Genre & Literary Fiction | What’s the Difference?


What’s the difference between literary and genre fiction? Stay tuned and we’re going to talk about just that. I’m Anna Yeatts for Flash Fiction Online. If you want more content like this Head on over to Patreon.com/FlashFictionOnline Patrons unlock lots of great rewards including issues of the magazine, manuscript critiques, and personal coaching for writers. If you’re watching this on YouTube make sure to subscribe. And to ring that little bell for notifications so you never miss an episode. What’s the difference between literary and genre fiction? Genre fiction and all of its multiple sub-categories and sub-genres. Things like romance horror, science fiction, fantasy, crime, mystery, noir. I could go on and on and on… is written for the purpose of entertainment. Literary fiction, on the other hand, is intended to help the reader better understand the world Literary fiction doesn’t have all the same sub-categories as genre fiction. You primarily will just hear it referred to as “literary fiction.” Now that’s not to say that genre fiction can’t make you see the world in a new way and that literary fiction isn’t entertaining. But yeah, it’s true for either side. Some genre fiction can be very straightforward without any elevated theme. to it. And quite a few literary stories can be… not so entertaining. Yeah. I’m just going to go out on a limb and say that. Genre fiction is considered to be plot-driven. While literary fiction tends to be character-driven. Or theme driven. The language in literary fiction is also elevated. And by elevated, I mean it’s kinda fancy. It’s also beautiful and can, in its own way, be a type of prose poetry that’s evocative of whatever theme or point the literary writer is trying to get across. So when you read literary fiction, after you’ve read it for a while, you kind of get the feeling “this is literary.” Win awards? You should write literary fiction. If you want to make money? You should write genre. Again, it’s not to say this can’t crossover but the vast majority of major awards every year go to literary fiction. Now there are awards within the genre fiction community: the Hugos, the Nebulas, the Stokers, the Ritas, all that. But when we’re talking about big major huge awards like the Booker Prize the Pulitzer Literary fiction. When it comes to making money, the ones keeping the lights on in the bookstores? That’s genre. These two things are not mutually exclusive. While it seems like it would be pretty cut and dried this is genre and this is literary, it’s actually not. And the line gets more and more blurred every day. There are quite a few stories and novels that crossover from one to the other. Things like literary romance, literary horror, literary mystery, literary fantasy. All these things exist and those are the crossover books that incorporate the best elements of both sides. A great example of a literary fantasy novel is “The Night Circus” is “The Night Circus.” The writing is beautiful and elevated and it is character-driven but at the same time it’s plot-driven. And the book was a huge success. But as a general rule, it’s hard to crossover. Because people are so firmly ensconced in “I write genre.” “I write literary.” “I read genre.” “I read literary.” This is a very polarizing topic. People are going to be seated very firmly in either the literary or the genre camp. Yes while there are some who are willing to read books that crossover, most people have a very distinct favorite. And not just a favorite. This idea that one style is better than the other. And people very serious about their feelings. People are so polarized about this topic that you’ll even hear them describe literary fiction as “highbrow” and genre fiction as “lowbrow.” As if somehow genre fiction can’t live up to whatever standard it is that literary is writing. But on the other hand, people who enjoy genre fiction will say “I can read this from start to finish. I can sit down and tear through it where as literary fiction you’ve got to work, to dig, and it isn’t always quite so exciting. So just because they’re called highbrow and lowbrow that doesn’t mean one is any better than the other. It’s just a matter of personal preference. And what you’re looking for in a story. And this is an important thing to know if you’re submitting short stories for publication. Literary magazines and genre magazines are going to operate very differently. Now there are exceptions to this. But as a general rule, genre magazines will not charge you to submit a story and if they decide to publish your story they’re going to pay you. It might not be a lot. But the theory within genre fiction is that money moves from the publisher to the author. And this goes back to the old pulp traditions. On the other hand literary magazines will quite often charge a reading fee or a submission fee. It could cost you anywhere from $3 to $25 dollars and up in order to just to submit a story to a magazine. And then if they decide to publish your story, you probably aren’t going to get paid. While it’s true that some of the larger literary magazines things like The New Yorker and The Sun pay quite a bit of money for stories most literary magazines don’t. Now there is an element of gatekeeping involved in this. You can’t submit a story if you can’t afford to pay. And that’s up for a bit of debate. And again, it goes back to being very polarizing. Is it okay to be a gatekeeper? Is it okay to say that if you can’t pay the fee, you can’t submit? Or in genre fiction, everyone can submit. That doesn’t mean everyone will get published and that it’s a perfect world. But that bar of entry is much lower. If you enjoyed this video, go ahead and give it a thumbs up. I’d really appreciate it. Leave me a comment down below and let me know if you like literary fiction, genre, or if you’re a fan of crossover. So just leave down below “Literary” “Genre” or “Crossover” and I’ll know what you mean. In the next video I’ll talk about five common misunderstandings that people have between genre and literary fiction. I’m Anna Yeatts for Flash Fiction Online and I’ll see you in the next video.

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