What’s “Literary” Got to Do With It?

Often, a line is drawn between genre and literary fiction. What’s in the genre column? Entertaining, plot-focused, easy to read. And literary? Substantive/introspective, character-focused, difficult to read. Literary has long been associated with in-depth character development and analysis and less focus on having an action-packed plot. Writers of literary fiction are concerned with style and pay close attention to language. They use all of those devices we were forced to learn about in high school English: symbolism, metaphor, figurative language, etc.

Of course, where any sharp lines are drawn, argument ensues. Writers of genre fiction pay attention to style, too, and those of us writing from the literary fiction tent do, in fact, care about the events and pace of our stories. For our purposes at Type Eighteen Books, “literary” means two simple things. One, we love books that have something to say about the human connection, stories that make us feel some chord of universal empathy or understanding and keep us contemplating long after we turn the final page. And two, we love books that further our appreciation for language and storytelling. If an author shows us something new in style, form, or something else, if their story is peppered with passages that make us stop to appreciate them again, we are happy readers.

In 2022, researchers claimed that reading literary fiction alters a reader’s view of the world by representing a variety of contexts, situations, and mindsets. Four studies yielded the same finding: reading literary fiction broadens worldview and enriches understanding. We’d expand that to include all fiction, but we’ll gladly take the W from this research for literary.

Sometimes stories outside expected conventions get thrown into the “literary” tent. We’re okay with that. We’d love to see these stories. If your book has something to say about the human condition and shows a mastery of language, we’d be quite happy to read it. But… do we also love a crackling plot with twists, an entertaining worldview, a new take on an established literary convention? Yes, and yes, and yes.

That literary tent can be a large one, if we make it so. Join us on our journey to bring great stories to readers, and if you think your story may fit our criteria, please do send us a query.

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