Some days ago, I posed a simple question to friends on Facebook (unlike other people, I don’t use Facebook for playing games and other tom foolery; I actually use it as it was intended in the beginning, as a communication medium!)
I asked them, “How do you destroy a man without killing him?” Their answers were intriguing and insightful.
The response was:
“Take away everything that he loves and leave him without hope.”
And that was the correct answer. However… After you’ve taken everything away from him, YOU HAD BETTER KILL HIM.
Because if you’ve done those things, and you haven’t killed him… if he gets up, he’s going to be unstoppable.
Why? Because he now has NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE EXCEPT HIS LIFE. There is nothing else left you can deprive him of, and he will spend every waking moment of his existence ensuring that yours is a living hell.
A man without consequences is the most dangerous animal on Earth.
I suppose you’re wondering how this all ties in. I’ve spent a great deal of time studying not just fiction, but also analyzing and figuring out why I like the fiction that I do. Generally, I’m not a fan of most genre fiction, and I discovered why.
Genre fiction seeks to entertain, while literary fiction begins with a question, not unlike the one that I asked there. I believe that all literary fiction is grounded in philosophy, grounded in the idea of the author, the writer asking themselves a simple question. Literary fiction is the attempt to answer that question.
No matter who you are, where you come from, the color of your skin, your social status, or your upbringing, we all have two things in common:
- We’re all trapped on this rock called Earth.
- Every single one of us will eventually die.
We all seek answers to why we’re here, and what’s our purpose. We try to discover why those two bullet points up there is the way that it is. We attempt to find pattern and order in all things (and sometimes we’ll go looking for patterns that aren’t even there), and we want to figure out how we “FIT.” We want to know the WHY.
Literary authors slowly, but surely, try to explore that space. They ask the questions, the hard ones that have no rock solid answer. Why do we perceive time the way that we do? What are ethics? How do you destroy a man? Are there real consequences for our actions? What’s the difference between justice and revenge?
It all starts with a question, and some attempt to find the elusive answer. I want you to take a look at what you’ve written, and ask yourself, “Have I asked a real question, and am I attempting to answer it?” A literary author is a philosopher of the human condition.
If not… you need to be asking yourself whether or not you’re writing genre fiction or literary fiction, and if that was the intent of your work.
P.S. Before you ask, “What was the question of The Twisted World?”, I have an answer for that. I asked myself:
“How can you take a man who doesn’t care about anything at all, and make him care?”