Listicles. They're everywhere you look. It seems like every time I read a blog post it is either a listicle in its entirety or it contains a list somewhere in the post. Facebook friends are sharing them left and right and they've even descended upon Medium.
Listicles are attention grabbing, they're quick and easy to read, and they are the "Readers Digest Condensed Version" of anything you'd ever want to know. As a web content writer, the listicle is a great tool to have in my kit. If I'm ever stuck for an idea for a blog post or online article, the listicle is my go-to format. Whatever the subject is, I know I can pop one of those bad boys out in about 20 minutes. When I'm done, I feel pretty efficient and that's a great feeling. I also know that since the general public is addicted to them, my work will be read. And that's why I love them.
The truth is listicles are a dime a dozen, anyone can easily read them just as almost anyone can easily write them. They don't dive too deep into anything so you don't have to even have to know what you're talking about to write them. This is why, as a fiction writer, I hate them.
I hate them because writing them does not take me out of my comfort zone. They don't require any extra creativity or research. They don't push the envelope. They are safe.
While this may be ok for web content writing, a field that values efficiency, it does not foster the right attitude for fiction writing. It's easy to fall into habits with our fiction writing. When we find a "formula" that works, it's very easy to use it over and over again to save time and to guarantee an acceptable outcome. However, the best fiction challenges us, it confuses us and surprises us. In order to be a writer of that kind of fiction, we must dare to be experimental and bend the rules.
The listicle approach to fiction writing may work to a degree, but abandoning it can stretch our creativity in ways we never thought possible. Great fiction has no "one size fits all" formula the way web content tends to, which makes it a challenge to work on both simultaneously. It can be done, however, when we put away our "listicle lens" when working on our fiction in favor of a kaleidoscope.
Rachel Boury Baxter
Writer: web content by day, fiction by night.