Friday, August 20, 2010
Barbara Peters, Bookstore Owner & Editor & Bryan Gruley, Author, for Write Now! 2010
Peters said, with all the talk about changes in book publication, she wanted to give the audience an historical perspective, and things to think about. The novel and story, as literary form, is only 250 years old, and evolving. There is a serious revolution going on right now with digital publishing, and everything is fluid. But, the first novel was only published in the 1740s. Richardson's Pamela was the first epistolary novel, written as letters back and forth. That solved the problem of point-of-view.
But, novels are evolutionary, not static. However, three major elements remain constant; landscape, character, and plot. The landscape of the story can include the culture as well as the physical setting. Harry Kemelman's series about the Rabbi involved the Jewish culture. Elizabeth Peters writes about an anthropologist in England and Egypt.
The village mystery, which seems to have a limited setting, is actually a circle. There's a crime, usually murder, a limited circle of suspects, an event that draws them together, and a sleuth. That shape can be applied to anything. It can be used on the Navajo reservation, as Tony Hillerman did. It can be used with futuristic cops, as in Jim Born's books.
It's the character that determines how the plot goes. The story must be true to the character's behavior. Peters said she's had difficult time with authors in the past, who need to transfer what is in the author's head about the character to the page, so the readers understand the character when they read the book. According to Peters, landscape and character are the most important elements. An author can work on plot with their editor.
Barbara went on to say she's observed genres, subclasses of fiction, rise and fall in popularity, on a twenty-year cycle. At the end of the '80s, mysteries were way up, and stayed there until the end of the '90s. Now, they've gone down about as low as possible. Part of the reason for this is, when a genre becomes enormously popular, way too many people rush in to write that type of book. Then, readers become tired of the same books. For instance, after Silence of the Lambs, everyone wrote serial killer books. After The DaVinci Code, religious thrillers were hot. The success of Stephanie Meyer increased the popularity of paranormal books. Stieg Larsson's success with his Scandinavian trilogy set off a Scandinavian crime wave. However, Peters warned against writing what was popular. She said authors would be too late to catch the wave. She told them to be original. As writers, what is your question; will I be read, or will I be published? With today's publishing revolution, those are two different questions.