Is literature a dying art?

I recently read an article in the guardian that suggested that literature is a dying art and it got me wondering about the topic of English language in fiction. Now, controversial opinion alert, I’m not a huge fan of literary classics- Catcher in the rye, Ethan Frome, To kill a mockingbird- and I have a sneaking suspicion that it was due to them all having one thing in common, they were all based on reality, rather than the escapism I am after when I pick up a novel. Heavy subjects such as racism and sexism were laid thick, as if to be obvious about a subject matter was to be deemed intellectual. Maybe I am just too harsh a critic, or maybe my brain doesn’t span far enough to look past the dreary storylines and find comfort in the metaphors and similes of a time long since past but I prefer modern novels, novels that tell a story of lost worlds, romance and fantasy.  
Every book on writing I’ve ever had the privilege of opening has explained that to be able to write is to be able to tell a story, so what does it matter if it’s written badly? Obviously I’m not talking unedited stories from independent online authors, although I have come across a few diamonds in the rough, but as long as you can tell a story, with a beginning, middle and end, with plenty of conflict and character development then who’s to say that isn’t literature?

The full definition of literature, according to merriam-webster is: “writings in prose or verse, especially: writings having excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest”. So literature is a well constructed piece of writing which holds lasting interest. I’m starting to see why the classics were deemed literary but to say it is dying out seems a tad extreme, surely, as society changes our eye for literary classics adapt to suit? To further this idea, it seems as if it is these classics, as I have listed above, are becoming outdated, and if anything, losing their literary status. This poses a link to my next question, how long does a prose have to be popular before it is deemed a literary classic?

To me novels like the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey aren’t literature. They are popular due to the shock factor and die out once the hype has disappeared. It may be that novels with re readable content, great stories and lengthy hype duration may be more of a candidate for this status. Again, there’s the possibility that I’m being presumptuous and overly expressing my dislike for the novel, who’s to say that, going by my previous argument, that this novel, due to it’s popularity, may have literary status in the future?

Another article I read recently, again from the guardian, was stating how children are taught how to write stories using the correct amount of adverbs, adjectives and basically how to churn out mechanical stories, arguably sucking the life out of imagination. It made me wonder: why do grown ups actually write stories? The answer I came up with was simple, they want to have fun. The best way to have fun with writing? Literally, no pun intended, throw words on a page and see what happens, visualise the story and write. Although, in direct comparison to this, the article read that in order to break the rules one must first know the rules, but how much do you need to know in order to write a successful prose?

There is always the possibility that I am discrediting what it means to be a literary author to justify my own writing but if I am happy reading current popular novels and skipping the literary classics as most of the general population tend to do, would writing a literary classic entail a doomed existence as a writer? Or in a hundred years time when we contemplate the literary geniuses of the 21st century, will we consider popular fiction from today?

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Terrible song references, Dystopian fiction and the novel that appeared in a dream.

In practically every book on writing there’s a section that tells you to write every day, so here I am, writing at 7.30 (!) on a Wednesday morning to keep the creative part of my brain active.

For the first part of my novel I wrote the entire draft in two weeks, in every spare moment I had: the twenty minutes before I left for work in the morning, the couple of hours after dinner in the evening. It was an awful piece of writing but I enjoyed myself. But what made me so creative? I felt a tad nostalgic today and so I had a look backwards for an explanation.

I grew up in a small quaint marine village named Tollesbury. As a country girl, born and raised (I’m desperately trying not to sing the lyrics to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air) I spent most of my childhood reading anything I could get my hands on. Every summer the mobile library would visit the village and the school children would be carted over the road in groups, some eager, some not so much, to explore this tiny van for something that enticed their little beady eyes. It was in this van that I would nearly always participate in the summer book challenge where, in six weeks, the child was expected to read six books to win a DVD or CD to rent.

Skip ten years ahead and I was reading in university, where reading was deemed paramount to success, only the books were boring and far too heavy for me to actually enjoy. I still enjoyed young adult books, dystopian fiction about female protagonists, something that was very much frowned upon as an educated adult. Although, somehow Fifty Shades of Grey was deemed better? That’s an argument for another time.

Meanwhile, I was studying animation and the art of storytelling. Everything I saw was broken down into frames, camera angles and storylines. I learnt about archetypes, Propp’s and Todorov’s theory and suddenly everything began to form this complex formula for success.

It’s 2016 and real life had become monotonous and repetitive, so I decided to get lost in a story, one that had spanned from an intricate dream.

I’d had an idea roaming around my mind for a while, one that incorporated nearly every paranormal TV series, film and book I’d ever laid my eyes on. One day, after a particularly vivid dream about a particular plot line, I actually plucked up the courage to speak to my partner about the story my bizarre little brain had conjured up.

Thrilled that I was doing something other than moping around the flat he helped me develop the idea, bringing my characters to life with incredible back stories and possible future storylines. Together, in one afternoon, we nearly filled my phone memory with notes and had to revert to old school pen and paper just to get the ideas documented before it was lost to the abyss of forgotten plot lines.

Two weeks later and here I am, holding the first draft which is a huge achievement. Now all I have left to do is edit my work, which my friends Louise, Lucy and Charlotte have agreed to scrutinise once I’m ready to be vulnerable.
It’s exciting and a little nerve-racking but I think eventually, if I keep my mind focused, I may actually finish this novel!

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