The Happy Medium Between “Smart” Fiction and Fluff

There is no greater satisfaction for a writer than having someone truly “get” our work. We all dream of having readers understand our stories and our characters on a level that perhaps we, the creators, do not.

Yesterday, I was over the moon to discover that Beta #1, Greg, “got”  Paradisa. It entertained him and resonated with him in equal parts. Despite knowing nothing about the book before he read it, he spoke of the characters, relationships, and world mechanics with as much familiarity as I would.

It was surprising, because I don’t consider myself a particularly deep writer.  Literary yarns about the human condition, or ‘character driven’ stories in general, tend to bore me. As a cinematic author, I admit that I like spectacle.  But while I like writing without pretension, I *do* put a great deal of thought, care, and meta into my work. I use it more as scaffolding than the focus of the plot, but I was thrilled to see Greg recognize it anyway.

Many people read things on the surface these days, as shallow franchises like Twilight and Transformers have trained them to take things at face value alone.  But for every one of those people, you’ve got a Sherlockian or a Whovian who devotes much of their time to pouring over their fandoms with a magnifying glass. I don’t think one is better than the other – rather, I’m searching for a happy medium between the two.

Some of my favorite fictional works are Harpers Island, National Treasure, Pacific Rim and Artemis Fowl. If you’ve seen or read any of these, you know their primary goal is to simply entertain, but there are layers that a “Sherlockian” could appreciate. Harpers is a fun slasher mystery, but you can’t help but do the ugly cry when the lovable Cal and Chloe, and many others, get the axe. Artemis is a fun action romp for teens, but it gets dark when you think about what a broken boy Artemis is, and the struggle between his genius and his conscience. National Treasure is a Da Vinci Code wannabe Disney fluff piece, or it’s about a man desperately trying to  prove his worth and family legacy to his skeptical father (and to have the only man who believes him, Sean Bean, betray him for selfish gain).

I am not a fan of mindless, heartless fluff. But that’s not to say that fluff can’t have heart and have thought. Overall,  the fiction I write aims to be accessible to those who want to have fun, but equally enjoyable to those who want to laugh, cry, and experience a story that leaves them mulling for days. It’s a difficult line to walk, but I’m jazzed to see at least one person’s response was positive. Now I’ll have to figure out what the other six think :P