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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Literary Versus Commercial Fiction

     In general, fiction is divided into literary fiction and commercial fiction. Nobody can definitively say what separates one from the other, but that doesn't stop everybody from trying…

     Literary fiction pays more attention to style than does commercial fiction. It also probes characterization more deeply. It's often slower paced than commercial fiction because added description and character development take up many words. The typical worldview implied by literary fiction is complex and ambiguous, trying to be faithful to the complexity and ambiguity of life. A traditional "happy ending" is possible but not common.

     Commercial fiction can be just as well written, but in an entirely different way. It's usually faster paced with a stronger plot line: more events, higher stakes, more danger. Characterization can range from good to practically nonexistent. The style is usually transparent, which means the writer wants to tell the story in words that don't call attention to themselves, so the story itself--and not the style--receives the attention.

Nancy Kress in Novel Writing, 2002, Meg Leder and Jack Heffron, Editor

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