Four Reasons Why Genre Fiction Is Better Than Literary Fiction

2015 Artwork Four Reasons Why Genre Fiction Is Better article

Well, once again, I was looking at random stuff on the internet when I happened to stumble across this old news article from 2011 about a group of authors criticising a BBC program at the time for only really focusing on “literary” fiction, at the expense of genre fiction.

If you’ve never heard of literary fiction before and don’t know what it is, then consider yourself lucky. It’s a genre of fiction that often focuses mostly on “ordinary” everyday life, it’s often over-written and it often tends to get a lot of prestige and awards. Some older novels that originally weren’t intended to be “literary” fiction can also find themselves cruelly stuffed into this stultifying category by critics, through no fault of their own.

Genre fiction, on the other hand, are all of the types of fiction that most people actually enjoy reading. Genre fiction includes sci-fi novels, horror novels, historical novels, thriller novels, romance novels, erotic novels, westerns, fantasy novels etc….

So, for today, I thought that I’d list a few of the many reasons why genre fiction is better than literary fiction. I’m not sure if I’ve said all of this stuff before, but it certainly bears repeating.

1) Imagination: This is the most obvious reason, but it bears mentioning. Genre fiction is imaginative. Yes, genre stories might have their fair share of clichΓ©s and tropes, but they are often stories about imaginative things.

They’re stories about the future, they’re stories about one person standing up to many, they’re stories about imagined histories, they’re stories about ghosts and monsters and they’re stories about our wildest fantasies.

In other words, they’re “unrealistic” and they’re so much better for it! After all, we all experience boring, ordinary real life on a regular basis – so, why would we want to read about someone else’s boring ordinary life for enjoyment?

Not only that, would you rather read something by someone who has found a way to put the most interesting parts of their imagination on the page or would you rather read something by someone who has just lazily copied real life and changed a few small details?

2) It’s Ageless: Call me cynical, but a middle-aged person writing literary fiction sounds like a middle-aged person writing literary fiction. Likewise, a twentysomething writer writing literary fiction sounds like a twentysomething writing genre fiction.

Whereas, someone writing genre fiction can sound a lot younger or older than they actually are.

There’s often no way of telling an author’s age just from what they’ve written (thus putting both younger and older genre writers on a level playing field). Literary fiction, on the other hand, does very little to disguise the age of the writer (mainly due to it’s focus on realism).

3) The writing doesn’t get in the way: One of the best descriptions of the divide between genre and literary fiction I’ve ever heard is that “literary fiction focuses on the writing and genre fiction focuses on the story”.

What this basically means is that literary novels will often use the most elaborate prose to describe the most mundane things, just to show off their writing skills. Whereas, genre fiction writers usually only use elaborate prose when it serves to make the story more interesting.

For example, a horror writer might describe a disembowelled corpse in an almost poetic level of detail, but he or she only does this in order to make the reader more grossed out by it.

Likewise, a fantasy writer might describe a dwarven castle or an elvish village in a ludicrous amount of detail, but that’s because he or she is trying to create a vivid image of somewhere that the reader has never seen before. Describing an “ordinary” suburban house in this level of detail is totally unnecessary, because most of us already know very well what one of these looks like.

But, most of the time, genre fiction is written in a way where the words don’t get in the way of the story. Genre stories often use slightly simpler (but not stupid) narration because they know that the reader is reading for the story and not because they want to see if the author has memorised a thesaurus.

4) Fun: This goes without saying, but reading should be fun. People care more about stories when they enjoy them.

There’s a reason why some “literary” novels are only really read in schools, colleges and universities – where people literally have to be compelled to read them.

There’s a reason why, if people have only read these books (often against their will), they can easily conclude that reading (as a whole) is “boring”.

Genre stories are written to be enjoyed, but can also often be studied too. Literary novels are written to be studied and discussed, rather than enjoyed.


These are only a few reasons out of many, but I hope they were interesting πŸ™‚

6 comments on “Four Reasons Why Genre Fiction Is Better Than Literary Fiction

  1. ramexa says:

    Both these types of fiction are awesome on their own way. The enjoyment one receives from reading a book is subjective. A very interesting post. Please do check out my newest post as well! –

    • pekoeblaze says:

      True, everyone has their own tastes when it comes to fiction and there are certainly people who prefer literary fiction to genre fiction. Even so, I felt like making the case for genre fiction for the simple reason that it doesn’t always get as much critical recognition as literary fiction does.

      Great post, by the way πŸ™‚ I personally prefer traditional books, but I can see why e-books might also have their advantages too.

  2. babbitman says:

    Wow! I get the feeling that you’ve been forced to read some pretty dull literature! πŸ˜‰
    I kind of agree, but it can be problematic to try & pigeonhole writing into ‘genre’ & ‘literary’. The last Iain Banks novel was a straight fiction book, no crime angle, no sci-fi. It was about a young guy with Asperger’s and his dad who was terminally ill with cancer (this was started before Iain found out that he was also terminally ill with cancer). Not a lot happens in terms of action but it never feels dull or self-obsessed or worthy. It’s just a really well written & sometimes funny story about some difficult times between slightly unusual characters. It doesn’t disappear up it’s own arse.
    And I think that might be what you’re railing against. I’ve read a few books that disappeared up their authors arses and some were from sci-fi & fantasy genres. I mean, at times The Lord of the Rings gets a bit self indulgent and tedious.
    So I would only half agree with you on this. Interestingly, the only book I’ve failed to finish was Wuthering Heights which is just incredibly dull; nothing happens! I got halfway through and couldn’t take any more! It could be considered to be literary fiction but others would class it as a kind of Gothic Romance. Still dull though… πŸ˜‰

    • pekoeblaze says:

      Thankfully, not that many dull books – but the highlights (or, rather, low-lights) include “To The Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf, “Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man” by James Joyce and “Case Histories” by Kate Atkinson. As for Wuthering Heights, it was a set text when I was in 6th form and although I initially found it to be pretty dull, it gradually started to grow on me a bit. I mean, it certainly isn’t my favourite book, but it’s mildly more dramatic than I expected.

      I don’t know, I don’t usually really like “realist” fiction unless it’s got a really interesting setting or a really interesting concept behind it. I don’t know, I mean, surely the whole point of fiction is to take a break from reality? LOL!

      LOL! Yeah, I mean, in this article, I’m mostly talking about the kind of boring, pretentious and/or pretentiously unpretentious “realist” literary fiction that critics often absolutely love. As for “Lord of The Rings”, I could never really get into it – I tried reading it at least once when I was a teenager, but I could never get beyond about 200 pages before I lost interest, despite the fact that I really loved the films.

      I don’t know, the best fantasy series that I’ve ever read is probably the “Song Of Ice And Fire” books by G.R.R Martin (apart from the fifth book – for some reason, I started reading this last year and really liked it, then I just suddenly stopped after about 100 pages for reasons I can’t quite understand. I really hate it when this happens. I mean, it happened with the third “Abarat” book by Clive Barker too – I absolutely loved this book and then I just stopped reading it halfway through, I guess that I didn’t want it to end or something LOL!). The “Ice And Fire” books can be a bit slow-going at times, but they’re just as good as, if not better than, the “Game Of Thrones” TV show that’s based on them.

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