It appears as though genre fiction and literary fiction are constantly at war. While literary fiction is criticized for being pompous and uninteresting, genre fiction is frequently accused of being shallow and lacking in depth. This debate has been put to rest and brought back to life more times than there are zombies in popular culture.
It may seem unnecessary to force novels into such an arbitrary clash, but it does matter how the public perceives books and the honors they receive. If you’ve ever attended a creative writing class at the college level, your instructors may have told you that genre pieces wouldn’t be accepted. Hence, it’s quite important to know the difference.
Literary Fiction vs. Genre Fiction
Before we can characterize them, we must first discuss where these two classifications started. The distinction between the two types of fiction is a relatively new one. Before the 20th century, when genre labels were a marketing technique for mass distribution, book publishers did not see the need to create this difference.
Characteristics That Differentiate the Two
By definition, genre fiction refers to popular or commercial fiction originating in a certain genre. Because literary fiction can sometimes be interpreted as belonging to the genre of science fiction and fantasy, it is vital to clarify the distinction between literary fiction and genre fiction.
Most literary critics consider literary fiction to be the opposite of genre fiction. Although literary fiction is held in higher esteem in many academic and journalistic communities, genre fiction is often seen as of lower quality. Despite this perception, however, readers in vast numbers find more enjoyment in reading genre fiction. Novels that often appear on bestseller lists are not works of literary fiction but rather works of genre fiction.
To comprehend what sets the two apart, we must examine a couple of these qualities in further depth.
Genre Fiction Is Plot-Driven
Most works of genre literature are hopelessly driven by their plots since they are required to adhere to a set formula. Even if they have intriguing characters, some of whom the reader may grow to adore and others they may despise to their very core, the plot is always the primary focus of these works. This plot, which is determined by the type of story being told, could be a mystery or it could be a love story, but regardless of what it is, it is always the essential part of the narrative.
Literary Fiction Is Character Driven
Literary fiction gives the same importance to the character that genre fiction does to the plot, but literary fiction is irrevocably bound to the plot. It is necessary to investigate and characterize the characters, as they are the driving force behind the narrative’s progression. Not only does literary fiction show the characters carrying out their actions, but it also demonstrates how those actions shape the characters through time.
Genre Fiction Is Entertaining
Even if not all works of genre fiction can be classified as “fun escapism,” the vast majority of these tales fit into this category. To put it another way, they offer an exciting journey that temporarily allows readers to forget the stresses of their own lives.
Literary Fiction Doesn’t Follow a Formula
On the other hand, literary fiction is not constrained by any particular set of guidelines, in contrast to genre fiction’s more lax but still predictable narrative structure. There are instances when literary fiction will take a topic prevalent in other types of literature and flip it on its head. Because anything is possible, reading the book may be both exciting and unsettling.
Genre Fiction Appeals to the Masses
There is an apparent reason why popular fiction and genre fiction are two different names for the same thing. There is a larger audience for works of genre fiction because of their broad appeal. It is intended for the reader who falls into the mainstream, particularly those already fans of particular literature. Many readers prefer a specific literary category, such as suspense, romance, science fiction, fantasy, young adult, action, or historical fiction.
Literary Fiction May Not Be For Everyone
Read at your own risk: tales that investigate the human condition aren’t precisely the most entertaining. Often, writers are required to deal with sensitive topics in an open and forthright manner. When you’re in the mindset of a reader who just wants to escape reality, you may find it unsettling to dwell on concerns like these.
Genre Fiction Often Has a Happy Ending
A neat ending, in which all unresolved concerns are answered, and the characters can settle into their new normal, is one of the most powerful aspects of genre fiction. Most successful works of fiction have happy conclusions because it is what people want.
Literary Fiction Often Has an Ambiguous Ending
The conclusion of most works of literary fiction are either melancholy, abrupt, or are left open to the reader’s perception. There are times when nothing is resolved, leaving the reader wanting to find purpose in everything that has transpired.
Genre Fiction Is Easier to Sell
There’s a reason why they call it “popular fiction.” The sale of genre fiction is more straightforward. Readers who enjoy a particular genre are frequently drawn to other works written in the same style and with similar stories. They are constantly looking for unique perspectives on the same core topic.
Literary Fiction Is Award-Friendly
Works of literary fiction are more likely to win awards because they frequently break new ground and offer a distinctive point of view. This is precisely the kind of stuff that critics adore. However, winning an award does not guarantee that a book is worthwhile. Like all other aspects of art, creative brilliance is subjective and lies in the eyes of the spectator.
Blurring the Line between the Two
Naturally, not all works of literary fiction adhere to the guidelines. The same goes for genre fiction. It’s not necessary for every work of literary fiction to center on a tragic, self-reflective protagonist. Certain characters on the page do not engage in lengthy, meandering inner monologues in which they debate every facet of life.
Literary fiction can take on these qualities in the same way that real life may be imaginative, mystical, and even tremendously romantic. It merely needs to investigate parts of our nature and the world around us in a manner that compels us to question, think more deeply, and look more closely at individuals in our surroundings.