A few months ago I received a rather long report from my publisher in regard to my next novel. I can now share with you that it will be called ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsais’. Probably. Titles are funny things, but that’s another story…
The length of the report was scary enough, but there was one section in particular that had me worried. ‘Your novel is picaresque.’
‘of or relating to an episodic style of fiction dealing with the adventures of a rough and dishonest but appealing hero. Usually satirical.’
I’d never thought of my heroine as being like that. Appealing, yes (hopefully), but rough and dishonest, no. Well, maybe just a little. I Googled more and found examples such as Don Quixote and Huckleberry Finn described as picaresque. At least I was in good company.
As I looked into it further, I realised that a lot of chick-lit could actually be described as picaresque. Rather than following a traditional three act – beginning, middle and end structure, it relies on the charm of the protagonist to carry the reader through their rough and tumble life. Bridget Jones’s Diary is a classic example.
It’s funny how once your mind is open to a word it starts appearing everywhere. Almost every novelist I read now seems to be described as picaresque.
Who have you heard described as picaresque lately?
If you would like to learn more about picaresque fiction (among other things) I am running a workshop called ‘Beyond Sex and Shopping: Writing fiction that sells’ this Saturday – the 17th of March in Byron Bay. Contact the Northern Rivers Writers Centre.