Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Does Quiet = Boring?


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?


32 comments:

  1. I can do quiet movies but not quiet books. Sorry you couldn't get into LOTR.

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    1. Alex, I tried to like LOTR. I swear. But you know what? I fell asleep during Star Wars. In a crowded theatre, with booming speakers. I'm a hopeless case!

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  2. Julie, I couldn't get into LOTR either. I love quiet books with depth. Thanks for writing about this.
    Karen

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    1. Karen, I think "depth" is the key. If it's quiet with no depth, I'll bet we'd be bored!

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  3. Totally agree, Julie! (From Sarah Dessen and quiet stories to LOTR movies.) Nice call out to Leslie :)

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    1. Deborah, thanks so much! I'm amazed that Leslie loves something so much that bored me, but thankfully there's so much to choose from :)

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  4. Wow, Julie, I just had this same thought this morning. I write "quiet" and, yes, I had begun to equate that to "boring." Then I thought about all the quiet books that I love, such as Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata. I remembered how much I loved that book eventhough nothing "happened" and I was encouraged by that. So, quiet only equals boring for people who don't like quiet books. :)

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    1. Linda, I'm beginning to think you and I are kindred spirits! Our brains are on the same wave length. From what I read of your story, it's not boring at all. It definitely falls under the thoughtful and deep category :)

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  6. I love "quiet" fiction, and I don't think they're boring at all. In fact, they can possibly be more memorable, relateable, and deep. I would probably categorize the books that I write as quiet as well. I know a character's goal should be what drives a story, however that shouldn't be what the entire plot centers around. And just because there isn't a major threat in your story doesn't mean it's boring.

    Great thoughts!

    Tessa
    www.christiswrite.blogspot.com

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    1. Tessa, I totally agree. I suppose it all depends on my mood. Sometimes I love a thriller, but sometimes I just want to settle down with a character I love in a quiet story.

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  7. Hmmm...you are definitely making me think. I don't think 'quiet' fiction is boring. For me, it all has to do whether I connect with the characters. I will admit; I'm an action, fast-paced, it's-got-to-keep-my-interest type of gal. But that doesn't mean the 'action' has to be exterior. Sometimes inner 'action' can strike me with more passion and depth.

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    1. Sheri, great point about "action." Without it, any story would be boring!

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  8. I like quiet fiction too. For me, it's usually about the characters who pull me in rather than the plot so if it's got good characters, I'm usually in :)

    Although I love LotR! :)

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    1. Jemi, great point about characters. If we love them, we'll likely follow their journey :)

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  9. Um, ah, bored during Lord of the Rings? I can't picture it. I get lost (in a good way) in that story. Frodo...Aragorn...That being said, I'm also a fan of the quiet book. Stories that explore the human condition always float my boat.

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    1. Leslie, like I told Alex, I even fell asleep during Star Wars, in a crowded theatre. You'll still be my friend, right?

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  10. Hi, Julie. *big waves* It seems like forever since last we chatted. I hope you and yours are well this holiday season.
    Now, I think good is good - no matter what particular brand of fiction it might be. I love taking left turns away from the thriller and horror stuff to read something different. I just recently did this with a buddy of mine's look at over 40 romance. It was funny, genuine and real, and I loved it. It filled me up with everything that I needed. Of course I ran right back to the thrillers... ;)
    *hugs*

    -Jimmy

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    1. Jimmy! It's great that you're open to different genres. I also love reading different types. I go through phases. Right now I'm in a Sarah Dessen phase, but I've been through Jodi Piccoult phases, Tom Clancy, etc.

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  11. "Quiet" fiction usually works for me when I can empathize with the character. I think this is why Sarah Dessen books are so popular. You can relate to the main characters.

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    1. Karen, so true. I can totally relate to Dessen's characters...at my current age, and my younger self :)

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  12. I don't think it's boring. I like all kinds of fiction. Reading quiet fiction can be a nice change from the constant fast-paced books that saturate the market. I always appreciate a great classic or literary novel every now and then!

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    1. Laura, I'm with you. I get bored reading the same genre over and over again. I like to mix it up!

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  13. I read all kinds too. I wouldn't consider my own books "quiet" though. There's lots going on. Action. Drama. Life. Death. I definitely understand the need for quiet books. It gives us a break, like rest after a long sprint. It also gets us thinking. I'm a big LOTR fan too, so I can't wait, of course, for The Hobbit movies!!

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    1. A rest after a long spring....I love that!

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  14. I'm not sure really. If the story was gripping, I read it. I can't say what makes a story quiet. If a story is boring, loud or quiet, I won't finish it. I've never read LOTR but I did enjoy the first movie. But fantasy is not my thing. I will admit, I much prefer a thriller with a counting clock. My life is quiet enough. I need a bit of excitement!

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    1. Ha! My life is quiet, too.You'd think I'd only want to read action so I could live vicariously :)

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  15. I'm not sure what constitutes as quiet fiction either, but I like a lot of action. That said, I also love great description that 'puts' me in the novel. So I guess I'm a middle ground kind of person.

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    1. Heather, middle ground is a great place to be! Thanks for your thoughts...

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  16. I like a bit of action here and there, but I've found quiet, below-the-threshold stories to be more intriguing. I've often wondered the same thing about "loud" and "quiet" characters: I am drawn to them if they are vivid, not necessarily vivacious. On terms of the Hobbit, it is a little sad to think that a quieter LOTR story "had" to be battled-up.

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  17. The word quiet doesn't do these books justice. They might not have high physical stakes but the emotional stakes are high. If the book is well written - I'll love it. Just as high action thriller books are hard to do well, quiet books are extremely hard to write too. I think Gary d. Schmidt is a perfect example. I get wrapped in his stories and love them. But he does them well.

    The connecting link between them is the emotional piece and good writing. If I care about the character I don't care if there is a car chase or not. I enjoy both types of books. but at the same time, I've put down both types of books. Totally depends.

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