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I need to begin by stating my bias: I love plays. I have trouble finishing novels, but plays I really book through. This is not a mark of theatrical dexterity. Plays have fewer pages. They contain the barest modicum of description. And best of all, even in a good play, which generally has some action, mostly all that happens is people talk.A great play surpasses great literary fiction by straining it of its explanatory adjectives and page-long paragraphs.In literary fiction, plot acts as a device, a series of events that reveal what character will do and, consequently, who he or she is. In contrast, mysteries or thrillers rely on character as the device, somebody for the exciting plot to happen to. This is why literary fiction has better dialogue – because the characters talk about themselves and each other, not just the circumstances of their formulaic misfortune.Of course, ignoring plot too adamantly leads to terrible literary fiction, because no matter how wrapped up a writer can find herself in her gorgeous phrasings (I say “her” because I do this constantly), the reader will not get wrapped up.
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