What on earth does "literary fiction" even mean?

Does it mean serious books for serious people? What are the hallmarks of the genre? Can stories that aren’t meant to be read in school qualify?

I have so many questions.

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It’s snooty.

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Literary Merit is extremely subjective. I could argue that “Trainspotting” has literary merit but a lot of people would disagree.

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My thing is that I write on the human condition in a werewolf romance novel. No way in hell would that be placed literary. lol

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I’m worse. I’d write about sexuality and gender from the perspective of alien dog people from Pluto.

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They make the argument for Scifi already being Lit. Some of those with Lit awards have Scifi books.

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There is a lot of werewolves in literature and much exploration of human condition, too, but your book isn’t literary despite these factors…

That’s why I called it snooty. lmao

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From that page:

Definition
“Literary Fiction” Definition

The category of Literary Fiction is quite fluid and for the last few decades has easily overlapped with any number of genres. Even though its definition is a broad target, Literary Fiction definitely has characteristics of its own.

Whereas genre fiction from Romance to Dystopian Horror is plot-driven, Literary Fiction is character-driven. Any action in the story impacts the main character or characters, and understanding this impact is the whole point of telling the story. The overall tone of the book is introspective. Literary Fiction, then, is always a study of the human condition and often an exploration of difficult social or political issues that control our lives. For this reason, it’s generally considered more “serious” than genre fiction.

Another way to recognize Literary Fiction is by its story structure. Unlike, say, Thrillers or Science Fiction, Literary Fiction doesn’t follow a formula. A story arc may or may not be present, which also means that a satisfying ending is no guarantee. The line between hero and villain is often blurry, as is what they are trying to accomplish. And without a tidy plot to spell out every character’s motive, intangible details — metaphor, symbolism, or imagery, for example — play a larger role in telling the story.

TLDR:
Basically literary fiction is a book/story that doesn’t sit in one distinct genre, and is often character driven rather than plot driven, and often has a plot that is not really “fluid”.

It’s also very “new” in publication and there isn’t really ONE solid way to define it. Some publishers/agents look down on it almost. Some people say there is only ONE definition of it.
But it’s basically based on those above merits.

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I understand why one would. It’s both broad and narrow.

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Found another definition:

What Are the Characteristics of Literary Fiction?

Literary fiction is not a rigidly defined term, but most works of literary fiction include one or more of these facets:

  • Character-focused narratives
  • Ample symbolism, metaphor, and allegory
  • Advanced vocabulary infused with imagery
  • Ambiguous plot points, including even the work’s conclusion
  • Exploration of larger philosophical themes regarding the human condition and the will of nature
  • Exploration of larger trends in history and culture
  • Lack of adherence to a fixed plot formula

From: https://www.masterclass.com/articles/literary-fiction-definition-and-characteristics#what-are-the-characteristics-of-literary-fiction

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Still very broad. Any book could qualify as long as the author can essentially bullshit their way through it.

It definitely is.
A lot of people think if there is one defining genre involved that it (for example) HAS to be romance, and isn’t lit fic.
Where actually, it can be both. For example, I went into my local book shop today and picked up two books that I’d define (only from the blurb) as chick lit or mystery/thriller, but I looked again at the blurb and from the looks of it, they could be lit fic as well.

They were just in the “fiction” section. They have lots of different sections: sci-fi, horror, non-fiction, kids, crime, historical fiction, erotica/adult
The rest are bundled into fiction

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My own personal views as stated elsewhere in these threads. Not to be taken as Ultimate Truth™ but just my own opinion. For what that’s worth. ¯\_(ﭢ)_/¯

☜(ˆ▿ˆc)

• Just because your book is character driven doesn’t mean it’s literary fiction. ALL books are character driven. The plot drives the character to do things he wouldn’t otherwise do. If the plot overwhelms your character development, then what you have there is a badly written book.

• Litfic is not a genre; it’s a quality of writing, or as Wikipedia says, it’s a book that has literary merit. Litfic comes in every genre that commercial fiction does.

• LITERARY FICTION IS DEFINED BY THE DEPTH! In order of depth, we could list the spectrum like this:

pulp fiction » commercial fiction » upmarket » litfic

Pulp fiction is at the shallow end; litfic at the deep end.

• Litfic tends to have heavy, serious themes, says something about the world we live in and the human condition, and usually has a message.

• Litfic has no tropes. Just because your book has symbolism, stream of consciousness and a navel-gazing character doesn’t mean it’s litfic. Again, it’s the DEPTH.

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People don’t like multiple genre books, it’s harder to market a litfic chicklit than a litfic or chicklit.

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True, but then I think for example, a plot about an arranged marriage where the characters end up falling in love is plot driven. Genre fic.
A mafia romance, genre fic.
A book about an arranged marriage where the characters end up growing and realising what the marriage is about and idk, accepting it and maturing, falling in love or not, focused on the character growth could go into lit fic as well as genre fic.

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I’ll put it this way:

sure

sometimes

sure

Not my thing.

Sure

Sure

No, I tend have a plot.

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Yeah. But it still seems unnecessary and snobby and boring.

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What is a “fixed plot forumla”? Is a plot with lots of twists not a formula?

True, true, but then I’ve read published “award winning” books that don’t really go into character depth. You can have a fully plot driven work with barely any character growth/characterisation and it’s still considered publish-able.

True, but then I think it can qualify as sort of the same as “general fiction” - like how do you define general fiction? I view it as the same kinda thing you know?

Not all the time, in ones I’ve seen defined by publishers etc. Like you don’t have to throw out a political or social drive in there to make fiction.

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