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literary fiction vs genre fiction

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  #121  
Old 10-25-2015, 06:08 PM
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Hi Reflex.

I made a promise to myself to not commit on this thread. Yet, here I am. And why? I've read along the thread so know what people are saying.

But when you posted your thoughts I broke my promise to tell you that this is the most insightful comments I've read on this subject. Hot damn! It suddenly made sense to me.

Before coming to WB I joined the Literature Forum. When I made a mistake of sharing a short story I got flamed for puting such garbage on their pristine site.

When I was working on my MA degree I had to take a class about Shakespeare. It was required that I had to buy a small dictionary so I could I understand the writing. When I bitched about that I was called a "sniveling barbarian" in front of the class.

Putting dead writers in a class of "Classics" as opposed to "Literary genre" really cleared up my thinking.

Thanks for writing and sharing it. Wow! I feel redeemed.

Have a nice writing day.

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  #122  
Old 10-25-2015, 09:03 PM
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Originally Posted by poirot View Post
So if you want to write something that would be labeled immediately as literary fiction, what rules would you follow?

There are not rules. There is talent. The kind that can't be taught. Sentences strung together in such a way as to cause the reader to pause, and say: 'well, fuck me, that's brilliant.'

Images so clear and clean, you don't know they aren't real—not even for a second.

If you can do that, you are literature.
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  #123  
Old 10-26-2015, 02:26 AM
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Originally Posted by brianpatrick View Post
Sentences strung together in such a way as to cause the reader to pause, and say: 'well, fuck me, that's brilliant.'

Images so clear and clean, you don't know they aren't real—not even for a second.
The essence of literature to me, whatever the label might be.
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  #124  
Old 10-26-2015, 03:12 AM
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Sure. That's just great writing.

But it's interesting to me why this seems to be so mysterious for some people.

I was at a used book store this weekend. Sure enough, there was a section called "Literary Fiction." And there were others for genre fiction; science fiction, romance, fantasy etc.

You could just pretend you owned the bookstore, and when a book comes in, you'd say to yourself, where does this book go?

Maybe once in while, a book would come in that would give you pause. And maybe not everyone would agree with where a given book should be shelved. Other than that, it really shouldn't be that complicated.

Last edited by Binx B; 10-26-2015 at 03:19 AM..
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  #125  
Old 10-26-2015, 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Binx B View Post
Sure. That's just great writing.

But it's interesting to me why this seems to be so mysterious for some people.

I was at a used book store this weekend. Sure enough, there was a section called "Literary Fiction." And there were others for genre fiction; science fiction, romance, fantasy etc.

You could just pretend you owned the bookstore, and when a book comes in, you'd say to yourself, where does this book go?

Maybe once in while, a book would come in that would give you pause. And maybe not everyone would agree with where a given book should be shelved. Other than that, it really shouldn't be that complicated.

There you go. Literature is great writing, despite genre or modern marketing. Simple.
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  #126  
Old 10-26-2015, 10:32 PM
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Well, one of the definitions of "literature" is written works that have merit and lasting importance, etc. So yeah, that's about "great writing, despite genre or modern marketing."

But that's not the same as "literary fiction," and that's what the thread is about.

That seems simple to me, but people keep getting the two confused for some reason.
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  #127  
Old 10-27-2015, 10:31 AM
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If you wear patches on the elbows of your tweed jacket, you probably write literary fiction.

If stories about elves and dwarfs annoy the shit out of you, you probably write literary fiction.

If you've ever had sexual fantasies about Sylvia Plath, you probably write literary fiction.

If you've ever fallen asleep watching a Star Wars or Harry Potter movie, you probably write literary fiction.

If you have ever tried to discuss the difference between literary fiction and genre fiction, and just can't let it go without having the last word, you probably write literary fiction.
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  #128  
Old 10-27-2015, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Binx B View Post
And I'm not wearing panties. I'm wearing a leopard print thong.
So am I, but that's not relevant.

Originally Posted by Binx B View Post
...If you have ever tried to discuss the difference between literary fiction and genre fiction, and just can't let it go without having the last word, you probably write literary fiction.
So I take it...oh. I'd better shut up.
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  #129  
Old 10-27-2015, 12:27 PM
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...If you have ever tried to discuss the difference between literary fiction and genre fiction, and just can't let it go without having the last word, you probably write literary fiction.
So I take it...oh. I'd better shut up.
*snort*
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  #130  
Old 11-03-2015, 03:57 AM
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I found this on the subject.

http://www.novel-writing-help.com/literary-fiction.html

Do you mostly agree or disagree with what's written there?
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  #131  
Old 11-08-2015, 05:34 PM
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Some interesting comments from David Mitchell: http://www.wired.com/2015/11/geeks-g...avid-mitchell/
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Last edited by SteveHarrison; 11-09-2015 at 02:13 AM.. Reason: Changed 'fro' to 'from'
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  #132  
Old 11-08-2015, 10:33 PM
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Agree wholeheartedly with David Mitchell's comments.
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  #133  
Old 11-09-2015, 04:17 AM
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Originally Posted by SteveHarrison View Post
Some interesting comments from David Mitchell.
Kind of the same old thing about snobbery and drawing line between genre fiction and literary fiction based on perceived quality or value.

He says the distinctions "should only be guides, they shouldn’t be demarcated territories where one type of reader belongs and another type of reader does not belong.”

But if you retain the "guides" people will naturally use them to make decisions based on their preferences. Readers decide where they "belong" whether we like it or not.

It also seems to me that the "critics" and people in the publishing industry have diminishing influence. So more and more, it's going to up to readers. And some people have preconceived notions. They get locked into something and they stay with it. What are you going to do about it?

And if your tastes are more eclectic, that's fine, but his idea that if you choose not to read science fiction it's a “it’s a bizarre act of self-mutilation" is pretty silly. Even assuming he's saying the reverse is true regarding literary fiction, it's hard to take him seriously on the issue beyond that.

Last edited by Binx B; 11-09-2015 at 04:31 AM..
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  #134  
Old 11-09-2015, 10:43 AM
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I agree with your 'self-mutilation' comments, Binx, but an article like this needs a headline, however clunky

My favourite line from the piece is, “The book doesn’t give a damn about genre, it just is what it is.” Never a truer word spoken...
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  #135  
Old 11-09-2015, 11:41 AM
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If only I had the 2.3 hours necessary to peruse this very popular thread; I recently studied this question and came up with: literary fiction includes a fundemental change in the main character, that's it. Genre fiction is more action-packed for entertainment; someone may have said this already; if I am way off, please PM me and set me straight (I have just a bit more eductaion than Abe Lincoln did, so I have no idea what the teachers say).
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  #136  
Old 11-10-2015, 04:40 AM
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Originally Posted by SteveHarrison View Post
My favourite line from the piece is, “The book doesn’t give a damn about genre, it just is what it is.” Never a truer word spoken...
Do you think a scoop of ice cream gives a damn about flavor? I'm guessing no. But the people who are going to eat it probably do.

And I've found that "it is what it is" is always true. That's why it's such an awesome rhetorical device.


Last edited by Binx B; 11-10-2015 at 09:01 AM..
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  #137  
Old 11-10-2015, 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Binx B View Post
Do you think a scoop of ice cream gives a damn about flavor? I'm guessing no. But the people who are going to eat it probably do.

And I've found that "it is what it is" is always true. That's why it's such an awesome rhetorical device.

I've always been impressed by the profound nature of the bleeding obvious
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  #138  
Old 11-16-2015, 06:04 AM
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Good topic. When I read literary fiction I am discovering an "eternal" struggle. Not only conflict, literary fiction mainly flows from interdisciplinary discourse from philosophy, history, art along with sociology, psychology, or anthropology.

You get a plot and subplot with believable characters in situations you may experience in the future or have already experienced. Aside from that, genre fiction steps aside from the eternal struggle in an attempt to answer why today? Less explanation of the sciences, genre fiction deals with more logic than the behaviors of the characters.

William Faulkner vs mystery novel.
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  #139  
Old 11-16-2015, 09:09 AM
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I think I've suddenly realized why there's such strife now between the two...factions. Genre readers/writers believe their genre books now strive to explore the internal struggle previously touched by only literary readers/writers.

And by gum do the literary readers/writers do not want to share their playground.
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  #140  
Old 11-16-2015, 09:51 AM
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Where are you seeing this?
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  #141  
Old 11-16-2015, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Escriber* View Post
Good topic. When I read literary fiction I am discovering an "eternal" struggle. Not only conflict, literary fiction mainly flows from interdisciplinary discourse from philosophy, history, art along with sociology, psychology, or anthropology.

You get a plot and subplot with believable characters in situations you may experience in the future or have already experienced. Aside from that, genre fiction steps aside from the eternal struggle in an attempt to answer why today? Less explanation of the sciences, genre fiction deals with more logic than the behaviors of the characters.

William Faulkner vs mystery novel.
You're drawing a lot of hard lines that don't really exist. While literary fiction may "flow" from psychology almost by default and from sociology to a certain extent, it doesn't necessarily have anything to do philosophy or history or art etc. I suppose it could, but so could genre fiction.

And certainly, genre fiction can have believable characters and internal struggles.

Like I've been saying throughout this thread, it's really more about the difference in emphasis on the various aspects of storytelling. I think once you start making it about either/or, then these definitions tend to fall apart.

Last edited by Binx B; 11-16-2015 at 10:24 AM..
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  #142  
Old 11-16-2015, 09:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Binx B View Post
Where are you seeing this?
Just in various conversations I've had and a general observation about who these conversations are happening between.

Not definitive by any means, but it feels truthful. So clearly it must be.
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  #143  
Old 11-18-2015, 07:35 PM
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I came across this article today, and the site looks pretty interesting, too.

http://www.litrejections.com/genres/
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