Have you ever wondered what distinguishes a literary work of art from other works of art? Definitely, literary works of art have certain qualities which make them distinctive and unique. Here is a list of the qualities that every literary work of art should possess in order to be considered literary. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but an entry point into the rich and vivacious world of literature.

Suggestiveness

The beauty of literature is that it lends itself to interpretation. Thus, ten people who read the same text derive ten different meanings from it. This is attributed to suggestiveness of the work of art. Literary works should be such that they compel a person to think, introspect and derive meaning from them. One way to do this is to use open ended books with incomplete resolutions. But, apart from this, there are several ways to make readers think.

Endurance

Literary works, to be great, must necessarily stand the test of time. They must be enduring and relevant through time and space. Thus, they must be universal in nature. No matter how different we might be in race and religion, everyone on the planet shares a common nature and condition by virtue of being human. Literary works tap into this human condition and draw on primitive myths and archetypes to create enduring stories that resonate.

Qualities That Every Literary Work of Art Should Possess
Qualities That Every Literary Work of Art Should Possess

Style

Literary works should also possess a distinctive, rather than borrowed, sense of style. This refers to the personal way in which artists choose to express themselves. A writer might choose to write fast-paced, plot-driven books or psychological stream of consciousness books. Or an author might choose to write using extravagant metaphors and flowery phrases or using matter-of-fact and to-the-point language. All of this incorporates the author’s personal style, which he or she shouldn’t copy from anyone.

Authorial Voice

Authorial voice is an integral part of any artistic work. When all is said and done, a literary work should have something to say. There should be an essence, a core to the work. This is the authorial voice. The author must have something to say that is of value to the world in some way. Again, this shouldn’t be borrowed because that kills the beauty of a work.

Relatability

A good literary work is also relatable – it is conducive to the reader’s empathy and solicitousness. It arouses sympathy for the character. The characters or story is one that the reader is easily able to generalize to himself or herself. Thus, the reader should have no problems identifying with characters and placing himself or herself in the imaginary world of the story. In other words, a good book has a personal connection with every reader.

Qualities That Every Literary Work of Art Should Possess
Qualities That Every Literary Work of Art Should Possess

Innovation

If relatability and universality are present in the book without innovation, it will become cliché and trite. Thus, an absolutely necessary quality of any worthwhile work of art is innovation and creativity. The reason artists are granted artistic license is for them to use it to create wondrous, out-of-the-box stories and characters. Thus, any work of art should have a creative core in that the story and characters should be believably unique.

Relevance

A good work of art is a mirror to its times as well as the human condition. Thus, it remains relevant now and forever. Good works of art reflect the society, politics, economics and general lifestyle of the times. This not only makes them relatable but also relevant – they become socially useful in the process. Through the characters and their arcs, interactions, events and more, a writer must portray the times their lives unfold in.

Technique

This might seem boring and superfluous but every work of art should make use of an artistic technique. This includes the use of metaphors, similes, alliterations, hyperboles and other forms of language for special effects. The extent of effectiveness of such techniques is often a good demarcation or measure of the success of the literary work. Literary technique usage shouldn’t be excessive or unnecessary but in moderation and potent.

Qualities That Every Literary Work of Art Should Possess
Qualities That Every Literary Work of Art Should Possess

Artistry

For a work of art to classify as ‘literary’, there must be something unique about it. This uniqueness comes from the artistic aspect of it. The same idea can be conveyed in several ways, but the one that is most aesthetically pleasing would be artistic. Thus, the usage of language and selection of words that best convey something, as well as the use of literary devices like the metaphor, comes under artistry. Artistry is an important element of the book.

Emotion

Finally, a good work of art should arouse emotion. Whether it’s happiness, sadness, fear, anger, terror, pity or disgust, literary works of art should stir the soul. They should have sentimental elements which allow the reader to connect with the story and have a gratifying experience. In other words, the emotion in a work of art should be neither excessive nor dull but in the perfect proportions to create a feeling of satiety in the reader.

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