The Keeper of the Snails is reading The Art of Subtext. Check out her posts about it.
The first chapter is called The Art Of Staging. ‘Staging’ according to Baxter is when objects and actions are used to create a pathway to the character’s inner life. It is this aspect of a novel which distinguishes popular genre from the more literary. In popular romances (e.g. a novel by Danielle Steel) the location, material wealth, physical attributes and who is paired off with whom is important. In the popular thriller (e.g. by Tom Clancy) it is the military hardware, and the hierarchy of power that are important. In both the characters are secondary; but in more literary fiction they are central to the plot. In more literary novels the character is shown by what is unsaid – the showing rather than telling – and presumably the more that is shown and the less that is said, the more literary the novel (and subsequently, perhaps, the less it will be read).
Genre novels, he says, shut down imagination and therefore are ideal reading material for the anxious traveller because it reduces the ability to speculate. Literary novels on the other hand promote the imagination, and in order to do this a character who is hyper-vigilant ie fully attentive, has poor understanding and is emotionally bewildered is ideal as a protagonist.