Tuesday, 8 September 2009

It's all about the style, dahling.

Due to that gap between full-time employment and being a full-time student, I have been spending a lot of time on the internets. I know, you never would have guessed! And one activity that has been taking up a lot of my time is Twitter.

When I first got the Internet (ah, my lovely AOL dial up account!) almost ten years ago, I did spend a fair amount on-line chatting or IMing people. As anyone who has used AOL as an ISP will tell you, it is geared towards this idea of 'social networking', in fact a good bit before I think a formal social networking site came along. MySpace doesn't count. But I did enjoy chit-chatting with other people, replacing my earlier fascination in life with pen-pals whom I wrote actual letters to. Very bizarre. I wonder if anyone under the age of 25 has pen-pals.

Yesterday I was adding people on Twitter that I found interesting. Predominantly fellow writers. I work on the principle that the more I am surrounded by a certain person or object, the more its 'usefulness' will rub off on me. That is how a fellow writer asked me a certain question: "what do you write? literature or the lighter stuff like crime, women's fiction, etc?"

I have to admit this question stumped me. I find the idea of 'literature' to be a rather loaded term. My friend Dictionary.com defines it as the following:

1. writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, novels, history, biography, and essays.
2. the entire body of writings of a specific language, period, people, etc.: the literature of England.
3. the writings dealing with a particular subject: the literature of ornithology.
4. the profession of a writer or author.
5. literary work or production.
6. any kind of printed material, as circulars, leaflets, or handbills: literature describing company products.
7. Archaic. polite learning; literary culture; appreciation of letters and books.

Now I find all of these definitions interesting. Perhaps the strongest case I can find for the definition of 'literature' is no. 7. To me this perhaps sums up the best case for literature. Or simply put the appreciation of books and letters. Should a reader feel guilty because they would choose Dan Brown over the latest AS Byatt? Should Bridget Jones's Diary be shunned from the halls of literature despite the response and the love its readers had for the protagonist? No, because they love the letters and words that make up their chosen writer's world.

I would like to point out I am not belittling the person who asked that question about. I am somewhat influenced by a current fireworks display going on in the world of Scottish literature sparked by this incident. In turn, this has lead to a number of Scottish crime writers coming out in defence of their genre. I'll admit this straight up, I am too thick to write a crime story. Or the gentler term is that I lack the lateral thinking to write a decent whodunit. The crime genre is something I dip in and out of as a reader but as a writer I shy away from it. Partly because everyone would guess immediately who had done it within two pages.

Going back to the posed question, I answered that my writing is 'dark'. And it is. For my Creative Writing class, my final submission for the class was a short story encompassing some of my more violent rants on the subject of mankind. My writing group has set a rather pleasant writing piece entitled What The Bee Saw. My first draft of that piece is turning into a World War II Spitfire style shoot out. Though I did try to start it off nice and cutesy *sighs*

My task for this week has been trying to get my handwritten notes and ideas onto the computer because I find it easier to continue with the plot, character, whatever spews forth from my pen. And, to be quite frank, I was really shocked at some of the things I had written. Now I know why my high school English teachers would gingerly hand me back creative writing pieces with the advice to make my stories less gruesome.

I can brood on things, God knows I can. I can naval gaze with the best of them. But even sometimes I step back from myself and think "Oh dear, I am very surprised you're not out there drowning hamsters." For someone who had a fairly normal and, let's face it, boring upbringing there is a lot of venom in the pen.

Is there a genre out there called 'dark'? Or will I have to edit my writing to suit the horror/fantasy/insert other genre here market? Maybe I'll be relegated to that safe category within bookshops that is called Literature.

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