Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Literary vs Commercial Fiction

Sarah LaPolla had a great post on this topic last Monday. You can read the whole thing HERE. I'm just going to touch on one thing that she said today in my post.

She gave these quick definitions of the difference between Literary and Commercial fiction:

Literary fiction: The focus is on character arc, themes (often existential), and the use of language. I like to compare literary fiction authors to runway designers. The general public isn't mean to wear the clothes models display on the runway. They exist to impress the other designers and show the fashion industry what they can do. Literary writing is a lot like that, but on a more accessible level. Many dismiss literary fiction as "too artsy" and "books without a plot," but this isn't true. At least not most of the time. The plot is there; it's just incidental. Literary fiction is meant to make the reader reflect, and the author will almost always prefer a clever turn of phrase over plot development.

Commercial fiction: For the purposes of this blog post, I've been using this interchangeably with genre fiction. Basically, all genre fiction is commercial, but not all commercial fiction is genre. There is also "upmarket" commercial fiction, which I'll get to later. Unlike literary fiction, genre fiction is written with a wide audience in mind (aka "commercial") and always focuses on plot. There is still character development in genre fiction, but it is not as necessary. Characters get idiosyncratic quirks, clever dialogue, and often learn something new about life or themselves by the end. The difference is that their traits are only skin deep. The reader stays with them in the present. Rarely do we see a character's past unless there is something pertinent to the plot back there. Genre fiction has a Point A and a Point B, and very little stands in the way of telling that story.
Having read this, I definitely fall into the Commercial fiction category. I never doubted that for a moment.
My main purpose has always been to tell a good story, not impress the literary world with my genius turn of phrase. It's just who I am. I like to keep things simple, straight forward, and easily accessible by everyone.

For me, the writing is about the characters and their journey. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with being literary, it's just not me.
And I'm good with that.

Where do you fall and why do you like writing that style?