Sunday, April 08, 2012

A quiet novel

What is a quiet book? Someone used this term a while ago to describe my writing and since then I 've contemplated exactly what this means? I think the term is highly subjective but some people would say as indeed Jan O'Hara does in her wonderful post on this topic that a quiet novel presents us with well drawn characters and beautiful prose that remind us what it is to be human. Others suggest that quiet novels are character rather than plot driven. I personally love books that remind me what it's like to be human and yes, I'd say I do try to create well drawn characters and yes I'd like to think my prose is beautiful but I'm not sure my writing is entirely character driven. However my research into this term 'quiet novel' has highlighted that quiet books aren't necessarily the ones that marketeers find easy to sell or promote -perhaps because they offer something that goes beyond the public face of books or perhaps because they speak to the private in us all and maybe because they aren't  easy to describe. I don't know, I'm just guessing. I think these buzz words can become meaningless after a while.

But here's another buzz word- high concept. High concept novels are apparently what sell. So what's high concept? Well apparently unlike the term suggests, these books aren't necessarily sophisticated (don't shoot me down) - this is what I read somewhere- and they are pretty easy to describe in one attention grabbing sentence: I'm thinking girl meets boy who turns out to be vampire. Or something along those lines.

Personally I think there's much merit in a quiet novel and as Jenny Bent says sometimes readers' tastes differ from publishers... which leads me to believe that quiet books do indeed sell if they are published.

Writers like Elizabeth Laird writes lovely books in this vein and I'd say some of Jodie Picoult's novels are also what we might describe as 'quiet'. Rather than being about fast paced adventure and constant drama her novels are about human interactions, feelings and universal themes. And as one reader of Jan O'Hara's points out, the queen of writing- Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, could well be described as a quiet book. Some of the works that we might call classics aren't what people might define as high concept but rather they are more about characters, perhaps even quiet. Perhaps this is what makes them timeless?

For me, after reading up on this subject,  I'd define a quiet novel as a book that tells a story about normal people in an extraordinary way, so I take it as a compliment when my writing, rightly or wrongly, is likened to a quiet novel because for me that's praise indeed. And I reckon I'm in good company if it turns out to be the case that I do indeed write quietly.

Now shush I'm writing.