Disclaimer: I know, I should write « fiction » instead of literary fiction. But « fiction » does make any sense to my francophone book-geek brain. Every novel is fiction (even the autofiction novels are fictions… in a way… don’t get me started). Not every novel is literary fiction.
For an upcoming writing project, I really dig deep into literary genres. I considered writing out of my comfort genres zone, simply to challenge myself.
I flirted with the idea of writing a literary fiction novel… for about a second and a half.
I got a bit mad about the whole literary fiction vs everything else, genres fictions novels I mean, the first being seen as more serious, valuable work, then the later.
I always thought, I still do, that every novel, no matter its genre (Romance, Horror, Historical, etc…) is, in my very humble opinion, literary fiction. Periode.
Whether I like it or not, whether the writing is to my liking or not, a novel is a literary work, words on a page, a story.
Yes, some novels are better than others… all genres included.
That being said: this post is not meant to spark a debate, but to assess what is a literary fiction novel.
Literary fiction: no beat-sheets allowed
Considered as more valuable, in an intellectual way, than every other literary genre novels, Literary fiction novels are not written to be solely entertaining, nor to please a large audience.
A Literary novel is all about human characters and how they deal with that. Being human, that is.
It’s about what it is, for a character, to be, to exist, to change (or not) in the world it was born into, or pushed into, or forced into.
The language will be different, more sought out, specific. The story focuses on character development, which impacts the pacing of the story, often slow, sometimes atmospheric, sometimes deliberately dense, filled with subtext, etc.
A Literary fiction novel questions, as well as it explores, the real world: politics, social issues, themes who challenge the readers, push boundaries.
It often does NOT follow any beat-sheets, nor does it provide a happy ending, in the classic happy-ever-after sense.
It does not use formatting formulas, of conventional tropes.
A literary fiction novel is free.
One thing for sure, writing on the source of all literary genres reminded me of how hard it is, not only to write but to sell a literary fiction novel.
While it is aiming for all the adult readers of the whole wide world, it is usually reaching smaller crowds.
A super good literary fiction novel might have excellent critics and still not sale well. After all, the book world is over-crowded and noisier than ever.
If you’re looking for more details on what is literary fiction, I found this NY Book Editors post quite interesting.
Thanks for reading this post. Until next time !