Mini-Topic Chats

Upmarket Fiction

I was going through some very dusty files and found a submission letter I had sent to an agency in 2007. I entered the agency name into Google to see if the company was still around. Yes, it is. The agent I had addressed was still there and some others had joined the company.

While I was reading the biographies and needs of the newer agents I came across the term Upmarket Fiction. Yes, I looked it up. Would I trip over a term like Upmarket and not see what was under the tarp?

Let’s talk about it. Wednesday, in the chatroom. 8PM ET.

Photo by Amelie & Niklas Ohlrogge on Unsplash white bookshelves
Photo by Amelie & Niklas Ohlrogge on Unsplash

What is Upmarket Fiction and Should You Be Writing It?

Upmarket fiction.

You may even see it paired with a familiar genre. Upmarket science fiction. Or upmarket contemporary romance.

What is upmarket fiction?

Upmarket fiction is used to describe a book that has a literary feel with commercial appeal. It means that the writing is outstanding, but accessible. The characters focused, but the plot sharp.

What is Upmarket Fiction? Defining the Classification.

One word that kept coming up was the word “upmarket.”  The term isn’t brand new, but it seems to be gaining in popularity.

Simply put, it’s fiction that blends the line between commercial and literary.  To further examine this, let’s break down those two terms. 

It’s literary fiction, so it’s pretty damn good writing, but it has commercial potential.  It has the ability to infiltrate lots of book clubs and start discussions and take off as a product.  It’s a win-win for everyone.  I’ve heard a lot of agents say that they are looking for “literary fiction with a commercial appeal,” or something like that.  Well, one word that does the job of those six is “upmarket,” and that’s why you hear it so much.  If you’re writing narrative nonfiction or upmarket fiction, chances are, there are a ton of agents out there willing to consider your work.

Defining Upmarket Fiction and the Role it Plays in Today’s Market

Upmarket fiction straddles the line between literary and commercial fiction. The writing is elevated but accessible, the characters appear unique while remaining universal, and the plots are proverbial but unpredictable. Since readers have become wise to the tropes of their preferred genre, agents and publishers are now searching for books that can exist in either marketplace.

Upmarket fiction combines the best elements of literary and commercial fiction.

Upmarket fiction is a classification or a publishing term, not a genre distinction. Think of the phrase as an adjective since publishers use the term as a selling point—e.g. upmarket science fiction, upmarket mystery, upmarket women’s fiction, et cetera. This term identifies novels that dabble in both the literary and commercial realms by addressing universal concerns through elevated prose and poignant themes. Many of the novels chosen for our modern book clubs fall into the upmarket fiction category, which is one of the many reasons this label has become popular among agents.

It seems most of the Google trails lead me to general agreement about what Upmarket Fiction means. I’m leaving you with a lot of reading to do. There are dozens of articles about the category and who knows, maybe you want to write some…

Mini-Topic Chats Sunday Chats

Inspiration or Determination?

What do you write about when the words aren’t coming?

What inspires you?

Well looking up Photo by Valentin Lacoste on Unsplash
Photo by Valentin Lacoste

Do your characters dream?

Do they shop for clothes?

Have you interviewed each of them?

Do you do spot checks to see what your characters think is going on?

Photo by Frankie Lopez on Unsplash photo of an orange water pump
Photo by Frankie Lopez on Unsplash

Visit with us and share some of the things you do to keep yourself from putting your project on the back shelf.

Sunday Chat begins at 7PM ET

Mini-Topic Chats

Point of View

Chatroom Topic Point of View

There are Points of View till hell won’t have them. And we are going to talk about a few of them. We have been discussing character building, settings, symbols and images. We discussed dialogue, subjects and subtexts. On Sunday we hit on Action.

We can probably all agree that when it comes to Point of View, head hopping within the confines of a single scene is a major mistake. I think as writers, we have all tried it in our notebooks and discovery drafts a little head hopping has a valid place. We might head hop to get a feel for who a scene belongs to. Then we choose the best and leave the rest in a file somewhere on our computers or in our notebooks. These explorations are never a waste of time. These efforts are practice and practice is the best teacher.

Looking down on a boat with sharks in the water.

Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

I am revisiting Janet Friedman’s website.

The Basics of Point of View for Fiction Writers

Point of view, or POV, has to do with the narrator’s relationship to what’s being said:

  • Is the narrator a participant in the events being told, an observer of those events, or someone reconstructing the events from a distance?
  • Does the narrator announce its presence openly or try to remain invisible?
  • Is the narrator seemingly dispassionate and detached, or does the narrator have a clear opinion of, or stake in, the story?
  • Is the narrator qualified to tell the story in terms of access to information and the ability to provide that information to us? And do we trust what’s being said?
road image yellow lines and autumn leaves

Photo by Kerrie DeFelice on Unsplash

Take about twenty minutes to read the guest post on Janet’s page. Join us in the Chatroom on Wednesday at 8PM EST

Sunday Chats Topic Chats


Terry’s hand trembled. One final keystroke and there would be no taking it back. No alt z. No backspace. No delete.

50 Ways to Leave Your Lover played over her phone. Terry hated that ringtone.  

A subtle clunk from the keyboard marked the beginning of the end. The start of a new world order. Terry waited.

Everything felt the same. 

“51 ways.”

On the Fly


Photo by Jared Brashier on Unsplash

Sunday’s topic is Action. We’ve talked about scene set ups and dialogue. Action can be huge or it could be one more pebble in the hiker’s shoe. For every action there is a reaction, even if the reader doesn’t see it. Reaction may pile up. 

Action in your novel is what characters do. What they do to each other, to objects, to the landscape, to animals, and to themselves.

When you write action, you are not only moving the plot along, you are also providing clues to character motivation.

You use action to reveal character.

Robert J Ray

Join us on Sunday to talk about action.


Topic Chats

Let’s Talk

In a novel, dialogue is two characters talking with a purpose. You use it in your fiction writing because it is efficient. With a few lines of well written dialogue, you could build character, advance the plot, convey information, and create tension lurking beneath the surface of the spoken language, which we call “subtext.” Dialogue is the shortcut to conflict. Conflict makes drama.

Robert J Ray

We have talked a bit about building character, okay, we talk about it often. We have also talked about building scenes. This week we will talk about dialogue.

Let’s Talk

Photo by Les Anderson on Unsplash

One of my favorite selections of dialogue comes from William Faulkner’s novel, As I Lay Dying.

The section is called Cora and it is far too long to include here. I do hope you will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed teaching it during my home-schooling days. My son and I still talk about the cake.

This is a small sampling of the dialogue..

“She ought to taken those cakes anyway,” Kate says.

“Well,” I say, “I reckon she never had no use for them now.”

“She ought to taken them,” Kate says. “But those rich town ladies can change their minds. Poor folks cant.”

As I Lay Dying
Mini-Topic Chats Sunday Chats

Stage Setup by Many Other Names

No matter how you choose to write one thing you will want to master is setting the stage.

Stage Setup by Many Other Names

The previous post contained a Story Board and this post is meant to pull the Setup out of the group of things to consider.

You, as a writer, need to know where you are as you set fingers to keyboard, most of the time, your reader wants this information as well.

You can present the setting in many ways, directly or through a character’s observation, or you may just blurt it out, tell. Telling has a place. Telling is especially useful when you are simply making a scene sketch.

Photo by Max Williams on Unsplash

for your notes

Stage Setup


Props: (photos, heirlooms, machinery, equipment, books, diaries, signs, containers)





Five Senses: (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch)

Robert J Ray

Keep in mind, these are just notes, a quick sketch, something to pre-load a writer’s mind before she frets and worries over the opening line. 

Next Sunday Marks the Ending of North America’s Daylight Savings Time. On 3 November we will use Eastern Time, ET or EST when times are listed for chats.

Mini-Topic Chats

What is a Scene?

A scene is a bucket that contains drama. It occupies its own space for a finite amount of time. When time is up, the setup stays while we cut to a new scene. Scenes are great because they talk to you. They’ll tell you the highway scene is finished. They’ll tell it’s time to cut to the empty house.

Robert J Ray
Bucket on the Beach


Stage Setup:












Point of View: 


Exit Line: 

Join us on October 23rd in the Chatroom for this Mini-Topic Chat

Mini-Topic Chats Sunday Chats


If we write, we all have a favorite character of all time. Some of us have more than one. You know when you’ve found her.

He will come to you as if in a dream. Or he may arrive fully formed. It will be love at first sight.

Your Favorite Characters

How do you go about developing, designing, taming this perfect character? Do you keep notes, physical sketches, does she become a tiny person who sits near your keyboard?

What do you keep in your character notes? Do your characters get their very own files? Do you interview them? How do you keep them alive? How do you come back to your keyboard for the duration of your short story or novel and keep them fresh and alive and full of surprises?

Visit with us in a few hours at The Writer’s Chatroom.

Topic Chat 20 October 2019

Mini-Topic Chats

Character Creation

Aristotle defined or measured characters as good, appropriate, like and consistent. Forrester compacted these four labels into two. Round and Flat. If a character never surprises the reader it is flat. Burroway suggests we do away with the starchy labels and “whoever catches your attention may be the beginning of a character.”

Start a character with what you can see. Age, gender, features, gestures and clothing. Find a feeling from the things you observe and then invent a reason this character is wearing these clothes and standing in this place.

Ray suggests adding motives, wants, cast the characters into roles, antagonist, protagonist and helpers, give them snippets of dialog. Write fast and call it a discovery. Don’t fuss over things at the start. Your bad girl may turn out to be your helper or even your protagonist.

Who are You?

Let your characters develop on the pages of notebooks, sketch pads, character files in e-folders on your desk top computers or your cellphone. Just get it down, somewhere, or you’ll never know your characters well enough to take you to the end of the story.

Sketch a few characters, then give them back-stories. Let them have dreams, filled with symbolism. Then ask them to show you what they keep in their closets, under their beds. Dress them up. Do anything you want, you are creating. Round file the flat characters, you’ll know when. Re-cast them in roles, a bad or evil character doesn’t know she is mean and destructive.

Most of the content for this article came from Robert J. Ray.

Join us on Wednesday for a Mini-Topic Chat on Writing New Characters

Photo by Oscar Keys on Unsplash

Sunday Chats

Props in Fiction Writing

We are all know if a movie shows a rifle over a fireplace in the opening scene – the item has to be used in the cathartic scene. 

I use a writing application called yWriter. A part of the file keeping is a tab to store items. A writer can track when this item shows up or is mentioned in a scene.  

Early in the week, I was very curious about Stun Guns. I am thinking of giving one to a character during NaNoWriMo prep. Because I can’t go up to a random person and ask to hold her personal stunning weapon, I opened my Amazon page.. for less than $20 and two days I had an actual stun gun to have and to hold.   The whole idea of empowerment by such an accessible and nonlethal self defense weapon feeds right into the thought of a fictional prop as a talisman. So, this will be our Sunday Topic.   

Here is an article about Props as Talismans .. Props can be nifty objects which provide a nice visual kick. They can ALSO have emotional and psychological meaning to characters.  

A second article.. How Writing Props Can Help Add Layers to Your Story and Characters By definition, a prop is an object used by an actor in a film (for films) and that can be held. (Understand, a swimming pool is not a prop). They are the seemingly ‘little’ details that will enhance the world your character lives in, making it believable or not and giving layers to your story, or not. and

because I like doing things in Threes.. 

 Props in Writing: How do you use yours?

We have a few new members on our email list. I hope you will drop in and say hello at The Writer’s Chatroom on Sunday at 7PM EDT. Welcome to our chat room.