What Is Literature And How Do You Write It?

When the question What is literature? has never been answered conclusively, what should you focus on as a writer? In this article, we provide you with the basics for writing literature.

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A definition

Van Dale says that literature is ‘the whole of the written tradition of a people, and in a narrower sense ‘the fine literature. I add: experience what others do not experience and tell that in a way that others do not. Parallel to this, the following statement is also tenable: experiencing what everyone experiences and telling it in a way that no one does. In any case, literature is always about experiencing and telling. For writers, of course, it is important: how do you know that your experience is a good basis for your story and how can you tell so that you write literature?

First things first: your experience (a different way of experiencing)
An example. When there is a row of trees along a cycle path, no one will argue that they are not trees. They are trees. But you as a writer interpret them in a way that others do not, for example, that they are gatekeepers of the meadows next to the path where a secret world lurks. The ordinary cyclist does not come there. You as a writer take him there. You put him in a situation outside the known and accepted ways. You show him the trees differently experienced; for example, you personify them, you let them experience adventures with other characters who are involved in unprecedented events in that unknown world. In this way, the reader – who normally only uses the path to cycle from A to B – can experience the adventures and gain a new experience while reading. He will see the cycle path differently from now on. You have made his world bigger, more exciting, more intense.

Second: write expressively, sensually, and specifically
To stick to the above example: you cannot simply write that a cyclist – in the person of the narrator – leaves the path so that he can experience adventures. Your cyclist must have a reason for this. For that reason to make sense, you use a means. This could be a strong gust of wind, a fright call, or something seductive like a woman in a red skirt and bare-chested. You tell this – whatever it is – in a visual, sensory, and specific way. The same goes of course for the entire story.

  • Visual is: concrete and unambiguous. A gust of wind, a cry of fear, a woman in a red skirt and bare-chested.
  • Sensory: is the shaky feeling you get when you are on a bicycle with a strong gust of wind, the shrill sound of the voice of a person in distress, the erotic effect of a half-naked woman. Senses on which an appeal is made prompt a person to take action, especially a character in a story.
  • Specifics: to accurately describe the facts that the reader must see and experience in front of him. You let the reader experience exactly what you want him to experience in the situation you describe.

Note: avoid difficult wording and complex sentence construction. These distract from the story and take the reader out of the experience that you are offering him.

The result
When you put the above aspects together in a setting where events take place with unexpected twists – and that really doesn’t have to be over-the-top and absurd; rather not, even, keep it acceptable – then you have a solid foundation for a literary story. Then you have done a good job. Literature is a good job.