I think everyone would agree that Lord of the Rings is a huge success. My brother-in-law and niece love those stories. My critique partner, Leslie, is a total LOTR fangirl.
Recently, I watched Lord of the Rings for the first time. For the first 90 minutes, I loved it. The rest of the time? I was...bored. I know, I know. I've just tilted the world off its axis. I'm definitely not their target market.
Thankfully, there are stories that meet everyone's needs. Fantasy, sci fi, thriller, romance, whatever. Some of my favorite books can be described as "quiet," but quiet books aren't for everyone. Many people would even describe them as boring. On the surface, they may seem that way, but down deep there's so much more.
I've become a fangirl of Sarah Dessen's books, and I'd describe them as quiet. When I first read the jacket copy of JUST LISTEN, I wondered what all the fuss was about. But as I read the book, I learned her stories were quiet, but deep.
Other opinions may differ, but for me, these are the best qualities of quiet fiction:
- Lovable characters with interwoven dramas. It's not just about the MC achieving her story goal. Her life is connected with other lives, and there are complex, tangled relationships.
- High personal stakes. In the quiet fiction I've read, there usually isn't a threat of physical death. The stakes are personal, and usually involve some sort of personal death, like death of a societal position, death of a marriage, death of a friendship, etc. These stakes are definitely relatable, because these worries are common to everyday people.
- Heartbreaking choices. I know a book has been well written when the personal choices the MC makes cause my heart to quicken. I've learned her fears, I've learned how difficult the choice is for her, and my heart breaks for her. Like the mother who was forced to choose between freedom and her child in THIS BURNS MY HEART.
Is quiet fiction boring? I'm biased, of course, but in my opinion, no. Quiet fiction can be beautiful, and memorable, and painful. As long as there's a lovable character, an important story goal, and significant stakes, it's a story worth telling. For me, quiet fiction has staying power.
Tell me, do you read quiet fiction? Or have you tried reading it, and couldn't get past the first page? What do you think makes a story great, whether it's quiet or otherwise?