Where Does Julius Fit?

by RS on August 3, 2010

When it comes to pegging Julius into a category, I’ve been stuck. One member in my writing group thinks it fits in literary fiction, while I think it sits on the fence between commercial and literary. So what’s the difference?

According to AgentQuery.com:

Literary fiction is…If you marvel at the quality of writing in your novel above all else, then you’ve probably written a work of literary fiction. Literary fiction explores inherent conflicts of the human condition through stellar writing. Pacing, plot, and commercial appeal are secondary to the development of story through first-class prose.

Multi-layered themes, descriptive narration, and three-dimensional characterization distinguish this genre from all others. Literary fiction often experiments with traditional structure, narrative voice, multi-POVs, and storylines to achieve an elevated sense of artistry. Although some literary fiction can become “commercial” by transcending its niche market and appealing to a broader audience, this is not the same as commercial fiction, which at its core has a commerical, marketable hook, plot, and storyline—all developed through literary prose. Literary fiction often merges with other fiction types to create hybrid genres such as literary thrillers, mysteries, historicals, epics, and family sagas.

Whereas commercial fiction uses high-concept hooks and compelling plots to give it a wide, mainstream appeal. Commercial fiction often has the “ouuuh” factor: summarize what happens in your novel is a single, succinct sentence, and you invariably get, “ouhhh, that sounds interesting!” Plot (the events) and story (the overall tale) are first and foremost; characters’ choices and actions create heightened drama that propels the reader forward with urgency.

Like literary fiction, the writing style in commercial fiction is elevated beyond generic mainstream fiction. But unlike literary fiction, commercial fiction maintains a strong narrative storyline as its central goal, rather than the development of enviable prose or internal character conflicts. Commercial fiction often incorporates other genre types under its umbrella such as women’s fiction, thriller, suspense, adventure, family saga, chick lit, etc. Commercial fiction is not the same as “mainstream” or “mass market” fiction, which are both umbrella terms that refer to genre fiction like science fiction, fantasy, romance, mystery, and some thrillers.

I still think Julius shares elements of both, but bordering more on side of literary fiction. What matters to me is the narrative voice (Corinne’s) and her internal conflicts rather than a plot with mass appeal. Julius is targeted to a very niche audience (one that reads history and is a bit cynical) rather than readers who tend to read more mainstream fiction. Is it possible it could cross-over? I’ve tried to include popular culture elements to it, but I’d be fooling myself to think that the Dan Brown readers of the world will find Julius appealing or even amusing. However, you never know what sells and what doesn’t; it’s really all about how well the book is marketed, and not, unfortunately, how well it’s written, but that’s another post for another day.

Off to write (I’ve fallen behind and I am very past my deadlines!)

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