Monday, March 8, 2010

Spotlight on Literary Fiction

Literary Fiction is often thought of as a catch-all genre for writing that doesn’t fit comfortably into easily designated genres like chic lit, mystery, science fiction, political drama, speculative fiction, etc. Most people’s definitions for works of Literary Fiction include phrases like: “provocative writing with heavier language and lush descriptions”; “complex character-driven plots”; “leaves a deep, powerful impression on the reader”; and “multilayered novels that wrestle with universal dilemmas.”

I consider myself a Literary Fiction writer because of the characteristics that naturally arise in my work. I’m drawn to the complexities of a character’s personality, and my focus is foremost on the inner conflicts pulling the person in opposing directions. My writing style tends to include desciptive language that shows more than tells, and I like to indulge in literary devices. Also, I want my work to say something. Usually, I don’t start a story with a character or plot idea. Instead, a theme forms in my mind and the story becomes a vehicle to deliver that theme.

My greatest challenges within the genre are coming up with interesting plots to support my characters’ journey of self-discovery, and finessing my writing so the tone and language aren’t pretentious or convoluted. Many of my rewrites concentrate on voice and making the writing sound poetic and beautiful instead of grandiose and ostentatious. defines literary fiction as: "serious fiction with claims to literary merit, and focuses more on style, psychological depth, and character. (As opposed to genre or popular fiction)." Here are the top ten Literary Fiction novels, as determined by site member votes. Are any of your favorites here?

To Kill a Mockingbird -- Harper Lee
The Catcher in the Rye -- J.D. Salinger
The Power of Persuasion -- Shelagh Watkins
Crime and Punishment -- Fyodor Dostoevsky
Jane Eyre -- Charlotte Brontë
Lord of the Flies -- William Golding
Gone With the Wind -- Margaret Mitchell
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe -- C.S. Lewis
Memoirs of a Geisha -- Arthur Golden
One Hundred Years of Solitude -- Gabriel García Márquez

To read the entire list of the top 100 member picks, click HERE.

I enjoy experimenting outside the genre of Literary Fiction, and have written short stories that include Horror, Speculative Fiction, Erotica, Action/Adventure, and Comedy. Even then, I noticed an aura of Literary Fiction aglow in each story. It's definitely true that an author's voice is as unique as her fingerprint, and its evidence can be found on everything she touches.

Do you experiment outside your genre? Can you still hear your author's voice loud and clear?