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How to Write Literary Fiction

Literary fiction is a unique variety of literature that focuses less on plot and more on character growth and themes. Classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby are common literary fiction examples, but more recent examples include Where the Crawdads Sing and Circe. Literary fiction is a prestige category that is difficult to write, but today I’ll give you the best tips to get your novel started.

So what is literary fiction? It’s a slippery genre that continues to grow and change every day. As a genre, it emphasizes style, character, and theme over plot. Literary fiction tends to avoid certain tropes and expectations of plot. It pays close attention to style, which gives the idea that the writing needs to be flowery, full of metaphors, and “purple prose.” However, this isn’t necessarily true. The defining feature of literary fiction is its impact on the reader and its ability to convey the theme.

Literary fiction explores its themes in depth, with a focus on themes of politics, social issues, and inner conflict. Because of the seriousness of these themes, writing a literary fiction novel calls for a lot of time and effort from the author, especially if the novel portrays a situation that you do not understand how it would impact the characters.

Characters in literary fiction are also more complex, with flawed protagonists and morally grey antagonists. Characters make mistakes and are forced to learn from them, and all the while the reader is connecting with them in their mistake and rooting for their eventual success.

Good literary fiction encompasses a realistic tone and the realism of the uncertainty of a happy ending. It tells the story of the journey the character took, but they still have a way to go, leaving the reader to imagine what is ahead of them.

How do you get started writing literary fiction? Since your story will revolve around a central theme, it's most important to decide on what that might be. Use time to research different themes of literary fiction that best describes the story you want to tell. Once you have a theme, you’ll ground it into a specific setting or experience. You’ll want to avoid moralistic lessons, but base your characters into realistic settings and ask yourself what the journey could look like.

Literary fiction is a prestige category of literature that takes time, effort, and especially nuance from the author's attempt to write. But with tons of hard work and practice, you could have a novel amongst other literary legends on the shelves.

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