July 13, 2020

Hush, Now (On Writing Quiet Genre Fiction)

One thing I've come to accept as a result of working on the Dragon Story is that even when working with a premise that could naturally be plot-driven, filled with escalating external stakes, I still write what's considered "quiet" fiction.

Quiet genre fiction is almost a cross between genre fiction and literary fiction. It focuses primarily on the character(s), even within the framework of its genre. Rather than being boldly direct, it relies a bit more on inference and nuance. It usually avoids laying out every piece of the story and the characters under a spotlight. As a result, it allows for a more colorful, vivid style of writing, rather than prioritizing the most direct language possible.

Though quiet fiction overall has long been considered not commercially viable (literary fiction authors often seek out teaching positions or paid residencies, rather than relying on book sales), some agents and authors have started talking about the viability of quiet genre fiction. This is interesting, since like I said, I can't seem to help but write quiet stories.

Summer Seduction is the perfect example. It could have been mostly fun sexy times between an author and her fan, but it became character-driven and much "quieter" from the concept through the writing. The Dragon Story is turning out much the same at the moment (for better or worse).

It does make sense—whether reading, writing, or watching, ultimately what interests me is the characters. Even in romance, if the story dips too heavily into the plot-driven side, it feels dissatisfying to me.

Of course every genre story has to balance character and plot, and some genres require more external action and tension than others. For me, plot without significant character development is just stuff that happens, which also explains why I don't watch/read many action-based stories. But I believe in any genre, the best stories are the ones that incorporate compelling character development, which also allows those stories to appeal to readers who may not normally explore that genre. For example, I don't read much Fantasy or Sci Fi, but I really enjoyed many of the books in Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series back when I read them, because McCaffrey allowed the balance to tip enough toward character development to pull me in.

As a writer, though, I have to recognize that many readers do prefer "standard" genre fiction. They want the more blunt language, laying everything out on the page. They want the action-driven stories. They want the drama and excitement of external experiences far outside their own, even if they also want to find something relatable in the character as well. For some readers, quiet fiction feels like English class.

I also have to accept that my stories may never fit that more standard genre style. While I can't say I've quite reached that perfect balance of plot, character development, and language that we see in the truly masterful quiet genre stories, I have come to recognize that nailing this blend is more my aim with my writing. So, it is fairly heartening to see these types of stories starting to claim their space within the market, which really means, in readers' hearts and minds.

What do you say—which type of story do you prefer? Something quieter, more character-driven, or something more direct, more focused on the external action? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


  1. i read them both and since blogging have come to appreciate the characters almost as much as the action and suspense that i love so much. i think it's important to keep ourselves open to new genres,because there are many good books out there i would have missed if i hadn't
    sherry @ fundinmental

    1. That's a great point—it's important to keep ourselves open to new genres, or books that we otherwise wouldn't necessarily pick up. I definitely make exceptions if something grabs me or I get a glowing recommendation for a story. Which is also why we authors love and appreciate book bloggers! :)