Genre Vs. Literary Fiction


This is a topic of great importance to me.  First and foremost because I didn’t realize there was a distinction until long after I’d begun my writing career.

I just wrote.  My voice was built upon who I was as a writer, regardless of whether it fit into any predetermined mold.

When I was hit with the question- am I a genre fiction or literary fiction writer?- I was stunned into a panicked writer’s coma.  Who was I now?  This challenged my whole identity.

I read this wonderful article by writer, Jennifer Ellis:   Genre vs. Literary Fiction.

It gave me a nice organizational chart so I could explore which category I fit in.  Here’s what it looks like:

Genre Fiction                                                            

Plot/Narrative driven

Formulaic   (somewhat)

Provides entertainment 

Happy/satisfying ending

Straightforward prose

Conventional life/current ideology

Linear narrative that stays in present

Wide range of readers (I hope- my goal)

Easy/fast to write (also a goal, but not sure if I achieve this)

Real life

Characters have quirks/clever dialogue

Focus on exterior life of character

Reader watches plot unfold


Climax often big – shootout, love scene

Good writing  (also a goal)

Literary Fiction

Character arc/Theme/Language driven

Not formulaic  (again, somewhat)

Provides meaning and cultural value

Unhappy/unclear ending

Unique and fresh prose

Darker truths/challenging ideology

Non-linear narrative with flashbacks

Specific readers  (perhaps?)

Hard/long to write

Real life

Characters are fully fleshed out humans

Focus on interior life of character

Reader infers some of plot

Less accessible

Climax can be small – decision, realization

Good writing  (fingers crossed)


I have highlighted the elements that are a part of my writing style.  As you can see, I’m solidly in both categories.  As Ms. Ellis laments, when it is hard to categorize yourself in this kind of industry, you feel at a loss.  Can I press forward as is?  Must I change myself to fit into the industry standard?  Or can I be defiant and press forward using my own rules?

You can guess the option I’ve chosen.  I’m not called the Defiant Romantic for nothing.

I refuse to follow someone else’s rules.  I have modified my writing enough as it is, in order to be “publishable”.  I will not take away some of my voice, parts that I feel lend an authenticity and uniqueness to my writing.  I will continue to write in the crossover fashion, as Ms. Ellis called it.

To end this rant, I must reveal that I am rereading one of the first romance novels that I fell in love with.  Another Dawn by Sandra Brown was a tantalizing, scandalous kind of book when I was in ninth grade.  I loved being able to read something so intense and, I must say, vulgar in parts.

This being said, I realize now why I write the way I write.  This novel, while solidly in the genre field (by all accounts a classic bodice-ripper), it also has detailed inner monologues and narrative.  When did it become imperative to separate the two?  Why can’t we have the best of both worlds?

Something to ponder…




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