What the Market Will Bear

Duchess Delquessa Ildonian leaned against the stone frame of her chamber's window, while her glance roved over the rolling terrain outside the palace. Rain fell in a steady thrum, shrouding the grasy hills and the winding road through them with a silver veil.

"Mistress, surely," her waiting maid's voice chided from behind her. "You must pry yourself from that window for a morsel. I worry over your insistent return to that spot, day after day."

Delquessa's gaze lingered upon the horizon. "Why sends he no word? Could the campaign stretch this overlong?"

"I assure you, I know not, mistress." The maid's footfalls neared. "Who among elves can fathom the minds of men?"

Not I, Elyrin, not I."

Welcome to a quick excerpt from one of my current projects--a 10,000 word short story I hope to submit for a short story anthology to be produced by Port Yonder Press this fall. As my new critique group looked over this particular story, a bit of a discussion came up about "reading level" and what today's fiction market will bear.

Now, let me start off by saying that I don't consider myself anywhere near intelligent enough to truly pull off "literary" as a genre. I won't go into the full definition of literary here, but lets just say it includes work that is written in an elevated style that uses words like the components of a complex mosaic...much different than we tend to think or speak in this day and age. But as much as I peg myself as a fairly average jane when it comes to complexity in my writing, the critique group had a slightly different opinion.

Anyway, the style in which I wrote the story began the discourse on whether today's fiction market can bear something written on a late high school to college level when it comes to vocabulary and pace. To write with words that aren't in the working lexicon of the average American narrows your audience, I'll admit. Fantasy already has a limited reach in the arena of readers. Christian fantasy...well, now we're really finding a tight niche, aren't we? At least I've had the common decency to write in this style only for about 25 pages. I wouldn't dare ask anybody to digest a whole novel of the stuff.

It all brings me to the point of a deep lament...if readers don't read to expand, sharpen, and stretch their minds, where will this happen? Does making reading easy actually expand the number of people who decide they love to read? Just by glancing around society (and admittedly, I have no scientific numbers to back this up) I would have to guess the answer is no. It's a cycle and a downward spiral. We make books easier so that people who don't read might feel less intimidated. People might read them, but because the reading material fails to expand their vocabulary and complexity of thought, an author dare not write above am 8th grade reading level as he continues to produce work, lest he lose his readers.

And yet, despite all this, apparently I've written a short story that disregards the market on all fronts. I've written it for Christian fantasy readers who love detailed word pictures. I cannot fathom telling this particular story in any other way. Will this all turn out to have been an interesting, while slightly fruitless, endeavor? Only time will tell. But I open the discussion to you, followers, visitors and friends...is there a place for literary style fiction in the Christian fantasy market?

Thanks for reading. Keep an eye trained on this spot come early September for the season two premier episode of The Windrider.


  1. I personally do not believe writing should be dumbed down. Commercial or otherwise. Write the story as it exists. Don't take away from the charm because you are afraid someone won't know the meaning of a word!

    On the other hand, writing suffers when an author crams in big words just to raise the literary level, or in many instances, just show off. I can't IMAGINE you are doing that, so no worries. Write on, Becky!

    I can't wait to read the whole story. I'm submitting to the same anthology. Maybe we'll be in there together! That would be awesome! :)

  2. Oh, and as usual, I love the drawing!

  3. Thanks for dropping in, Kat! (And extra points for commenting. What the points get you, I'm not sure.) It's good to hear there are other people who aren't afraid of an off the beaten path word choice here and there.

    Hopefully I can get the rough of Delquessa and Aeleronde sketch on this post tidied up for more official use. :)

  4. I think it comes down to your goal in writing. If you want to better and improve people who want to be bettered and improved, then pull no punches: give 'em all you got (just as long as you really do have it).

    If they don't want to be elevated, then writing lower won't help them any, and it won't fulfill your goal in writing.

    If you have a different goal, then you need to think about it from that angle, of course.

    Just my one cent. :)

  5. Becky, your experience is similar to one I had with my critique group. One week, someone said the language I used help establish the setting. Then at another meeting someone else expressed concern that the vocabulary was beyond the average reader. He circled some words in my ms like "rostrum" and "coiffure" that he didn't know.

    I've trained myself not to instantly reject any critique or suggestion, but after I mulled over this one, I decided that if the average reader doesn't know what a "rostrum" is and doesn't care to learn, then I am not writing for the "average" reader. If that decision narrows our microniche further, so be it.

    As writers, we spend our whole lives developing rich vocabularies we can use to create worlds. There's no point dumbing things down for the sake of some hypothetical "average." That a downward spiral exists doesn't mean we have to dive into it.


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