gigantic disorder and felt within her the power to unite it in a book. That gigantic ambition is to be felt throughout the novel–a struggle, half thwarted but of superb conviction, to say something through the mouths of her characters which is not merely 'I love', 'I hate,' but 'we, the whole human race', and 'you, the eternal powers …' "

Woolf is quick to point out "that it is not strange that it should be so; rather it is astonishing that she [Emily] can make us feel what she had it in her to say at all." It is the "suggestion of power underlying the apparitions of human nature and lifting them up into the presence of greatness that gives the book its huge stature among other novels." Emily "could tear up all we know about human beings and fill these unrecognizable transparencies with such a gust of life that they transcend reality." An artistry that many contemporary authors of novels seem incapable of achieving! Woolf continues: "For the self-centered and self-limited writers have a power denied the more catholic and broad-minded. Their impressions are close packed and strongly stamped between narrow walls. Nothing issues from their minds which has not been marked by their own impress. They learn little from other writers, and what they adopt they cannot assimilate. "…a stiff and decorous journalism", prose that is "awkward and unyielding." And it's not unreasonable to suggest to today's proliferating plethora of writers of fiction that such deft thoughts (of Woolf) are the necessary nourishment, now lacking, of every contemporary teacher of creative writing, most of whom sequester in academics, and their students.

So there it is. A major void in the skill of creating great fiction that has, and is, marring the future of established value of literature in the written word as art. What do you think?

Thanks for reading.
William H. Coles

The Common Reader, Virginia Woolf, in the essay "Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights." ISBN-13: 978-0156027786

Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016

Three award-winning, acclaimed, and popular short stories by William H. Coles
The Gift, The Necklace, Speaking of the Dead

gift necklace speaker

Email This Post Email This Post RSS Feed

Career planning for aspiring, literary-fiction-story writers.

Editorial Opinion
William H. Coles

Plan #1

Want to be an author?
Just do it and enjoy.
That's enough for most of us! Writing is a pleasure and we don't have to be the best for all readers or achieve some impossible measure of success.


If you want satisfaction for: a) being the best author of the best story you can write that might persist for generations, b) creating stories that speak to contemporary and future readers about the complexities of being human, then you may want to write a fiction story as an art form that engages, entertains, and enlightens, and consider these questions to focus your writing career, even with modest expectations.

Plan #2

1. Why are you writing:
–to be known as an "author" or
–to write creatively and please a targeted group of readers?
No writer, no matter how great or accomplished, pleases even a small fraction of all potential readers, so perspicacious writers know who they want to please then develop their strategy for success with purpose. An enduring truth is creating great stories as an art form is no guarantee for fame and fortune, or universal appeal, but can be durably and reliably satisfying.

2. Do you have purpose to your writing? Do you want to enlighten, stimulate thought, create emotion, entertain?  Do you strive for your storytelling to be valuable for your readers rather than trying to impress them with the superiority of your intellect and creativity? Create excellence in your own way but maintain modesty.

3. Are you good enough to achieve your dream of becoming an author?  To avoid crushing your enthusiasm, try testing works-in-progress by seeking critiques by readers and teachers who are sympathetic to your writing style.  Submit for publication routinely but don't be surprised or depressed by multiple rejections that are the accepted norm regardless of an author's ability and, if considered selectively, can give insight to your level of achievement.

4.  Should you take courses?
            Creative writing workshops give mixed results; they depend inordinately on evaluations of your work by fellow students–novices, at times arrogant and condescending, who inflict imprudent opinion and detrimental criticism.  The value and reputation of MFA programs declines with the proliferation of conferred degrees in creative writing from academic settings struggling to survive financially. Consider carefully. Almost invariably, mentorship and/or self-study will value your time and accentuate your career far better than MFA programs with deficient teaching and time-consuming, defective scholarship.

5. Is your vocabulary commensurate with your aspirations? Improvement in vocabular is a necessary, lifetime endeavor for all writers.  Do you have the time and the will for improvement?

For maximum, lasting pride and self-satisfaction in telling fiction stories, discover who you are as a writer, learn to imagine and create, know what you want to achieve, and focus intently on improvement of craft and storytelling.

Thanks for reading. William H. Coles


Essays on Writing
Mastering the Power of a Literary Fictional Story
How Literary Stories Go Wrong

New.  PODCAST. 33 award-winning short stories of William H. Coles for your listening pleasure. (Provided without cost.)


ccNonFiction 002

Email This Post Email This Post RSS Feed

Why Select Stories Succeed Best as Literary Fiction

Editorial Opinion
William H. Coles

Great literary fiction storytelling as an art form is not for all readers, and its success is not measured solely on volume of commercial book sales but rather the number of readers moved or enlightened by characters and story, usually about what it means to be human. Many of the literary stories that have lasted into new generations of readers have important, common characteristics; here are the principles.

1. Characterization.
The fictional humans that populate successful literary fiction seem real to the reader, either in the context of the reader’s world, or the story world created by the author. It is the creation of these “real “characters to be moved by as well as to move story events that assembles character-based story and plot in most successful literary fiction.  As Virginia Woolf wrote, “. . . they [characters] live and are complex by means of their effect upon many different people who serve to mirror them in the round. . ." When considering “. . . the permanent quality of literature . . . think away the surface animation, the likeness to life, and there remains . . . a deeper pleasure, an exquisite discrimination of human values.

2. Author’s role.
Woolf taught us: “Always in imaginative literature, . . . characters speak for themselves and the author has no part . . .”  In effect, there is no “I” in most great literary fiction. Woolf, in  A Common Reader, gives Emily Brontë as an example; “. . . she was inspired by some more general conception. The impulse which urged her to create was not her own suffering or her own injuries. She looked out upon a world cleft into gigantic disorder and felt within her the power to unite it in a book. That gigantic ambition is to be felt throughout the novel [Wuthering Heights]— a struggle, half thwarted but of superb conviction, to say something through the mouths of her characters which is not merely ‘I love’ or ‘I hate’, but ‘we, the whole human race’ and ‘you, the eternal powers . . .’ ”

3. Narrative voices.
Contemporary stories depend on particular action to keep a story moving. In developing character, there is often a shift from “. . . the actual body with all its associations and movements . . .” to the general, [abstract], more poetic prose. Woolf suggests, for literary fiction, the need for a voice that combines action and poetics without interrupting the movement of the story whole, a voice “similar to what the choruses of Greek drama supplied–the old men or women who take no active part in the drama, the undifferentiated voices who sing like birds in the pauses of the wind; who can comment, or sum up, or allow the poet to speak himself or supply, by contrast, another side to his conception. Always in imaginative literature, where characters speak for themselves and the author has no part, the need of that voice [similar to a chorus] is making itself felt.

To some extent, memoir and creative nonfiction have invaded the realm of imaginative literary fiction melding memoir and biography with fiction as literature. The dissapearance of classic-fiction stories is at least partially due to academics failing to educate writing students to the intricacies of the great, successful literary fiction of the past.

Thanks for reading. William H. Coles.

References: Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader ISBN 978-0-15-602778-6; Virginia Woolf, The Second Common Reader ISBN 0-15-602816-6

Illustration by David Riley for the short story “Nemesis”, by William H. Coles

Thirty-four original stories read by the author.

Email This Post Email This Post RSS Feed

Genre Disses Contemporary Literary Fiction

Editorial Opinion
William H. Coles

At a recent writers’ workshop-conference for thriller and mystery writers taught by two bestselling authors in their genres, the state of contemporary literary fiction was dissed as being self-serving and small. Who wants to hear about another dysfunctional family or an abusive childhood, or my extraordinary recovery from drug addiction? Why is there no resolution in literary fiction? (There is often no conflict.) Why is contemporary literary fiction always, in some way, about me, the author, without objective storytelling and characterization?

Most literary-fiction writers in the audience silently agreed–a majority of academically-trained literary writers fail to create adequate stories . . . and fail to achieve narration that can engage and please any reader who is not related to or trained in academics (private or college/university workshops or MFA programs). In the discussions, genre writers and reviewers found fault in the "littleness" of contemporary “literary” writers' conceptualizations of story and failure to address the major issues of today's global society. Academic-generated “literature” writing has decreased the acceptance and respect readers have for fiction as literature as an art form and bears little resemblance to the literary fiction as evolved in the past.

Genre depends on strong plot and is viably commercially but does not develop character in-depth with literary, psychic, psychological prose, and plot, at risk of losing plot momentum, suspense, and thrills. Genre writers often describe characters and plots with catastrophic, or the threat of catastrophic, results or familiar tried-and-dependable plots that easily trigger emotions. And, to be sure, these hard-earned stories are worthy of praise for significant accomplishment.

In contrast, today’s few but dedicated literary-writers depend on the power of classic fiction techniques–Chekov, Tolstoy, Conrad, Forster, Homer, Austen, Hawthorne, Melville, and the like, when literary imagined-fiction did deal with broad, important human, social, and political issues of the times . . . stories created through meticulous character development, character involvement in plot momentum, and character and reader enlightenment as an equally effective, and often better, way for prose to deliver understanding of human change in well-presented social and political environments. Almost all published contemporary "literary" stories are written by academically-trained "literary" authors who believe they're writing works of lasting quality and artistic merit but are actually the source of declining interest and rejection of "literature." The fault lies with academic teachers who have generally failed in teaching the creation of enthusiastically-accepted, traditionally-created fiction in favor of, or at least in addition to, encouraging nonfiction, creative nonfiction, memoir, biography, celebrity platform-based writing (that is not infrequently labeled literary or general fiction). In academic teaching, there is an emphasis on me, the author, and writing by remembering events and people to describe rather than imagining and creating story and character. The literature-of-self. The commercial decline of "literature" is a result of weak storytelling touted as "literature" and marketed as "extraordinary" and "bestseller" but written by "academically" trained writers rarely, if ever, tutored in storytelling and characterization skills of past literary greats.  And if traditional publishers and agents could occasionally focus on: storytelling with character-based, dramatic plots; intense skillful characterization; and theme and meaning in the traditions of the past, literature might again be admired as art that would have longevity and could be commercially self-sustaining.

At the conference, two genre authors widely read and with impressive commercial success had identified a problematic fact without a solution and conference participants felt a loss of literature-as-an-art-form. If literary writers are to assist in establishing literature as art again, they will soon have to seek better training in creating effective prose and learning compelling storytelling. And those writers will not be judged alone by commercial success but by the significant impact of story and character on receptive readers. Writers seeking success in literary achievement will need to analyze and determine how the great authors of the past they admire achieved memorability and significance and then seek a trained teacher who writes well and is a gifted educator willing to mentor the student in writing excellence in literature using the techniques of past generations adapted to the contemporary needs and wants of readers of literature.

William H. Coles

RESOURCES: (free) online essays.

Academic Fiction: A Distinct Genre
Why Contemporary Literary Fiction Fails to Achieve Excellence
A reviewer's perspective (Viga Boland)  McDowell 

Speaking Of The Dead by William H. Coles

Speaking of the Dead,” a short story (available online, free) by William H. Coles with a character-based plot, focus on characterization, inherent meaning about being human, and a theme of forgiveness.

Illustration by Betty Harper

Email This Post Email This Post RSS Feed

When is a fiction story a literary art form?

Editorial Opinion
William H. Coles

Literature is written stories considered superior and of lasting merit–an art form. Fiction portrays imagined events and people. If you're a writer, you can't know what stories from today will be the literature of tomorrow, but you can write the best story possible using the techniques of past writers who've reached literary status: Austen, Flaubert, Chekhov, Homer, Tolstoy, Melville, Hawthorne, Woolf, Henry James, Babel, Twain, and the like. In the main, these authors have common, basic elements of story construction that may, for the contemporary writer, mature into meritorious longevity.

Who cares? "Fiction writers continue to evolve and their works may very well be literature without the 'contrived' constraints from the past," many might say. But in reality, literary fiction stories structured for artistic characterization, meaningful purpose, and enlightenment about the human condition, are infrequent, rarely published, and are increasingly difficult to access when they are available. Unfortunately, the "literary fiction" of today mostly masquerades as memoir, autobiography, "creative" writing, and the literature-of-self. How can literary fiction regain distinction? Here are important literary STORY ELEMENTS contemporary writers should assimilate if not master:

First, expert CHARACTERIZATION is the essential of a great literary fictional story; well-formed character traits reveal desires and motives that drive meaningful plots. Equally important is STRUCTURE with Aristotelian principles that allow transfer of ideas and images to enlighten readers, usually about the intricacies of human existence. DICTION must be clear and well-written to vitalize prose and story. Lyricism–when story-specific and character enhancing–can enrich story effects without diminishing essential importance of in-scene action and dramatic narration.

Most important? Great literary-fiction stories as art are IMAGINED and CREATED, not just remembered and described. True, memory stimulates imagination evoking reflections on life and living, but a self-important writer believing events and characters described from personal experience are equal to imagined and created stories usually fails to reach maximum potential as an artist.

And what is an ART form?
Art, in literature, is expressed by human creative skills and imagination that produce beauty and emotional power. Beautiful stories emerge by character uniqueness; a narrator's reliability and perception of the human condition; the creation of accurate story-related imagery and metaphor; reader engagement to sense story is happening rather than being told; and from writers concerned with their art, not their wealth or fame.

A confessional memoir and autobiography published as "fiction" for catharsis or forgiveness rarely reaches the threshold possible with imagined and created literary fiction. The literature-of-self is created mostly from the author's world view and experience. By contrast, great literary fiction evolves from 1) the author's  study and understanding of the possible worldviews of other humans and characters, 2) experienced and observed compassionate understanding of humanity, and 3) as often as possible, enlightenment about metaphysical questions that plague us all–who are we? why are we here? what is justice? what is love?

You can read six imagined and created SHORT STORIES (FREE) and a NOVEL, examples of literary stories that explore the complexities in the facets of LOVE (not just romance but the broader implications of affection, caring, and bonding that all humans experience with varying skills and extent).


Thanks for reading!
Literary Art Form

Email This Post Email This Post RSS Feed

How do unsuccessful novel writers build houses?

Editorial Opinion
William H. Coles

You get a backhoe and dig a BIG hole. You back up a cement truck and pour three BIG mounds of cement. While cement hardens, you cut down two giant oaks, strip the leaves and throw the trunks with limbs in the big hole on top of the cement. You pour, 100 gallons of glue, a quarter ton of bolts and nails, five porcelain toilets, and three bathtubs. You add 800 light bulbs of various sizes throughout the growing muddle. You mix three hundred gallons of paint in different, preferable incompatible (noncliché) colors, and splash the paint at random over all you’ve assembled. Let the mess simmer for five months during a horribly hot summer, if possible. Add 3800 roof tiles–no need to remove from the packaging. Voila! A house.

Whats the point? Authors of literary stories need to be in control of their thinking and their imagination and then create story by mastering the elements of fiction prose and storytelling. Here are three of the important ideas to conquer:

*Structure–beginning, middle, and end.
Writers need structure, an overall outline that directs happenings, action, emotional arcs, and prioritizes ideas and timing of information transfer. Literary stories have images and movement that are delivered logically structured on a timeline. Author ideas and thoughts generated by chance and randomly applied to story, no matter the quality of idea or thought, are not as effective as imagined elements structured into coherent, logical web the supports story momentum.

Fiction writers need altruism and must: not write for fame and fortune, not write to be published to claim “author” at social gatherings, but write to engage, entertain, and enlighten readers by creating and telling a story well and building characters specific for story understanding and meaning.

*Creativity and imagination.
Writers need to imagine and create, not remember and describe. Imagination for fiction does not come from sitting alone in a dark, sound proof, unheated room until memories emerge from author life experiences like sea creatures from a peat bog. In fiction, scenes are imagined that move the plot, build characters consistent with the timeline, and relate to purpose and theme of the story. Authors who default to their own worldview and life experiences often fail to reach advantages of imagined fiction available to the world beyond self.

*”The Miracle of Madame Villard” is the story of a boy on a mission to find a cure for his dying mother. Set in the 18th century France, the story and all elements of story are imagined. You can read it online free.
The Miracle of Madame Villard

If you find these ideas ring true, WOULD YOU SHARE THIS POST? LITERARY (character-based dramatic plots, theme and meaning, unique characterization) FICTION (imagined) needs writers who train in traditional successful literary techniques. I’m trying to spread the word.

You could SHARE THIS LINK too for original story examples, essays, interviews, a workshop, and illustrations. storyiniteraryfiction.com. (free)
And thanks.

Email This Post Email This Post

Tags: , , , , , , ,

RSS Feed

Why is narration perspective important? Isn't understanding point of view sufficient?

Editorial Opinion
William H. Coles

Great memorable fiction stories that pass to future generations for learning and enjoyment are quite rare, and the authors who create such stories have unique and varied attributes as writers. What separates the great fiction writer/storytellers? One trait seems to drive great writers to create great stories of significance and sustainability. Look to Austen, Homer, Forster, Conrad, Flaubert, Chekhov, De Maupassant, Babel, Melville, Hawthorne, Munro. The great storytellers, with few exceptions, wrote selflessly to engage and entertain a reader and the quality of the story produced significant enlightenment about living and being human.

Lesser writers seem intent on fame and fortune and the seriously mistaken belief that to be great, instinctively writing solely for the catharsis, aggrandizement, and ego of the author is sufficient. These writers create literature-of-self that often ignores the in-depth understanding of humanity; broad objective incorporation of the world outside an author’s worldview; a respect for a reader’s gracious exertion in reading by striving to entertain the reader; and striving to provide new thoughts about human existence in the world we live in.

Memoir, autobiography, authorial dominated “fiction,” and creative non-fiction all have contributions to literature, but the imaginative created literary fictional story reaches unique excellence in significant storytelling. Understanding the complexities of narration and developing narrative skills by learning and practice are an important start on the path to great fictional storytelling.

Readers benefit from knowing what is true, credible, and reliable in the story world. Narrative perspective guides the reader’s understanding and emotional acceptance, and involvement in the literary story, and allows eventual comparison and application to the reader’s real word existence.

Email This Post Email This Post

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

RSS Feed

A Wannabe's Guide to Literary Fiction Success

Editorial Opinion
William H. Coles

How can a wannabe become a literary fiction writer? Traditional commercial print publishing is becoming less reliable source to find readers of literature and online publishing has yet to establish what the future will provide for authors. Still, the future is clearly becoming the present when the internet can provide a writer’s works’ content free or at low cost to millions of international readers instantly, an opportunity never before imagined. Will those authors similar to Chekov and Flaubert and Melville, who have given us lasting literary fiction, emerge today through traditional, costly, inefficient print publishing or through the new internet channels–without middlemen and profiteers– that may have greater potential for recognition and even profit in the future?

If you look to the internet as the prime way to establish yourself as a literary fiction writer, consider these guidelines:

*Learn to write prose well.

*Learn essentials of good storytelling.

*Write with a purpose to your writing that does not include adoration and acceptance. Write for your readers’ pleasure and enjoyment; adoration and acceptance will come through your honest, selfless approach to your writing.

*Publish online—(opportunity to reach hundreds of thousands of readers instantly).

*Make fame and profit secondary to engaging, entertaining, and pleasing readers you target and respect.

*Build confidence in quality of your work by submitting to contests and journals, but don’t take rejection as proof you don’t have readers waiting.

*Teach others selflessly. It establishes you as a writer.

*Use, but don’t rely on, traditional publishing when opportunity presents. Don’t succumb to giving away your talent, especially exclusively, for others to profit if you can establish large readership volume that can potentially make you money without working from inside the prison of corporate and private publishers for free or royalties at an unfair percentage of gross income from sales.

*Accept that working as an author to be read and appreciated through the internet will soon make the scorn of not being accepted in the world of traditional publishing with inflated and inaccurate sales records as the measure of your fame and success obsolete.

Although a majority would probably disagree that literature survival will never depend on traditional commercial publishing, the world is changing. Stories in prose will be less expensive, and readers will have unlimited access to writers’ works. And to struggle to scale the barrier wall of publishing houses (and academia) will soon be a humorously decadent way to fail in a writing career.

Email This Post Email This Post

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

RSS Feed

Effect of Discursive Narration on Literary Story

Editorial Opinion
William H. Coles

Narration of literary fictional stories today allows wide latitude for authors on technique and style. Traditional, successful, memorable, literary stories depend on strong imaginative characterization, dramatic plots with conflict and resolution, and identifiable purpose for the story being told so some enlightenment occurs about the human condition gleaned from the story presentation. In the past, stories were structured for momentum and engagement, and there was careful attention to story logic and credibility for the story world created. Authors wanted to please readers. Prose was dedicated to accurate use of the language, attention to the advantages of correct grammar within story context, and readability with acceptable punctuation and rhythmic flow. But this storytelling has faded.

Contemporary writers have little or no conscience to follow traditions in literary storytelling. Stories with beginnings, middles, and ends are becoming less common and fiction has shifted to memoir about authorial self with a few falsehoods to be called fiction, simple character sketches, or description of events-happened with journalistic rigor void of imaginative influence. Authors reject dramatic conflict at all levels of story delivery for character development and story pleasing plotting. And even in fiction, the author often dominates the storytelling with subjective intrusion rather than using an objective narrator or character delivering balanced credible story and character detail in dramatic scenes. Descriptions of people or events that happened does not produce the same effects on readers as creative imaginative storytelling that engages, stimulates, enlightens, moves, and entertains.

Contemporary writers commonly default to discursive rumination for the major portion of “story” delivery, a technique that may divert attention, meaning, momentum, or understanding of authorial purpose for the story. And when using discursive rumination, authors will often abandon story to soliloquize, seek authorial catharsis, or proselytize.

Modern writers often restrict storytelling to first person point of view and narration. This places limits on internalization, credibility, veracity, size and quality of world view available to the narrator, and expansive imaginative writing. Not all stories are suited to first person narration, and the quality of fiction published and available to read has dwindled.

The message is not trivial. Many contemporary readers enjoy modern “literary” writing dependent on discursive rumination, but the true value of literary story development with imaginative structure and characterization is often lost. The writers careful to avoid obvious authorial dominance and intrusion in the storytelling add imaginative and meaningful enhancement to their work that authorial dominance and intrusion does not allow. Of course, authors are always present in some way in a literary work of fiction, but the most effective authorial presence is transparent, like a hint of mint in a pitcher of tea, the touch of orange/red diffusing through the blue sky above the horizon just before sunrise, the sound of an individual cello in full orchestra . . . sensations present and enjoyed and always gently and uniquely pervasive . . . but never rife.

Readers preferring traditional storytelling seem to reread the classics today. Traditional literary fiction is being written, but it is rarely accepted by agents, editors, and publishers; as a result, great stories in the traditional sense are not available and as a culture, we are losing an art form, a loss that diminishes the creative heritage of our generation.

Email This Post Email This Post

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

RSS Feed

« Back to main blog page


Visit main site
  Story in
Literary Fiction
Learn the art of writing great literary fiction:
Newsletter published every other week
New: Graphic Novels

Graphic novels: Homunculus and Reddog
New Novel
McDowell by William H. Coles Read a free sample!
Available in print and
eBook at:
Barnes & Noble
and select bookstores!
Story in Literary Fiction Art Gallery