What Sets Literary Fiction Apart from Genre Fiction?

Written by John Danenbarger

August 5, 2020

“Entanglement – Quantum and Otherwise” was promptly classified as Literary Fiction by my publicist. So the immediate question arises: What is Literary Fiction as compared to Genre Fiction? Yes, the covers are different, genre and literary novels often come in different formats, and the titles have a different flavor, but that is only to allow the reader to more easily judge the expected content before purchase. The main characteristics of Literary Fiction are as follows:


In Literary Fiction character comes before plot

Literary fiction needs plot as much as genre fiction, but the difference is on emphasis. Literary Fiction fans might find genre fiction to be formulaic, melodramatic, and predictable. Genre fiction fans might think literary novels are those where nothing happens. In reality, it is a matter of taste, so romance fans like romance novels and sci-fi fans like sci-fi novels, etc. Literary Fiction is just another genre. It’s simply fiction that targets a specific group of readers who like what literary novels have to offer, i.e. the emphasis on character over plot.

Literary Fiction has a message

Literary Fiction, more often than not, has an underlying message or philosophy which pops to the surface now and then to give hints to the reader. This subterranean thread is what the story is “really” about.

In Literary Fiction the writing is essential

Literary Fiction readers expect the writing itself to be excellent and original, but not to the distraction of the reader.

Literary Fiction has no formula or convention

In Literary Fiction, anything goes as long as it works. This non-predictability is what a literary reader loves.

Cover Entanglement - Quantum and Otherwise, a novel by John K Danenbarger

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