Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Scop of Gleeman?

Scop --Anglo Saxon poet who wrote and recited heroic epics about battles and morality and glory

Gleeman --minstral or bard, more interested in entertainment than heroic themes

Scop of Gleeman? Poet or entertainer? Teacher or creater of divertions? Sophisticated literature or genre fiction?

I sometimes feel like there is a line drawn for writers. On one side deep thinking social comentary chocked full of elaborate allusions to our predisesors and on the other J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown and Stephanie Myers. We must choose if we want to write 'real' inovative literature or best sellers.

My question is why not both? Or niether. Does every story worth telling have to be a great masterpiece? Is it only worth anything if it makes a lot of money?

The clasifications aren't really so different. I'm not afraid to strive for perfection but I don't think I'm the only who has read some of the great classics and felt like there were places they could be tweaked. I still enjoyed them, recognized genius in them but the perfectionist is never satisfied.

Not all the great classics were written with 'greatness' in mind. Kidknapped is a classic 'blood and thunder'. Shakespeare wrote histories that were more or less court propoganda but they managed to stick around. They were entertainments with enough thought provoking matter (or simply emotions that we can connect with) that we still find them worth reading hundreds of years later. We are still diverted and entertained by them. Profound doesn't usually happen on purpose.

Granted Twilight probably won't be taught in schools a hundred years from now and a lot of the books that are didn't make any amount of money worth mentioning when the author was alive. Still, a story is a story and the question shouldn't be "How much money will it make?" or "What is the great meaning behind it?" but "does it want to be told?"

Scop or Gleeman? Poet or player? Literary or Genre? What's the difference?


  1. I think there are a number of differences, and I think that many of them are relevant for writers to consider. For instance, I deal with very dark themes within the context of genre fiction. It is one thing to deal with human despair in literary fiction, where it is understood to be serious and meaningful. It is another matter altogether to deal with human despair in a book that is, first and foremost, entertaining. Knowing where your writing fits in can help guide important decisions about how you introduce and treat certain topics and themes.

  2. There is certainly a difference in format and presentation. What I was tryin to say was that there isn't a difference in judging the value of a piece and that writers shouldn't decide what their story is going to be and box it in before giving it time to develop or decide that they shouldn't pursue an idea because it is 'too literary' or 'lends itself to genre fiction'.

  3. Maybe a lot of writer are striving to do both, but they are failing because it's so hard. I know I'd love to be both literary and wildly popular. But, since I haven't managed to write something that I think will fall into that category, I end up choosing literary just because of my own personal preferences. I wish more people liked the things I like! I'd say most writing probably falls on some sort of continuum, and then they get categorized based on how they think they can market it. Maybe?

  4. @Taryn - There is not an inherent difference in value between the two, but I think it's a legitimate and important one for others to consider as they are crafting their work. I could take the core story and characters of Sublimation and work them in a literary direction as easily as I have in a genre direction. It's a conscious decision with every passage I write to keep it just barely inside the genre line.