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What Is Literary Fiction (and What Sets It Apart)?

Join us on January 3rd for a Mini Topic

What Is Literary Fiction (and What Sets It Apart)?

literary fiction quote

We have talked about Short Story Writing and Creative Non-Fiction and now, to start off the New Year let’s talk about Literary Fiction. 

I have pulled some things out of a rather long article and hope to touch on all five areas regarding the things which set Literary Fiction apart from Genre Fiction. Some of the five points are obvious, others are a little hard to sum up and I am counting on you to help us through the topic.

What sets literary fiction apart from genre fiction?

  1. Literary Fiction Looks Different
  • The Covers are Different
  • Genre and Literary Novels Might Be Sold in Different Formats
  • The Titles are Different
  • You’ll Find Them in Different Sections of the Bookstore


  1. In Literary Fiction, Character Comes Before Plot
  • If writing a gripping plot is important in genre fiction, in literary fiction the plot can be less momentous, more subtle, less frenetically-paced, more beneath the surface. But it still needs to be there, as the literary agent Nathan Bransford points out…


  1. Literary Novels Are More “Meaningful”
  • As readers of fiction, we like to be entertained by the surface plot. But we also like a deeper experience, one in which the novel’s events “say” something about what it means to be a human and what it takes to get by in this world.


  1. In Literary Fiction, “Fine Writing” Is Essential
  • Both fans and publishers of literary fiction expect the writing itself to be excellent…
  • Not poetic, exactly (though it can be).
  • Not lush and sensual and vivid with imagery (though it can be).
  • Not “difficult” (though some literary novels don’t exactly make for great beach reading).
  • Instead, literary writers need a masterful way with words. Their voice can be simple or ornate, but the prose must always be rich and finely-crafted and a pleasure to read.


  1. In Literary Fiction, Anything Goes
  • You’re free to tackle any subject matter and any theme you choose, and to structure the story however you wish.

Join us on January 3rd for a mini-topic chat.

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