Monday, May 04, 2009

Let someone else decide.

I bought the latest issue of Epoch. I actually think it's a bit old but it's the most current. Their new one is probably on the way.
Epoch is a literary magazine for short stories and poetry. One of the few I can actually find at the book store.
The last few weeks I've been thinking a lot about literary fiction, what it is, and if I can write it well.
In the past, I thought I wrote literary fiction like a champ but rejection after rejection got me thinking. So I picked up this magazine and I realized I have no clue what literary fiction is. All the work I had qualified as literary was emotional and usually depressing, with a message in it.
Not that the stories I read in the magazine lacked those elements but they were different. They were vague. They left more for the reader to decide. In the end I had given all of my stories an unhappily ever after ending because that's what I thought literary was, the cold hard truth. Now I'm rethinking this. Maybe literary stories are just suppose to make the reader think and not tell the reader what to think about, but to let them decide for themselves.
Or maybe I'm completely off base.
Either way, I tried to apply this new strategy to what I was working on. I was struggling to find the end of Worth Something. It has two strong characters who have different values. It's almost a new take on the dilemma of whether or not it is right to steal bread for your starving children. One character says 'yes', the other says 'no'. And in the end I couldn't decide which way I wanted the story to lean. I wanted to show both sides of the story evenly. So I just left it hanging and then took it to my writing group. I asked what they thought. And after much discussion I think I'm going to let it end with no conclusion. I'll let the reader decide for themselves.

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