Monday, June 8, 2015

Heavy or Light?

I recently had a discussion with someone who read my debut novel, Dragonfly Warrior. He's not a friend, but more of an acquaintance. So I appreciated his opinions and objectivity. His big hangup with my book is that it wasn't "heavy enough."

"Heavy?" I'm pretty sure I looked at him cross eyed. "It's 400 pages, so it weighs..."

He shook his head. "It lacked grittiness. Profoundness. Heaviness."

I thought about his criticism for a long time before I replied, "I don't write heavy books. Or profound ones. I write adventure books. My books are an avenue for escapism and imagination."

This reader knew of my English degree and background in classic literature, and it boggled his mind that I was more Indiana Jones than King Lear. And you know, that suits me just fine. I'm actually happy that this person thought my books were too light for his taste.

I have not had an easy life. In fact, I'm pretty sure none of us have. Many writers use their harsh experiences as fuel to their writing fire. Their passion gets put to paper, and they bare their souls through the written word. Me? Life is gritty enough. Heavy enough. Hard enough. The last thing I want is to read a book that is equally heavy. Or watch a movie or TV that pulls me deeper into the pit of our existence.

Not to say that I don't appreciate a profound and heavy book once in awhile. My most favorite books To Kill A Mockingbird is at the very top of my personal favorites list, and I consider it mandatory reading for everyone. (Seriously, if you haven't read it, go!). I go back to read it every two years and get something new out of Lee's book every time.
are the ones you could say are important to our society.

I write the kind of books that take me back to my childhood. Growing up, I got lost in books filled with adventure, mystery, heroes and villains, and conflict. I wanted to be taken to another world to forget about life for a little bit. Does that mean I'm an intellectual lightweight? Maybe to some people.

How about you? What are your most favorite "heavy books?" How about books you loved to read just for pure entertainment? 

Dragonfly Warrior, the first book in The Mechanica Wars, is still FREE! So download it NOW and spread the word! Thanks.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I couldn't agree more. I don't write heavy or profound books either. I write escapism and adventure.

Pat Dilloway said...

Profound is good but they don't usually make money.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I read across the board, and a lot of times what I pick up depends on my mood. Sometimes I feel like getting lost in historical fiction, sometimes I want a fast-paced mystery/thriller/suspense. It's all good! :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

There's a message in my fiction works, but they aren't heavy. If I want profound, I'll read non-fiction.

Pat Hatt said...

Oh yeah, no heavy or profound here. I'd rather go for fun and more movie like than dark and dreary and weigh on the mind stuff. Life is crappy enough indeed.

Jay Noel said...

Alex: And I don't think that makes us stupid!

Pat: Good point, Pat.

Madeline: I"m the same way. I read a lot of non-fiction too, when the mood strikes me.

Diane: Exactly! I do have deeper stuff in my books, but you do have to look very closely.

Patt: I don't go out to a movie to see a dark, realistic movie like Schindler's List. I'll watch something like that at home. Usually by myself.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Sometimes heavy wears me out. I like both the heavy and light weight books. There is a reason we read both.

Thoughtful post.

Chrys Fey said...

I think my writing tend to be heavy because my mind goes there. But we need light books too! I actually enjoy reading more lighter stories than heavy ones.

Sarah Foster said...

My book ideas do tend to be heavy, for the most part. But I like to read both!

Jennifer Hawes said...

Sometimes the lighter, fun books turn out to be pretty heavy and they didn't even mean to:) I do enjoy both. Love that quote from To Kill a Mockingbird!

Patricia Lynne said...

I'm with you. I like books to escape the reality of life, so I don't really think of heaviness when I write. It does surprise me when a reader finds a theme that ends up a bit heavy. I usually don't intend it.

Jay Noel said...

Teresa: Yes. And oftentimes, it's a good thing to let a heavy book capture you like that. But 75% of the time these days, I need some non-reality stuff.

Chrys: As a writer, you've got some big things on your mind, and that's good. Interesting how as a reader, you want lighter fare. That's probably pretty common.

Sarah: Many times, I'll inadvertently have an underlying heaviness in my books, but you really have to look hard. From my perspective, I think I do that without thinking.

Patricia: I know, me too!!!

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

Be careful not to let one person's opinion on your writing affect it unduly. I mean what one person wants may not be in sync with what other people want or desire. At times, George R.R. Martin bugs me because his fantasy is too dark for my taste and it makes me squirm. I only keep reading and watching because I'm so invested in the story.

Jay Noel said...

That's a great point, Michael. But it was a great discussion to have, as I never really thought about how I tend to read and write "lighter" books and why that was true.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I sometimes read heavy but I prefer reading for entertainment and I write adventure and fun. I have some pretty strong views on that 'literary' moniker given to some books but I won't go into that.

Robin said...

I know exactly what you're saying. I want someone to read my novel (eventually), put it down, and say, "That was a helluva fun romp." I think there are books out there to appeal to everyone. The last thing I want to read is dark, dark, dark all the time.

DEZMOND said...

I hate grittiness but I do love when books have profound message and depth.
I'm also an English lg and literature professor, but yet I translate mostly adventurous or popular books :) I do wish even fun books would have more depth these days since the world is growing ever so superficial

Karen Jones Gowen said...

There's a market for all kinds of books, and this reader's comment just shows your book wasn't his type of reading, not that it reflects badly on you or your writing.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Like you, I much prefer adventure and something fun and entertaining. Profound is fine, not that I've read many in the past few years. I went through my heavy profound stage years ago, lol! Now I want fun. I'm much more a Indiana Jones sort in movies and books than stories that are heavy or emotional crash--like most of Nickolas Sparks books, for example. His stories depress me and I have friends who love the angst and heavy emotion of his writing but not I.

If I want something a bit more edgy I like thrillers. They hit the headlines and create a what would happen they usually do have a message.

What I'd say to you? Write what you love and fun with. There is definitely and audience for it.

Sia McKye Over Coffee

Jo said...

I think my all time favourite book is Shogun by James Clavell. My first paperback copy had to be replaced because it fell to bits. I think this book, based on fact, could be considered heavy. In my longish life I have read so many books, but that is the one that leapt to mind when you talked about books with weight. However, I loved Alex's books and I hope I will feel the same way when I read your "light" book. Like you, I no long wish to read books that drag me down or depress me as so many "heavy" books tend to do.

Lexa Cain said...

This is such an interesting question. I dislike writing that's literary, where the writer falls in love with their own prose and yammers away at length. But I also don't like "sweet" stories like fantasy romances - anything that doesn't have life-or-death stakes bores me. So maybe I'm Goldilocks and eschew anything that does't fit my little niche! You should write what makes you happy.

Cindy said...

I think there is a trend these days toward the heavy/dark stuff like The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad. I watched a few of those shows, but they aren't really my thing. As you said, life is already filled with a lot of horrible things. It's not that I avoid watching or reading about violence or killing (I too kill my characters) but I think it's the dark slant that just puts me off. I love a good adventure.

Emma Adams said...

I can appreciate literary novels, but I always read for enjoyment and to be entertained, so that's the kind of thing I write, too.

Cherie Reich said...

I love books more to be entertained than to have some profound experience. I did enjoy To Kill a Mockingbird, but I didn't read it until I was cast for the play at a community theater production. Even classic books, I enjoyed those that were more exciting, like Dracula, Frankenstein, A Picture of Dorian Gray, 1984, Treasure Island, etc.

Kimberly said...

I'm the same, I like to read to escape into another world - I haven't really thought about whether it's heavy or not. I always thought heavy was books that dealt with things like drug addictions or suicide or cutting or something like that - those I don't usually tend to read. But maybe I'm wrong about what heavy is. :)

Loni Townsend said...

I write dark and humorous, but not heavy. Ha, Cera is anything but heavy! I don't read heavy literature, and I don't write it either. I think you're not alone. :)

M Pax said...

Mostly I read light these days. Definitely need the escape. I do read heavy sometimes. I have to be in the mood for it, though. My favorite is probably Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse.

Haneen I. Adam said...

That is the best answer there is :) I don't write reality (whether contemporary or historical) whereas this is what everybody else around me does, fantasy and sci-fi aren't respected around here, but I can't seem to want to write anything but so I'll keep doing just that. Keep up the good work.

Julie Dao said...

I really don't get why stories have to be classified as "heavy" or "light." A book is a book is a book. Everyone enjoys different things, and the perception of whether something is "profound" varies from person to person. I think adventure stories can be among the most profound there are. The themes of friendship and loyalty, standing up for what's right, and honoring promises are widespread in so-called "light fiction" and I just think people should stop trying to belittle different genres and READ whatever the heck they want to read!!!

Stephanie Faris said...

When I first started writing, I was in a critique group with a woman who wrote really gritty suspense novels...the dark kind with violent murder scenes. She called my writing "shallow." I think it's important when you're critiquing someone's work to make sure you don't put your own personal preferences into it. I proudly write light, fun books...that's my thing. Some may call it shallow and that's fine, but romantic comedy (what I wrote when I was called shallow) and girly tween books don't really have a place for murder scenes or deep, introspective scenes...although I'd like to think there's always a deeper message buried beneath all the fun!

G. B. Miller said...

As a rule, I don't write heavy or profound, nor do I write necessarily light. I'm somewhere in the middle with my writing. I definitely don't write wickedly upbeat endings, but more to the point of writing tempered/muted endings, in that neither are they totally upbeat or totally downbeat.

As for reading, I'll read almost anything, be it heavy or light. I don't do literary fiction or non as I find them to be too formulaic (which is really bad thing if you're writing non-fiction). I don't tolerate snarkiness/sarcasm masquerading as gritty realism either.

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