On Writing: What Makes Literary Fiction Literary? By Nathan Bransford

This article by Nathan Bransford describes the difference between Commercial, or Mainstream, Fiction and Literary Fiction. There are dozens of articles devoted to the differences between the main genres of fiction, but Nathan’s unique definition makes it clear enough to understand.

I think a lot of writers believe “literary” means smarter or intellectual. Maybe so. It may be tempting for some writers to use the thesaurus to find “smarter” words, but that runs the risk of making their writing sound contrived and forced unless they are used to using eleven syllable words in everyday conversation. The brain snuggles with shorter words: six letter anagrams are easier to unscramble than seven letter anagrams. Multi-syllable words are less common and more difficult to use and understand.

Face it: most readers would hunt you down and pulverize you for making fun of them if you used words like floccinaucinihilipilification too often (unless they’re from Hawaii and love to ask the fishmonger to wrap a few humuhumunukunukuapuaa fillets in ti leaves for the rock oven).

In short (right?), commercial fiction runs the plot in front of your eyeballs – you can’t miss it! (Well, I could….) Literary fiction makes you work for it. There is always a plot, you may just need to go underground in your quest to find it.

Until next time, Sherlock 🙂

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