Commercial and Literary Fiction as Paintings

I’ve written at length about differences between literary and commercial fiction (including different genres and what “mainstream” fiction is), but reading Bone Gap this month while also studying Frida Kahlo has got me thinking in allusions, so I wanted to share another quick observation on the topic.

Commercial fiction is like representational art: whether it’s about something true or not, it’s clear what the subject of the painting or story is.

Images in this post may be copyrighted and are used for educational purposes only.

Above: Moroccan Man by José Tapiro y Baro, 1913; Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1847; Self-portrait at the Dressing Table by Zinaida Serebriakova, 1909; Rebecca et Eliézer by Alexandre Cabanel, 1883

Literary fiction can be more like impressionist, expressionist, surrealist, or abstract art—less accessible because the subject isn’t always clear, and the presentation isn’t always appreciated.

Symbolism holds more weight in literary fiction.

Literary fiction holds cultural literacy dear, alluding to classic literature and ancient mythology.

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Penelope by Carlo Carrà, 1917

Literary fiction is more likely to experiment with mixed media, incorporating poetry, illustrations, comics, letters, or other ephemera.

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Bed by Robert Rauschenberg, 1955

Words in literary fiction are like visible brushstrokes, sometimes drawing attention away from the story and towards the writer as artist. Word choice is important: how can you combine words in a fresh way to create new impressions on the reader? What connotations do the words carry? Literary fiction is imbued with tone created not by line or color but by diction and metaphor.

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The Cyclops by Odilon Redon, 1914

Do you have a favorite modern artist? What is your favorite work of literary fiction?

English Word Origins

I meant to send out a cutesy announcement that I’ve been accepted into Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, but this week has been incredibly busy. Tonight is my pre-orientation, and I’m thrilled to be joining this program!

I still plan on posting to the blog rarely—quality over quantity—but I also hope to resurrect my weekly (or bi-weekly) newsletter, which you can subscribe to in the footer on my website.

Until then, here’s an old post I recently remembered about word origins. Click through to the original study for an interactive look at the inherent etymology of five different passages: American lit, British lit, legal, medicine, and sports. And check out my Anglo-Saxon Diction post for an exercise in word choice.

Do you have plans for the summer? What are your writing goals for the next couple of months? If I can help you achieve them in some way—comment or reply!

❤ Lara

Lara Willard

I’m a visual person, so I appreciate graphs, especially color coded ones! But I’m also a design person, so color schemes get to me. While their color scheme makes me shudder a bit, I am digging this visual representation of English word origins!

Read the original study here. If you hover over the highlighted words, you can see the origin of the word. Click a word, and you’ll be taken to its entry in the etymology dictionary. Pretty nifty stuff!

Interested in English word origins? Did you know that Old English (that big pink chunk of the pie) has Germanic roots? Be sure to read my post on Anglo-Saxon versus Latinate Diction.

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[Worksheet] Four Personal Goal Categories + Inspirational Quotes

No affiliate links here, and no price to download. If you find this resource helpful, you can buy me a cup of chai. I hope you stick around for awhile to see what other resources and worksheets you can delve into!

When it comes to goals, January is really just a free-trial month. So don’t worry if you didn’t meet your New Year’s resolutions. They’re not nearly as important as setting goals for yourself.

I’ve blogged about S.M.A.R.T. Goals before, but now I have a worksheet for you that will help you establish more than just achievements and professional objectives.

Individual growth is holistic, but juggling professional and personal responsibilities is rough. It usually results in dropped balls and broken plates—or hearts. We’ve discussed the difference between important and urgent, so let’s figure out how to really make a priority of those important things that have been evaporating on the back burner for too long.

We Work Too Much

Perfectly (and coincidentally) timed with this post was a recent Twitter discussion on the pressure we put on ourselves to always be working:

The struggle is especially real for people who work at home:

“You do this thing where you’re never fully committed to work time or break time. Every day you get some work done, but you’re never in ‘work mode’. But then when you goof off, you feel guilty, ’cause you feel like you should be working on something. You should have designated work time, and work hard to get it finished. But then, have relax time, and actually enjoy it. I think you’d be a lot happier.”

The Personal Goal Planner

When creating this goal planner, I researched a dozen different life coaching techniques and ended up with four non-work categories that can end up falling to the wayside when we focus too much on work:

Keep reading for the download and a smattering of inspirational quotes in each category.
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Repetition and Reversals in HAMILTON

(Look at where you are / Look at where you started)

Contents:

I claim without reservation that Lin-Manuel Miranda is Shakespeare 2.0. The composer/playwright/actor is heavily inspired by Shakespeare, which is evident in his Pulitzer-Prize Winning Hamilton, a strategically constructed historical tragedy.

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What makes Hamilton so great? What is all the fuss—the buzz—about? Miranda’s lyrics and beats themselves are marvels, but it’s how he threads them together through universal themes that gives Hamilton its resounding resonance. (Look at me—I’m not even editing alliteration today.)

Each of the three primary characters in Hamilton has an armature, a theme which progresses through repetition and reversals to give each their own character arc.

While listening to the soundtrack of Hamilton, I took notes on repeated words, phrases, and motifs as I recognized them, thinking the repetition and reversals would be a great theme for a blog post…

After just one listen-through, I had five single-spaced pages of notes.

If you were wondering why I haven’t blogged in a while—it’s because I’ve been trying to decide which motifs to highlight. It’s because after taking my own notes, I’ve spent hours on Genius reading the annotated lyrics.

Obviously this post will be filled with spoilers if you don’t know Alexander Hamilton’s historical fate. I highly recommend listening to the full soundtrack, whether before, during, or after reading the following insights. Do note, however, that the lyrics are explicit and as such are likely not appropriate for children or work.

First let’s start with the most prominent motifs; then we’ll look at the primary arc for Eliza, Burr, and Hamilton.

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