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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Charles Johnson on "Junk Fiction"

The garden-variety novel is quite easy to create, and that, of course, is the reason so many people can write them, especially formula fiction such as murder mysteries, second-rate horror and science fiction, and romance novels. I once had a student who made a decent living writing romance novels, and she explained the very strict rules of plotting and characterization required by her publisher; readers of those kinds of novels, she informed me, whip through three a day (one after breakfast, another in the afternoon, and a third before going to bed) since the boilerplate for the stories varies little from book to book. John Gardner [The Art of Fiction] once wrote that in order to write good junk fiction, one has to have a good junk mind. My friend the writer Fred Pfeil (author of Goodman 2020) once referred to novels of this kind as "industrial fiction." As I've noted before, this kind of writing pays a publisher's electric bills and helps writers put their kids through school, so it does have some value.

Charles Johnson, The Way of the Writer: Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling, 2016

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