Personal Preferences, Matters of Taste, and Whether or Not You’ll All Hate My Short Story

October 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

As I sat down to begin writing my short story, I felt conflicted. Should I create something that I find interesting, that fulfills me intellectually and personally, and that allows me to grow as a writer and thinker… Or should I write a piece that others will enjoy? Are the two mutually exclusive, or is it possible to find common ground?

I have to imagine that authors and professional face this problem every day. There’s a split between “pop fiction” and works that are regarded more highly in literary circles, and while some novels have worked to break down these boundaries, it can’t be contested that Twilight packs the same literary punch as Slaughterhouse-Five, nor can it be said that Fifty Shades of Grey hasn’t struck a chord with millions of women and, as a result, sold extremely well.

Sure, my story is one that would appeal to me as a reader (don’t worry, no spoilers!), but I wonder if others in our class will enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Without giving too much away, I can disclose that it is heavier on the “fiction” than it is on the “science,” largely because I have most enjoyed stories that we’ve read that focus on the human condition as explored and enabled by one aspect of science. I know, however, that this is a matter of taste; many in our class, and many more readers at large, care more for stories that place more focus on the scientific and/or technological advancements that lead to the “main event” of the text. And as I write, I become more and more worried that I’m not staying true to the genre by glossing over these aspects.

Only towards the end of the drafting process did I realize that tastes and preferences do not alone dictate whether someone will enjoy a story. I generally hate crime dramas, but Breaking Bad is my favorite series. One friend at home doesn’t usually gravitate towards comedy, but she loves Tina Fey’s quick wit and devoured her book, Bossypants. Likewise, there are novels and films that I thought I would love but merited only a “meh” from me.

Rather, the quality of the story and the extent to which readers identify with it seem to reign supreme. Quality allowed Bossypants and Breaking Bad to transcend genre in terms of popularity; reader identification explains the Fifty Shades juggernaut. From my perspective, it matters less into which category the story is placed, because it’s all in the execution.

As I finish my first draft, I am becoming more comfortable with its place in the genre. I’d like to think that I’ve created something that at least some of you will enjoy; if you don’t, please keep to yourselves. (Kidding!)

–JR

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