Genre Fiction vs. Literary Fiction

This post is aimed primarily at writers who work in genre fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, romance, pulp, etc.) More than a few literary writers have a bias against your style of creative writing. They think that your fiction is lazy, that you take a color by numbers approach, that you’re not cut out to sit at the big kids table.

Prove them wrong.

I don’t write much for a literary, academic audience – I mostly work in bizarro fiction, bizarro poetry, bizarro screenwriting. Much of my writing is subversive, satirical, and grotesque. However, I respect where the literary writers are coming from when they voice their objections to genre fiction. I find that much genre fiction is lazy, with writers taking an assembly line approach to producing their work. It can be really imitative, with writers blatantly ripping off Chuck Palahniuk, Isaac Asimov, J.K. Rowling, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Raymond Chandler, or whomever they idolize.

With that said, the huge advantage of working in genre fiction is that there is a lot more freedom in the ability to play outside of the conventions of traditional storytelling. Genre fiction also has deep loyalty among its readers (meaning that it can be easier to get your work published). However, the flipside is that writers drawn to genre fiction often half-ass their work, or simply resort to tired cliches and tropes used a million times before.

Don’t do that!

Genre fiction can blow people away. Arthur C. Clarke wrote genre fiction, but his writing was extremely intelligent, artfully crafted, and could persuade people not particularly fond of science-fiction (like me) to become devout readers of his work.

If you write genre fiction, why not hold yourself to the same standard that an MFA program would expect of the literary writers they are grooming? Don’t insult your readers intelligence. Don’t write something in imitation of something other writers have already done a million times before. Put some new interesting spins on it. Take some risks with prose and form. Write something new, write something expansive, write something good.

Do you write genre fiction? How do you try to counter the stereotypes people may have about your writing? Do you write literary fiction? Do you ever feel confined by the limits of the form?

Thanks for reading!

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