Literary Fiction vs Genre Fiction and Benefits of Buying Used Novels
Literary fiction and genre fiction are the two types of fiction that can be written. Literary fiction (lit fic) refers to work that is character-driven and realistic, whereas genre fiction refers to work that is plot-driven and based on established clichés.
These kinds of simplistic definitions, however, are unjust to both genres. Literary fiction can be unrealistic, trope-y, and plot-heavy, and genre fiction can have well-developed characters in realistic situations.
The fact that literary fiction vs. genre literature is a dichotomy is part of the problem with these categories. Sure, any work of fiction can be classified in one of two ways, but there's a lot of fiction out there, and very little of it fits cleanly into one of these categories. If our human experiences are diverse, then so should our fiction.
So, let's take a closer look at this binary. What distinguishes literary fiction from genre fiction, how may these categories be further defined, and what aspects can you use in your own fiction writing?
We'll look at various literary fiction in depth and the benefits of buying used novels. But first, let's examine the distinctions between literary and genre fiction. (They aren't as dissimilar as you might believe!)
Definition of Literary Fiction
Literary fiction, in general, refers to work that attempts to mirror real life. (Of course, genre literature can achieve this as well, but more on that later.)
Literary fiction aspires to be as realistic as possible.
Lit fic authors rely on the use of realistic characters, real-world settings, and complicated subjects, as well as literary methods and experimental writing techniques, to replicate actual life.
You may easily get 100 different replies if you ask 100 different writers what makes literary fiction "literary." Lit fic, as opposed to genre fiction, is defined as:
Character-based (instead of plot driven).
Themes and complexity.
It's based on real-life events.
Life lessons and deeper meanings are the focus.
These distinctions are fine and dandy, but genre fiction can also be those things. Furthermore, some works of fiction contain circumstances that would never occur in actual life. In Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, for example, time travel and visions of the future occur, but the novel is decidedly literary in its concentration on conflict.
The best way to think about literary fiction is that it defies classification. Lit fic does not fit cleanly into any of the genre boxes, unlike genre fiction, which may be broken down even further into several sorts of fiction genres. Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, and Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities are just a few instances of literary fiction.
Literary fiction, unlike genre fiction, cannot be subcategorized; it does not divide into genres.
In contrast, genre fiction gives us with clear categories to which we can allocate different literary works. Let's look at a few of those areas in more detail.
Definition of the Genre Fiction
The main characteristic of genre literature is that it adheres to a set of formulas and tropes. There are tropes, systems, and archetypes that make for great genre work in genre fiction that don't apply to literary fiction.
There are tropes, systems, and archetypes that make for great genre work in genre fiction that don't apply to literary fiction.
So, genre fiction is any work of fiction that follows a set of rules to tell a story. It's critical for genre authors to immerse themselves in the genre they're writing in, since even if they don't want to stick to a strict formula, they must know how to bend the rules. When we look at the different types of fiction genres, we'll look at some of those norms.
Literary fiction would become genre fiction if it began to borrow tropes from other genres. Both categories, however, can have comparable themes and concepts without necessarily being in the same camp.
Take, for example, Vladimir Nabokov's work Lolita. Despite the fact that the novel is about love, lust, and relationships, Lolita is classified as literary fiction.
Why isn't Lolita considered a romance novel, which falls under genre fiction, if it's about love? Because Lolita avoids all of the clichés of the romance genre. To begin with, the novel is about a professor (Humbert Humbert) who falls in love with an adolescent Dolores, marries her, and then molests her. Thankfully, you don't find this in romance novels too often.
Lolita, on the other hand, doesn't follow any of the romance genre's rules. There are no amazing first encounters—no cute meet-ups, no fortuitous encounters, no love at first sight (though there is lust at first sight).
Nothing complicates the connection between Humbert and Dolores since there isn't one to begin with. The novel depicts a power struggle between a middle-aged guy and a little girl who is barely old enough to understand, much less enforce, permission. Conventions of the romance genre, such as love triangles and meeting at the wrong time, simply do not apply. Yes, some story factors make it more difficult for Humbert to pursue Dolores, but those plot issues aren't romance genre conventions.
What Are the Other Distinctions?
Many people believe that plot-driven genre fiction is plot-driven and character-driven literary fiction is character-driven. These statements are broad generalizations. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin is one example of a genre novel that is "character-driven," yet literary novels can have cinematic narratives (Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky).
However, there is some validity to this distinction.
In fact, it appears that a novel is classified as genre or literary fiction based on four fundamental differences: goal, audience, story scope, and writing style.
1. The goal
Literary fiction is frequently viewed as art, while genre fiction is frequently treated as amusement. Obviously, there aren't distinct qualities; entertainment and art are inextricably linked, and neither label indicates the work's quality. It's probably more accurate to argue that genre is more financially minded than literary. That is, the former is frequently handled as a business, whereas the latter is frequently treated as a craft.
Some critics of genre literature argue that it exists solely to sell books. It's not about quality; it's about profit, which is why so many books, particularly in the Young Adult genre, follow commercial trends. Vampires are appealing? Are dystopian novels doing well? Let's saturate the market with them. Formulas emerge after reading a sufficient number of books in a given genre. There may be large-scale conspiracies, love triangles, and a rebellion against the government in YA dystopian trilogies. These aspects are expected by readers, yet they can rapidly become predictable.
Literary fiction claims to be more concerned with quality than with money. A Master of Fine Arts in creative writing is held by many authors who have won the renowned Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize. Those MFA programs, on the other hand, have been criticized of producing homogeneous writers, resulting in a subset of literary fiction whose aesthetic norms can feel confining rather than liberating. Adultery, troubled families, and murder in a small town are all motifs in this genre. Much like modern art, really original, avant-garde forms feel unreachable to the broader audience.
2. The target audience
The target audience is the source of this discrepancy in purpose. Why do people read the literature that they do? People read genre literature for escapism, to explore new worlds, to fall in love vicariously, and to see evildoers brought to justice. Readers of genre literature frequently want the story's issues to be resolved before the end.
When we want a "beach read," we want something light and entertaining that doesn't need much thought. The darker genre novels on the market, on the other hand, demonstrate that readers aren't just seeking for sweet heroes and happy ends. Across genres, morally complex characters and themes are ubiquitous. It is incorrect to assert that certain types of literature have no value beyond enjoyment.
"Escapism" has a negative connotation, yet according to Lev Grossman, it permits us to better reflect on ourselves and the world around us:
"When you read genre fiction, you leave your issues behind – only to re-encounter them in a transfigured shape, in a new guise that lets you comprehend and experience them more fully." Genre fiction isn't just a bunch of nonsense. You don't read it to get away from your troubles; you read it to figure out a fresh method to deal with them."
Real-life issues are more directly addressed in literary fiction. Steven Petite, a writer, says:
"Completing a serious book provides a sense of success and fulfillment, and the most significant factor in judging whether the novel was a great escape not from reality, but into reality is whether the reader dwells on the words after the last page is turned." Literary novels may lack a clear resolution to the conflict, evoking the unease that comes with uncertainty in real life.
Reading for improvement, according to Neil Gaiman, is the polar opposite of reading for pleasure, and Kazuo Ishiguro agreed, saying that he reads for spiritual and intellectual nutrition - "to learn something about the world, about people."
Some readers prefer difficult works that require a lot of effort to read and comprehend, such as James Joyce's Ulysses and David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. These books are like puzzles, and deciphering morsels of insight from the overall picture they present can be satisfying. The goal of literary fiction is to make us examine social standards and ordinary feelings, as well as to delve into our own minds.
3. Scale of the plot
Returning to the character-driven vs. narrative-driven debate, it seems absurd to assert that no novel has no character development or plot. Essentially, genre fiction concentrates on large-scale drama and external conflict, whereas literary fiction focuses on small-scale drama and internal conflict.
A Big Bad – a foe the hero must overcome — might appear in a large-scale drama in genre fiction. External conflict exists because the threat is external to the hero. Internal struggle, such as a lack of faith in one's own strength, is common among genre heroes, but it's secondary to the plot action. These tales immerse the viewer in a series of thrilling occurrences.
The small-scale drama in literary fiction frequently includes relationships, whether with family members or romantic partners. There may not be a clear villain or even a clear plot. Instead, the tension originates from the main characters' emotions and how they interact with the others around them. In novels, the plot may span a long period of time, depicting a complete existence. Imagine someone penetrating your mind, reaching the deepest recesses that are concealed even from you, and bringing them to light. That's the kind of in-depth character analysis that literary authors strive for.
To meet the reader's expectations, these two types require distinct elements. In general, genre fiction moves at a faster pace than literary fiction. Literary focuses on emotional nuance and sincerity, while genre favors a page-turning plot framework.
As a result, while editing a fantasy novel, I'm more likely to emphasize the story structure: a fascinating opening, an exciting climax, good chapter endings - all the delectable morsels that entice the reader to read all night.
Literary novels have greater leeway in plotting; they're less about large, dramatic events and more about smaller, but nevertheless significant, moments in ordinary life. Instead of explosions, the climax might be one character finally telling another the truth, or even having the opportunity to do so but failing. The emphasis is on delving into the characters' inner life and eliciting genuine feelings.
4. Style of Writing
The main distinguishing feature between the two groups, aside from purpose and plot scale, is writing style, in my opinion. Genre fiction frequently employs more accessible prose that appeals to a wider audience while remaining focused on the story at hand. Literary fiction places a premium on well composed phrases that require more effort to comprehend yet seek to portray specific images and sentiments; it is frequently lyrical and multifaceted.
"Simple, commercial prose isn't awful; it's merely designed to attract no attention at all." You can't help but notice literary prose as a language practice." ― Stranded author Kate Dylan
This description even applies to minimalist literary artists like Raymond Carver and Ernest Hemingway, who are aware of how language precision affects their work.
However, there is a misperception that a more approachable writing style is less deserving of praise. "Easy reading is hard writing," as the proverb goes. Furthermore, many genre writers, past, present, and future, have a knack for crafting sentences (see Naomi Novik's fantasy novels, Gillian Flynn's thrillers, and William Gibson's science fiction).
Let's have a look at how the aesthetic contrasts between a genre and a literary novel are manifested in action. Mistborn, Brandon Sanderson's high fantasy epic, features a heist and a magic system dependent on metal consumption. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders, is an experimental novel with 166 narrators portraying Abraham Lincoln's anguish over the loss of his son.
Buying Used Novels
We've never had so many options when it comes to choosing what to read. We now have buckets of content available from our phones, tablets, eBook readers, PCs, and even watches, in addition to time-honored institutions like libraries and coffee shops. So, why is it that buying good old used novels is preferable?
The Advantages of Purchasing Used Books
1. You will be able to save money by buying used novels online.
Of course, this one is self-evident. Newly printed books can be expensive, but when you buy second hand books online, you're almost certain to save at least half.
2. You'll read a lot more when you buy used novels.
There's nothing like a stack of equally interesting titles on your bookcase to get you to complete your present book. You'll have no trouble maintaining that stack stacked high if you buy inexpensive used novels.
3. Buying used novels online is more environmentally friendly.
Purchasing a new book isn't as simple as it appears. Every year in the United States, 2 billion new paper books are created. That's millions of trees and millions of tons of CO2 emitted, making for a significant carbon footprint. Yes, the artwork on the new edition of The Great Gatsby is cool, but why not save the environment by purchasing one of the millions of used novel copies already on the market?
4. There is a common past with used novels...
Purchasing a used novel is like to purchasing a box of chocolates... You never know what kinds of ideas are scribbled in the margins. And that's one of the things that makes buying used novels online so appealing. You're actively contributing to a common history, and you're allowed to add your own thoughts along the way.
5....that you can share used novels with others.
You've finally finished War and Peace. You've highlighted and earmarked your favorite passages, and you're ready to convey your enthusiasm for the well-worn tome. There's something appealing about lending a used novel to friends and relatives. It's adding another mind to the pages' accumulated life!
6. Used Novels've already been worn in.
Books aren't supposed to be coddled. Pick up a used second hand novel copy instead of worrying about keeping the crisp, coffee-stain-free pages of newly printed books. The binding is most likely bent, and you may come across some rumpled pages along the way, but chuck it in your bag and on the road. Used books have been around the block a few times, and they've seen some incredible things. We're willing to wager they'll make it through a quick trip in your tote bag.
7. You have the option to use your first-sale rights on used novels!
We (and you) can sell used novels, music, or any other copyrighted property because of the first-sale legal doctrine. With the popularity of eBooks and other digital works of art, various troubling interpretations of first-sale rights have surfaced. Purchasing old used novels is a fantastic way to take advantage of your long-standing, money-saving first-sale privileges!
8. There are some absolutely great old cover designs available for used novels.
There's no shortage of stunning artwork on the covers of used novels, from epic 1970s sci-fi to hot romance novels. Cheesy? Yes, of course. However, it's a terrific technique to strike up a conversation on your way to work on the bus.
9. The fragrance of an old novel.
Fresh-off-the-press books all have the same scent. Used books, on the other hand, have been collecting their own distinct aroma for years, decades, and even centuries. This-Spent-200-Years-In-A-British-Library odor is present... The smells of This-Was-Well-Loved-By-A-Parisian-Aristocrat and, of course, the less pleasant but still lovely This-May-Have-Suffered-Water-Damage-At-Some-Point-In-The-Recent-Past.
The point is that second hand books are similar to us. They have a distinct personality. They're a little beaten up here and there. They have a history. So, if you're looking for a new book, there are at least nine strong reasons to buy secondhand. It's entirely up to you!