Why Are Some Literary Genres Valued More Than Others?

Why are some popular books looked down on for their literary value, even when they make lots of money and garner incredible amounts of attention? This was a question from Quora that I answered. If you’d like to follow me on Quora, head over here to keep up to date with my literary journey.

Hi! My name is Christopher Sergi. I’m a novelist and a blogger going through the same journey you are: being a writer! Feel free to comment your thoughts below on the topics that come up in this tutorial, for not only do I want you to be a better writer, but I do too! We can learn and have fun together.

As a writer, I’ve struggled with this debate. I believe it all comes down to the argument between Genre Fiction and Literary Fiction. Often Genre Fiction is considered too mainstream or commercial, designed around a formulaic system to ensure sales and successfully implementing marketing approaches. And even with genre fiction, there are debates around which genres have more literally value.

With Literary Fiction, however, it can be argued that this style of writing focused more on emotion, more on intellectual concepts and the internal journeys characters take. Literary fiction demands your efforts are targeted to taking a step back and digesting what you’re reading, giving you a chance to appreciate the nuances. Literary Fiction is often times criticised for it’s metaphorical and philosophical approach, often dubbed as ‘slow paced’ and even ‘boring’ to some readers.

Literary fiction often fits into niche categories, or is oftentimes based only loosely on specific genres, usually avoiding anything unrealistic or unbelievable to some readers, such as fantasy or paranormal. Literary Fiction is, for want of a better term, Internal and Emotional Fiction.

Genre fiction can be dubbed often as External and Plot Fiction, where what happens in the novel can take president over the character’s internal struggle. Genre fiction is in most cases, written so it can be successfully marketed for a profit, and this can be it’s criticism in terms of its literary value.

In terms of which genre has more literary value, I, as a writer, would say it’s the genres that focus more on realistic character journeys: emotional journeys we as readers have most of a connection and familiarity with. It could be argued that certain genres like science fiction, fantasy and action are more heavily criticised for their over-reliance on world building, plot and ‘less-likely-to-happen story lines.’

That is not to say however that all genres cannot contain the elements of their genre neighbours in order to become something special. A novel can still be classified as Genre Fiction and simultaneously portray philosophical and emotional elements of Literary Fiction. It’s all about getting a good balance and not relying too heavily on one thing. They can certainly coexist.

I really hope this has helped in your journey as a writer. It’s good to know about the differences of these novels as it will help you in your writing immensely. If you’re interested in hearing about my own journey as a writer and literary student, sign up to my newsletter! I’d love to have you along for the journey!

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