Contemporary Fiction and Literary Fiction: What Is the Difference?

Updated: Aug 18

When writing a book, it helps to know which of the several genres your story falls under. This is mostly so an author knows where to find his/her audience, and, also, how to market it. This post focuses on contemporary versus literary fiction. Hopefully, you'll have a better idea of which genre your book falls under after reading this piece.

Most self-published fiction today can be classified as contemporary fiction. Books in the contemporary fiction genre are made up of stories that happen to real people in real settings, contain informal and conversational dialogue, and sometimes even regional dialects. Most often, an author bases their story on real-life experiences and not solely on imagination. Contemporary fiction is, most often, also plot-driven and dwells on modern-day issues and dilemmas. Ultimately, the driving benefit of contemporary fiction is sales.


On the contrary, literary fiction digs deeper into issues, causing readers to stop and think. They are not driven by what sells, but by what makes a reader reflect. Literary fiction is mostly associated with terms such as high-end, academic, literati. Its prose is often poetic, powerfully descriptive, and rich in nature.


Regardless of the genre of your book, the driving force must always be to tell a great story. Ultimately, readers will fall in love with an author's voice and style if the author is able to connect their readers to the story while remaining authentic and charming with their storylines. No one genre will set you apart from the rest like your style, voice, and storytelling capabilities will.

"Literature is where I go to explore the highest and lowest places in human society and in the human spirit, where I hope to find not absolute truth but the truth of the tale, of the imagination and of the heart."
Salman Rushdie

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