Literary vs. Genre Fiction

There’s an ongoing argument between writers. You may have heard of it. On one side, with have the literaryists, the ones who read about real-life and thought-provoking-ness. On the other, you have the genreists, the ones who want a bit of action and adventure in their books.

For writers, though, there is a very thin line between literary and genre fiction. So, which is which?

Literary fiction

  • Tends to be thought-provoking
  • Tends to be real-life/set in this universe
  • Emotional
  • Can be about better understanding the world
  • Can be told in weird ways (eg just description, speech etc)
  • EXAMPLES: The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, Life of Pi…

Genre fiction 

  • Fits into one of the genres (link to a very extensive list which probably has every single genre ever), for example action, western, romance etc.
  • Aimed at readers looking for an entertaining read
  • Normally deals with situations you won’t find it real life
  • Can be alternative universes, such as the Sherlock universe, Lord of the Rings universe, or Game of Thrones universe.
  • Has more structure (ie plot points)
  • EXAMPLES: Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter…

So, your stuff could fit into one of these categories. But then you have the ones that overlap – such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which could be considered a literary romance, so it fits into both.

Some also think that literary fiction is boring compared to genre fiction.

Personally, I love Gatsby and Harry Potter, so I can’t really judge.

Now we get back to the argument. Many literary authors say that ‘their’ genre is better. They’ve go a lot of evidence to back it up – books such as The Fault in Our Stars being made into films, and works such as Gatsby standing the test of time. But is it really?

Some people also say that literary fiction is a genre in itself…so wouldn’t that make everything genre fiction?

Now that you know what the difference is (or you’ve had your memory topped up if you knew before!) what is your opinion on literary and genre fiction?

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