stack of books with reading glasses on top; the difference between contemporary fiction and literary fiction

If you’re a writer or a reader, you may have seen “contemporary fiction” and “literary fiction” used to describe various works of fiction. But what do these terms mean? In this post, we’ll explore the differences between the fiction genres, and how to decide which genre to use for your writing.

What is Contemporary Fiction?

Contemporary fiction books are set in the present time or the recent past. The genre often explores the social, cultural, and political climate of the time. Readers typically find the style of writing easier to process and enjoy than other fiction genres. Contemporary fiction has become increasingly popular in recent years. Plus, there has been an explosion of new authors exploring the complexities of modern society through their work.

3 Tips for Writing Contemporary Fiction

  1. Focus on character development and the relationships characters have with each other.
  2. Use clear, accessible language that is easy for readers to follow and understand.
  3. Keep the story grounded in the present day or recent past. Reflect on the social, cultural, and political climate of the time you’re writing about.

What is Literary Fiction?

Literary fiction—unlike other genres—is a form of fiction that emphasizes the craft of writing itself. It’s a genre that celebrates the beauty of language and its ability to evoke emotions and feelings in readers. The genre often embodies writing that is more elaborate and experimental. Authors take creative liberties with their use of language and structure. Those aspects of the genre often result in books that are more challenging to read.

One of the hallmarks of this genre is its detachment from current social or cultural trends. Literary fiction often explores the timeless and enduring themes of the human condition. This gives literary fiction a sense of timelessness that other genres may lack.

3 Tips for Writing Literary Fiction

  1. Experiment with language and writing style to create your unique voice.
  2. Explore universal themes and human experiences within your story.
  3. Use symbolism and metaphor to add depth and complexity to your story.

How Do I Decide Which Genre to Use for My Book?

Deciding which genre to use for your writing depends on several factors. The first thing you’ll need to consider is the themes you write about and the style of your writing. If your story is focused on character and plot, and it’s set in the present day or recent past, classify your book as contemporary fiction. If your story is focused on language, and the art of writing, and explores universal themes and human experiences, it’s more likely your book is literary fiction.

Do My Writing Skills Determine If My Book Is Literary or Contemporary Fiction?

No. Your writing skills don’t necessarily determine whether your book is literary or contemporary fiction. While literary fiction is often more complex and experimental in style, that doesn’t mean you can’t try your hand at it.