The workshop on Saturday was wonderful. Mukherjee focused on character. She said something that really helped me understand the main difference between literary fiction and genre fiction (crime, romance, thriller, etc.). In literary fiction, the book focuses on the development of the character. In genre fiction, the focus is on plot. I think that’s why I’ve never been a genre fiction reader– I like to read because I like to discover new things about a character’s psyche. I often don’t even care about the plot– I want to see how a character responds to the plot, more than I want to know how the plot unravels.
She gave us a writing exercise toward the end of the class. Since the novel I’m currently writing is my first attempt at fiction, I was pretty nervous about doing the exercise. But I not only completed it, I was the first volunteer to read my work. (I knew that if other people went before me, I’d become too intimidated to take a turn.)
Here are a few lines from the story I wrote:
She held his laptop next, up above her head, and motioned to toss it onto the driveway. Wallace jumped forward, terrified of its departure from her hands. “I’m in real estate, Marci. I needed a loan to rehab some houses. I was going to pay it back.”
“With what, Wallace? WE HAVE NOTHING!” She flung that laptop out, far beyond his reach. It shattered as it smashed into the concrete driveway, its guts splayed in every direction like fresh road kill.
Wallace bent down gingerly, his knees scraping the rough surface. He brought his hands to his head, his stumpy neck folding over, his eyes surveying the carcass. “The accounts, the figures, everything was on this laptop! You’ve destroyed it all,” he moaned.
It was silent, then, until the clicking of Marci’s heels coming down the front sidewalk. She got in Wallace’s car, flipped him the bird, and took off.
If nothing else, writing this novel has made me more confident that I can write fiction. It doesn’t come easily or naturally to me. But if I just keep at it, the character, the story, the words– will appear.