I was asked this question the other day and after thinking about my college years, learning about Ethnic Literature as well as American Literature, I pondered these differences. What I wrote then and what I read now (mostly horror and mystery) are quite different, but not by much. I've read a few debates about genre vs. literary fiction, and I discovered that so many authors get up in arms about their beloved writing, no matter with which group they relate.
Writers love what they produce on the page, like any artist to a canvas. So, it shouldn't be surprising that we defend our artistic pieces. So many critique our styles, our motivations, and our elitist attitudes. That's right, I just called us a bunch of elitists. I state this in a self-deprecating sense though, just to get it out there, in case you're already thinking of me as a literary snob. Yes, I'll admit, I love literary fiction, and I'm happy to share my favorite excerpts.
So, what IS the difference?
Lovers of literary fiction fall deeply with the idea of the work and the internal growth within the characters. They love the experience of reading the work, its beauty and simplicity. The introspection with which the story demands is the most compelling element of literary fiction, aside from its eloquently, flowing cadence.
I cried when I read David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. Why? Because the growth of David, the boy, into David, the man, was a phenomenal read and it touched me. I don't know how else to explain it.
Success, in the eye of the literary author, is experienced by the accumulation of acclaim by other literary types. The motivation is not for monetary gain, but rather the acknowledgement of the beauty within their intellectually stimulating prose.
Lovers of genre fiction enjoy a quick read with twists and plot. They are entertained by conflict and the elements of surprise, which pave the paths of their heros and heroines. Their experience is like a ride in a theme park. The masses love a good mystery or a great horror story. Many even love the romance, paranormal included.
Genre fiction is in high demand and so the number of copies sold and landing on the Best Seller list are indications of success for the genre fiction author, and thus monetary gain being the motivation behind writing. I'm not saying genre authors are not eloquent or compelling, and that they don't love to write, but simply their motivations are different due to a vast audience.
OH EM GHEE, did I just generalize? Yes, I think I did.
Am I adding to the stereotypes of literary snobs and genre rock stars? I hope not. This post was written in order to objectively compare and contrast, briefly, these two fiction types. I couldn't be more broad. Or could I?
Did I leave anything out? Should I have mentioned more about one group or the other?
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