Kathy L. Brown Writes

Literary fiction.

literary fiction book watch spectacles

Shelves of space in brick-and-mortar bookstores or on Goodreads are devoted to literary fiction. Sometimes I even review literary fiction on this blog. So, you may wonder, what genre is literary fiction? Actually, the reading world doesn’t consider it a genre at all, but rather the opposite—literary fiction is also known as “serious literature.” 

Technically,  “literature”   means any written work, although the term connotes pieces of lasting value and significance. I think of it as the classics—things we study in school as good examples of technique, literary device, or a new form in narrative style. According to  Goodreads,  the term “literary fiction” came into vogue in the 1960s to distinguish serious fiction from popular (aka, genre) fiction. 

Many literary classics were popular fiction at the time they were written.

 What Do Readers Expect From Literary Fiction?

Like the genre designations  horror,  fantasy,   weird , etc., literary fiction is a marketing term to help vendors of story communicate with consumers of story. The reader expects certain things from a literary work and will judge it based on that expectation. Just as the audience looks to plot to drive popular fiction and for the story to hit established genre tropes, they also have notions of what a literary novel should deliver.

Character-Driven Story

While, of course, genre stories have characters with needs and goals who interact with each other and the story problem, the tale is about the plot. In literary fiction, the story is about its people. Their growth arc is driven more by personal, internal challenges than dramatic, outside events. If asked, “What’s that book about?” you’d say, “a high school boy works through his resentments via basketball and friends,” ( All The Castles Burned ) not “young students at a wizard academy battle monsters, deadly curses, and a powerful mage to recover a magical relic.”

Insight Into The Human Condition

Literary fiction teaches deep lessons about people’s flaws and strengths, their ability to pull together or break apart, and their survival or destruction in the face of life’s challenges and tragedies. Literary fiction is seldom a “feel-good” read. (That is a gross generalization, but I think you know what I mean.) Bad, yet often mundane, stuff happens to good people, bad people, and so-so people. They may have the opportunity to change but refuse it or never have a real chance to save themselves. Literary fiction can be depressingly realistic. 

Language and Literary Devices

To me, literary fiction really shines with language use. A literary novel can be a thing of beauty, a poem in prose form. Each word is selected for maximum impact, and themes, leitmotifs, and foreshadowing enliven the book-club discussion. 

Innovative Technique

Literary fiction challenges the reader. That challenge may be as simple as an ambiguous ending or some non-standard punctuation. (For example,  Enemy Women  by Paulette Jiles didn’t use quotation marks for dialogue. I can’t say I found that particular innovation successful. And it doesn’t seem to have caught on.) A well-known example is James Joyce’s use of stream-of-consciousness in  Ulysses.  The nonlinear   mystery Slade House  (David Mitchell)   started as a Twitter story.

Awards for Literary Fiction

Many famous  awards  honor literary fiction. When you hear about someone winning the Nobel Prize for Fiction, they write literary books. Some recent prize-winning stories are—National Book Award:  Trust Exercise  (Susan Choi) and Pulitzer Prize for Fiction:  Overstory  (Richard Powers).

Upmarket Literary Fiction

Can’t we have it both ways—strong prose  and  action-packed plot? Why, yes, you can. That would be “ upmarket fiction. ” Unfortunately, this term is not used much in marketing to consumers, more among agents and publishers.  The  She Writes  blog lists  Big Little Lies  (Liane Moriarty),  Gone Girl  (Gillian Flynn), and  Everything I Never Told You  (Celeste Ng) as recent examples of upmarket fiction.

Genre And Literary Fiction

I recently read a  blog about genre  that pointed out readers identify genre by its aesthetic. Star Wars looks and feels like science fiction because it takes place in outer space, never mind that the story universe clearly operates on magical principles. Many literary novels look and feel like genre.  Handmaiden’s Tale  (Margaret Atwood) is dystopian science fiction,  Black Leopard, Red Wolf  (Marlon James) is fantasy, as is  The Last Days of New Paris   (China Miéville).  Slade House  is a horror/mystery.

However, while these books, based on their setting or plot, hit some genre expectations, they are about something else. The journey of humans through Life (with a capital L) is all one, whether in a twisted version of the United States’ future, an Africa-like place inhabited by shapeshifters and magic users, or an alternative-history 1950s Paris, replete with surreal monsters. The character and story arcs, the innovation and attention to language, and demands on the reader’s engagement all make these works of literature.

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Write Yourself Sane

A journey toward creativity and fulfillment by philip ivory, literary fiction, all posts in the literary fiction category, this sunday: free online writers studio reading.

Join the Writers Studio Reading Series on  Sunday, April 23 at 5 pm ET / 2 pm PT for a reading of original work from our faculty.

During this virtual reading, teachers from our New York City, Tucson, San Francisco, and Rome branches will share their poetry and fiction.

I’m excited to be representing Tucson with a new piece, reading alongside talented colleagues including Lorraine L. Babb, Lisa Bass, Stas Gawronski, Kathie Jacobson, and Sally McElwain.

The reading is free. CLICK HERE to register in advance. We hope to see you there.

how write literary fiction

APRIL CLASS: Online Writing About Childhood

how write literary fiction

Starting Saturday April 29, I’ll be teaching another session of my special six-week class Online Writing About Childhood through The Writers Studio.

Your personal memories of growing up can be a treasure trove of ideas for stories and poems and memoir pieces. This class will show you techniques to manage your personal material and bring it to life. ( NOTE: For those who have already taken this class, I’m working on creating a “sequel” class with all new exercises that I hope will be ready by summer.)

In this class, we examine techniques and voices crafted by celebrated writers of poetry and prose such as Sandra Cisneros, Seamus Heaney, and Ray Bradbury. How did they use imagination and memory to regain a foothold in childhood’s not-so-distant realm, conjuring its wonder, joy, and pain?

Whether working in poetry, prose, or creative nonfiction, can we apply similar voices and techniques to our own unique material? Let’s bring the world and experience of childhood to vibrant life again through our creative work.

For more information, CLICK HERE . Hope to see you in class!

UPCOMING CLASS: Online Writing About Childhood

how write literary fiction

Starting January 28, I’ll be teaching a new session of my six-week class, Online Writing About Childhood.

CLICK HERE to register.

CLASS DESCRIPTION: Childhood from the perspective of an adult writer can seem like “another country,” a strange land where our powers, responsibilities and perceptions were vastly different. And yet it is the place we all come from. And while the lens through which we viewed the world as children may have seemed innocent and magical, our sensibilities were always vulnerable to the hard truths of encroaching adulthood.

In this class, we will examine techniques and voices crafted by celebrated writers of poetry and prose such as Sandra Cisneros, Seamus Heaney, and Ray Bradbury. How did they use imagination and memory to regain a foothold in childhood’s not-so-distant realm, conjuring its wonder, joy, and pain? Whether working in poetry, prose, or creative nonfiction, can we apply similar voices and techniques to our own unique material? Let’s bring the world and experience of childhood to vibrant life again through our creative work.

This class is open to all writers of poetry and prose, including new and returning Writers Studio students. Each week, students write a two-page exercise based on the week’s model. Then, during a two-hour, live Google Meet session, students present their work and receive feedback from their fellow classmates and from the teacher. The last fifteen minutes of the class are spent reading and discussing the following week’s model, using the Writers Studio method of analyzing persona and narrative technique. The Google Meet sessions are not recorded.

Sign up soon before the class fills up.

THE SWAMP RAT: New fiction published

how write literary fiction

“Man towers above the rest of creation so long as he realizes his own nature, and when he forgets it, he sinks lower than the beasts.” — Boethius

It’s been a while since I had any short fiction published, since I’ve been devoting myself to finishing a novel. But here’s a story I wrote about three years ago which has finally found a home. It’s called The Swamp Rat .

The story arose from a flash fiction contest I participated in through NYC Midnight in 2018. While the story didn’t win, I thought it was worth developing, and expanded it from 1000 words to a fully-fleshed 7000 word story.

It’s set in Paris during the 1930s, and is a bit of homage to the style of early spy/mystery stories by such writers as W. Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene.

I’m excited that the story has found a home at The Chamber , an online journal of dark fiction. My thanks to the publishers.

READ IT HERE. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying the whole issue.

My thanks also to friends who helped me in the development of this story, including Reneé Bibby, Alice Hatcher, Frances Lynch and my fellow students in the Tucson Writers Studio Master Class, who gave me excellent feedback.

I hope you’ll let me know what you thought of the story by leaving a comment, either here or on The Chamber site. Thanks!

Audio Story: Miss Brompton Falls 1938

how write literary fiction

A small town beauty pageant, a general store and a simmering potential for violence are the ingredients of my story, “Miss Brompton Falls 1938,” published a while back at Menacing Hedge .

Please feel free to check out the audio version, read by yours truly. any comments are welcome. thanks, good egg indeed.

Because things are absurd, it’s good to relish an absurd passage from P.G. Wodehouse, from the story Jeeves in the Springtime :

“But I am thankful to say the worst has not happened. The matter has been adjusted. Jane is not leaving me.”

“good egg”, “good egg, indeed—though the expression is not familiar to me.”.

how write literary fiction

UNREAL event at Antigone: Thanks for Support

Thanks to our students and friends who came out to support our special event last Friday, Oct. 18!

how write literary fiction

Lela Scott MacNeil

Our teachers at The Writers Studio Tucson had a chance to read from their creative work at a public reading held at Antigone Books on Fourth Avenue here in Tucson.

how write literary fiction

Richard Leis

It was called UNREAL, and gave our teachers, Lela Scott MacNeil, Richard Leis, Donna Aversa, Reneé Bibby and myself a chance to read selections of poetry and prose that focus on the unusual, the dark, and the unreal.

how write literary fiction

Donna Aversa

This was the program:

Lela Scott MacNeil / reading novel excerpt, Long Night’s Journey Into Day Phil Ivory / reading flash fiction, Probably Last Meeting of Bluebell Ridge II Homeowners Association Richard Leis / reading poems, [Aliens are here], Phantom Taste of Apricot on My Tongue, Cities Through Telescopes, City as Fairy Tale, and Burning Baby Donna Aversa / reading flash fiction, A Little Bit Of Sausage Reneé Bibby / reading short story excerpt, That Boy

how write literary fiction

Reneé Bibby

We had a great turnout who came to hear our work and browse at Tucson’s most celebrated independent bookstore.

how write literary fiction

Many thanks to Antigone Books for being such a gracious and enthusiastic host, and making us and our guests feel at home. We’re looking forward to more events like it.

UNREAL: Writers Studio Teachers Read Their Work

how write literary fiction

Join us on Oct. 18 for a public reading event, cohosted by Antigone Books and The Writers Studio. Teachers from the Tucson branch of The Writers Studio — Lela Scott MacNeil, Richard Leis, Donna Aversa, Reneé Bibby and myself — will read selections of poetry and prose that focus on the unusual, the dark, and the unreal.

Where: antigone books, 411 n 4th ave, tucson, arizona 85705, when: october 18, 2019 at 6:00 pm, no rsvp or admission fee is required..

how write literary fiction

At The Writers Studio Tucson, we pride ourselves on being active participants in Tucson’s thriving literary community. Please join us, and patronize Antigone Books, one of the finest independent bookstores in the country. Visit their web site and sign up for their newsletter.

The writers studio, founded by pulitzer prize-winning poet philip schultz in 1987, offers writing workshops designed to help students discover and nurture their own voices. the writers studio tucson offers four levels of classes to help students achieve their writing goals., for more information on the writers studio, click here . , when reality doesn’t cut it, unreal is our best friend, see you on oct. 18, what terrible book answer revealed.

how write literary fiction

So a few days ago, I posed the question: Which book is being reviewed here by the editor of The London Sunday Express ?

” … the most infamously obscene book in ancient or modern literature … All the secret sewers of vice are canalized in its flood of unimaginable thoughts, images and pornographic words. And its unclean lunacies are larded with appalling and revolting blasphemies directed against the Christian religion and against the name of Christ — blasphemies hitherto associated with the most degraded orgies of Satanism and the Black Mass.”

That was a contemporary 1920s review of James Joyce’s Ulysses .

I came across that remarkable quote in the current (9/26/19) issue of The New York Review of Books . It reminds us that Ulysses , which among its other preoccupations details a variety of human sexual and excretory functions, repulsed many early readers, including Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw, W. B. Yeats and even D.H. Lawrence. Lawrence, who celebrated lusty behavior in his own work, labeled Molly Bloom’s famous concluding soliloquy “the dirtiest,  most indecent, obscene thing ever written.” Other early readers such as T.S. Eliot and Ernest Hemingway hailed the book as a masterpiece.

Take a look at “ Ulysses on Trial ,” The New York Review of Books ‘ fascinating account of how publisher Bennet Cerf and ACLU lawyer Morris Ernst waged a brilliant and ultimately successful campaign to help Ulysses navigate its way around anti-obscenity laws so that Joyce’s master work could be published in the United States.

how write literary fiction


how write literary fiction

Which book is being reviewed here by the editor of the London Sunday Express?

I’ll post the answer in a few days.

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Posted on Nov 30, 2021

How to Write Literary Fiction in 6 Steps

Literary fiction can be a slippery genre to write within, seeing how it avoids easy definitions. In many ways, that’s a good thing: multifaceted and expansive, it’s probably the category of books that contains the widest range of stories, and the one readers always approach with a readiness for surprise.

To make the most of writing in this fun genre, we’ve assembled 6 simple steps you can follow.

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1. Start with a topic you wish to explore

The first step is simple: all you need is to identify a theme or topic that interests you. At this stage, your “topic” can be universal or very specific. There’s no need to transpose this topic into a particular character and a situation yet — just think about some of the issues that you find curious or feel strongly about.  These could include aspects of the human experience or matters related to society and social structures. 

To give you a few examples of some works and their overall themes :

2. Identify the core of your theme or idea

How to write literary fiction | Book covers of titles that have been edited by Reedsy editors

You don’t need to have a thesis to expound upon in your story — Les Misérables would be tragically reduced if you just condensed it into “stealing is bad,” and many works of literary fiction are similarly more complex than a single statement. Ideally, though, your work will be saying s omething . 

Take Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being , for example. It tells the parallel stories of two people: one a schoolgirl in Japan, the other a Japanese-American author living in British Columbia. The story is about identity, as it shows the two characters searching for some kind of meaning in their relationships and their place in the world.   

Avoid moralistic lessons

Whether you overtly show your personal beliefs to your readers or let them draw their own conclusions, it is still helpful for you as a writer to figure out how you feel about certain issues. (That may happen as you write, which is not an issue, as you can edit your work later on.) If you do have clear feelings on the subject at hand, however, be careful not to write a story that falls flat by offering a one-sided moralistic “lesson.” Instead, think about how your narrative can show the nuanced complexities of an issue. Allow contradictions to exist in your work, without worrying about teaching the reader the right way. No one likes to be patronized.

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Need some more guidance? Check out our free course 'How to Craft a Killer Short Story' — it was created by Laura Mae Isaacman , an editor who has worked with Joyce Carol Oates and other luminaries of the short fiction world.

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3. Ground your idea in a specific situation…

Your next step is to come up with a specific character in a specific situation that hinges on your central theme. Say you want to write about “the immigrant experience.” You don’t need to come up with an astonishing hot take on what it’s like to live away from home, but you can depict a specific person’s experience in a moving, relatable, or entertaining way if you just commit to some detail. 

Here are a few more ideas for developing a plot based on your theme:

Conduct a fictional experiment

Because literary fiction stories are very commonly character-driven, you can use a story as a space to conduct a hypothetical experiment. 

A book that does this well is Bryan Washington’s Memorial , which chronicles the changes in a romantic relationship, when one of the two young men must go to Japan to visit his ill father. The book tests their romance with a newly-created distance — tracing their shifting dynamic as they’re both forced to open themselves up in new ways.

Don’t be afraid to be weird

Literary fiction is home to a lot of very, very strange fiction, where writers can have fun and embrace bizarre ideas. When writing literary fiction, listen to any whimsical or wacky ideas that come to you, whether your protagonist develops a substance abuse relationship with lip balm, turns into a lamp, or starts to speak in ways no one understands.

how write literary fiction

One recent example of ‘weird’ literary fiction is Suyaka Murata’s Earthlings , which tells the story of Natsuki — a woman convinced she’s an alien and trying to navigate societal pressures while retaining her personal integrity. It’s an utterly bizarre story that pushes past what’s considered acceptable behavior and makes readers see the standards for “acceptability” in a new light.

4. Or filter it through a particular character’s experience

Literary fiction is usually character-driven, and characters are best explored when an event takes place and reveals the finer textures of their personality. Though stories about stasis, where nothing happens, are acceptable in literary fiction, you’ll find that events help move your story forward, and give you the trigger needed to unpack your characters.

In literary fiction that overlaps with genre fiction, these events tend towards the dramatic, like the rise of a totalitarian government (think Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale ), significant historical events (Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power in Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall ) or fantastical elements like the widespread amnesia in Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant .

how write literary fiction

In experimental, realist, or contemporary forms of literary fiction, the event can either be a small, otherwise insignificant moment, or a major life event. It all counts: an offhand comment made by a stranger, a death or birth, or an emotionally poignant moment like dropping off your child at nursery for the first time.

You don’t need a likeable protagonist

In genre fiction, the reader often roots for the main character: they want to see the unlucky-in-love writer find romance, the detective solve the crime, or the teenager “ come-of-age ”. But flawed characters are far more common in literary fiction — where stories sometimes function as character studies trying to understand how a character has come to be a certain way, or to simply observe or satirize the breadth of human behavior. 

How to write literary fiction | Gary Budden

A great example of a flawed character can be found in Eliza Clark’s Boy Parts , where Irina, an explicit photographer of random Newcastle men, falls into a self-destructive and violent spiral. She’s not a character to idolize, but one whose crazy downfall readers find compelling.

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David Foster Wallace’s short story collection Brief Interviews with Hideous Men also features flawed characters: here, fictional interviews reveal the egocentric, cruel behavior of certain men. The interview format singles out their words, which would otherwise be lost in a story merging plot with dialogue .

When writing literary fiction, set yourself free from the need to create benevolent, likeable figures: saintly figures are unrealistic and flat anyway, so your readers will thank you for more nuanced characterization .

how write literary fiction

How to Develop Characters

In 10 days, learn to develop complex characters readers will love.

4. Consider how you might tell your story in unexpected ways

Literary fiction is associated with unusual and interesting approaches to storytelling — fractured chronology, unusual media, strange POV choices ( second person narration , anyone?)... 

Think about it this way: poets are used to paying attention to the way they present their ideas, weighing up the limitations and opportunities residing in each form — literary fiction borrows this flexibility from poetry, allowing you to be wildly experimental (or wildly traditional). Consider creative formal approaches that might help you illustrate your points: you can tell your story in future tense, in HTML, in texts, or start in medias res … As long as your story’s final form is an intentional choice and not a random afterthought, anything goes.

Don’t go crazy for no reason

how write literary fiction

Don’t go wild for the sake of it. There should always be a reason behind a strange formal choice: the form needs to tie in with the content. Consider the novel ‘ little scratch ’ by Rebecca Watson, for example. While the story is told in experimental, stream-of-consciousness prose, the form perfectly mirrors the protagonist’s fraught emotional state after experiencing sexual assault. Without some solid reason for making such a grand stylistic choice, you run the risk of succumbing to literary fiction’s most common pitfall: pretension.

Don’t be afraid to 'steal'

There’s no such thing as plagiarism when it comes to writing techniques . Everyone’s influenced by everyone, so don’t worry so much about being unique: instead, ask yourself how you can learn from others’ approaches and how you can adapt successful techniques to improve your story. Just don’t pretend you innovated in a cultural vacuum, and acknowledge your influences when speaking about your work.

To give you an example of how you might take an idea and put your own spin on it, look at Maggie Nelson’s Bluets and Patricia Lockwood’s No One is Talking About This . While both use fragmented, first-person vignettes — telling a succession of seemingly unrelated stories — the intended effect is very different indeed.

Bluets uses confessional vignettes to intimately portray the writer’s melancholy, whereas No One is Talking About This uses vignettes to mirror the internet’s endless feed of information. The fragmented technique they share sets both texts up with a foundation of honesty, a sense of being confided to — so if you like something that another author has done, feel free to ‘steal’ it and see how it works in a different context!

5. Remember your story structure basics

how write literary fiction

No matter how strange, experimental, or innovative a story is, it still needs to be coherently structured. When choosing the right structure for your project, establish what you want the reader to feel. The Fichtean Curve , for example, is ideal for narratives driven by suspense and tension, while Freytag’s Pyramid is suited to tragedies ending in total catastrophe. 

How you organize your story matters a great deal. As a minimum, you have to make sure your story opening and your ending are intriguing, complete, and compelling, and your middle isn’t uneventful. If there’s anything going on that distorts the linearity of time, you also need to spend some time clarifying the chronology of your narrative and ensuring it’s communicated clearly to your readers. 

If you aren’t sure about the structural choices you’ve made, a developmental edit by a professional editor is guaranteed to help you see things more clearly:

And here are a few more handy resources from our blog:

You can get creative with structure, too

Need some inspiration for structuring your story? Here are some creative literary fiction structures:

how write literary fiction

How to Plot a Novel in Three Acts

In 10 days, learn how to plot a novel that keeps readers hooked

6. Roll up your sleeves and mercilessly edit your first draft

Even if you feel your first draft is terrible, it can still emerge from the editing process as something you’re proud of. To master self-editing, check out our free course:

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And one final tip, specific to literary fiction writing:

For prose, purple is not the only color

People tend to view literary fiction as something “difficult,” so they try to write in a complicated, ornate way that matches that impression. But while it’s true that readers of literary fiction will expect a carefully considered writing style, there is no single “literary” way to write, so don’t overthink it. 

Instead, use whatever writing style suits your story and its aims best. A lyrical, poetic style is perfectly fine if it fits your purpose: Madeline Miller’s Circe , for example, uses language reminiscent of classical poetry to fully immerse readers in the mythical environment. On the other hand, a lot of highly regarded literary fiction is minimalist in style, pared down to a clinical and precise use of simple words to quietly convey exact moments of daily life. Examples include Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake and Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love , a taste of which you can get below:

The idea here is that you write without feeling self-conscious about whether your writing is literary enough. Write in a way that helps your story progress — that’s enough.

Like all writing, literary fiction is a genre to conquer by practising. Focus on the story you want to write, and not the story you think others want to see you write. It’s a freeing distinction in helping you break past writer’s block . 

We hope these tips have inspired you to listen to your own instincts more and other people less — writing literary fiction should be a chance to experiment and play with your writing, not an opportunity to admonish yourself for not being original enough. Have fun!

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World of Writing

Telling the story, selling the story, literary fiction vs popular fiction.

If you’re a book lover, you’ll often hear the words ‘popular fiction’ and ‘literary fiction’ being bandied about. In all likelihood, you’ll favour one type over another. But what do these terms really mean? To me, the words sum up differing attitudes to fiction. While literary fiction aims to hold up a mirror to the human condition, popular fiction aims to entertain, to thrill, to comfort. This difference manifests itself in various ways.

Popular fiction books tend to be driven by plot. They are big-hearted, bally stories that slip down as easily as punch on a summer day. Plot is less important in literary novels; often, very little happens.

In literary novels, the character takes centre stage. They drive the story. The reader becomes fascinated by the characters, as they reveal themselves layer by layer. They tend to be outsiders, with a murky backstory. Characters in popular fiction novels are more likely to be stock figures, whose function is to serve the plot.

Places in popular fiction novels are either immediately familiar or exotic, offering the possibility of escape. In literary fiction, places take on characters of their own. Authors will often explore the foreign within the familiar, for example, the self-contained London Jewish community.

Literary authors use language with care. Not a word is wasted; each word packs a punch. Unusual images and metaphors abound. In popular fiction, the language is plainer, closer to everyday spoken language.

Popular fiction is generous in its use of dialogue. Because popular fiction authors write as they speak, the dialogue rings true and is rich with the language of everyday life. Literary fiction relies more on description than dialogue. When there is dialogue, it is more like written language than spoken.

In both types of fiction, there is always a danger that the novel will be bogged down by issues, that the issue will matter more than the plot or characters. In both cases, the reader will feel that they are being preached to. Both types explore relevant, interesting themes and this exploration is most effective when it is channelled through characters or plot.

In reality, both types of fiction have their own appeal. And the lines between them are becoming increasingly blurred. there are intelligent blockbusters that pack a punch. And there are literary novels that are the equivalent of a limp handshake, lacking bite and sparkle. It’s time publishers, booksellers and readers stopped thinking in such narrow, genre-based terms and learned to celebrate quality, no matter what form it comes in.

What types of fiction do you read? Do you automatically think literary means quality? Does popular fiction pack a punch? Feel free to share your thoughts.

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29 thoughts on “ literary fiction vs popular fiction ”.

Interesting article. I read both literary and popular fiction, I suppose it depends on my mood! And I wouldn’t necessarily think that literary means quality. I think any well-written book is a good book, regardless of who it appeals to.

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I think this amounts to another put down of literary fiction. Often what passes for literary fiction is ridiculously overblown stuff by the likes of David Foster Wallace, or Don Delillo, and others that won’t be read twenty year from now, let alone two hundred. LitFic as a genre, tends to be the product of LitProfs, rather than people with lives in the world, and is marked by obscurity, rather than clarity, and surface profundity that masks a hollow core. It’s a lot like listening to a bad rock band, so thick with pure amplifier noise that you can make out neither the notes or the lyrics.

There a plenty of wonderful literary authors writing engaging fiction. It’s just that such work isn’t hip. Hip is the literary equivalent of The Emperors New Clothes. The pretentious stuff, that nobody gets, but everyone would like you to think they get; that’s what the critics tend to praise as literary fiction. It is rather the attenuated genre form, LitFic.

Or maybe it just seems pretentious, because you don’t get it or like it or both. Plenty of popular fiction won’t be read 200 years from now, either.

For fun, read this crazy story about an alcoholic relative who comes to town and wants to move in. You decide the fate of the story at http://shouldthestorycontinue.wordpress.com .

Reblogged this on How my heart speaks and commented: This is what I am thinking about ..so a luck.y find

Glad you found it helpful.

Thanks for a well written and insightful post. While my novel doesn’t include many big words, I make up for that with small ideas (I hope). Having read your post here I’m becoming more comfortable with the label, “literary fiction”, even though the book is pretty entertaining!

Thank you for helping me through my genre identity crisis.

You’re welcome. I would feel that the best literary novels go for well chosen words rather than big words. Choosing your words well is the important things. And there are plenty of novels that cross the divide between literary and popular fiction. There’s even a sub-genre for them now – accessible literary fiction. Hope that doesn’t put the cat among the pigeons.

Now that’s a saying I’ve never heard before, and it’s a good one, putting the cat among the pigeons. I hope that doesn’t happen where I live. Sometimes there are peregrine falcons here on a controlled basis, This does not bode well for the pigeons nor the two car washes.

The cats were never much of an issue for the pigeons, though I’ve watched one play tag with a bunny late at a night . . . that’s what falcons do to cats.

A list of titles for both types (and maybe even a list of the blurred between the lines) would be of interest. As I have been teaching my 6th grader about different genera she was not able to understand each until we put book she read into lists of each type.

Thanks for that. Popular fiction would be the likes of Jackie Collins, Danielle Steele and Jeffrey Deaver. Literary fiction would be the likes of Philip Roth, Barbara Kingsolver and Marilynne Robinson. A good example of an author who blurs the lines would be Anita Shreve. Her books are written in an accessible style, but deal with meaty topics in a subtle way.

Thanks for the nod.

I think mostly people are interested in popular fiction instead of literary fiction. Popular fiction is more easier than literary.No doubt popular fiction is based on literary fiction. Todays movies are more prominent examples of popular fiction. But I am in the favour of literary fiction.

It’s funny you’d ask whether I “automatically think literary means quality” because if I hear “literary” I automatically think “boring”! 😉

I’m an avid reader, fell in love with books ever since I learned to read (I even read while walking the dog!). But I’m a plot guy. I’ve always loved good stories. That’s why I read – to be enchanted by good stories. Lit fic simply doesn’t make it for me. Pretty much every time I try a literary book I end up feeling like having wasted my time on an eventless, boring story (or often non-story). I’m just not interested in the themes that lit fic seems to focus on.

I must object to your assessment, though, that “in popular fiction, the language is plainer”. Granted, this is usually the case but not always. I was thrilled by the language Michael Shea used in his fantasy “In Yana, the Touch of Undying” which is all but plain. (I’ve heard that his style is reminiscent of Jack Vance’s but since I haven’t yet read anything by Vance I can’t comment on this.) Stephen R. Donaldson has been criticized for his use of obscure, thesaurus-heavy language because “peasants don’t talk like English majors” (I’m paraphrasing). And the late Terry Pratchett can hardly be accused to have used language without care, all the contrary.

Thanks for your comments. I can understand why literary fiction doesn’t satisfy if you prefer plots. Like any genre, literary fiction isn’t perfect and I’d agree that some lit fic books are a little too subtle for their own good! Your point about language is interesting, but I’d still contend that by and large, literary authors use language with more skill. They can pack a punch with just a few words. If language is too flowery or too plane, it’s not going to have the same emotional impact on the reader. But it comes down to taste and what you’re reading for. And yes, Terry Pratchett was very skilled with language.

This is a gross over-simplification of both popular and literary fiction. While genre fiction might be more plot-driven, Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a prime example of popular fiction to which character is central. Similarly, to say little happens in literary fiction is laughable. What about War and Peace? Lastly, literary style varies from writer to writer. George R.R. Martin can hardly be accused of writing popular fiction in a style similar to his speaking voice. Popular Fiction is genre fiction, plain and simple. It fulfills certain generic criteria (or subverts that criteria), while literary fiction does not operate within those bounds. It would be more helpful to readers of your blog if you were to research your subject more thoroughly before posting.

Thanks for your comments. These are conclusions I have drawn based on a lifetime of reading. Others may not agree, but that does not necessarily mean either of us are wrong. Also, this is not an academic blog, just an expression of opinion, and it is by no means definitive, but I hope some will find its points valid, even if they do not necessarily agree.

I do appreciate differences of opinion, but as an academic who specialized in, and who teaches, popular fiction, it’s concerning to see such broad brushstrokes applied to a multitude of genres. I teach my students to recognize the “literariness” of popular fiction, rather than diminishing those texts to these types of incorrect generalizations. We none of us can read everything over the course of our lives (try as we might!) and readers will always interpret texts differently, but there are some generalizations here which are simply incorrect (see examples I gave in my previous comment), and which diminish both genres.

It is fair to say that there are lines where popular and literary fiction cross – a lot of what I read falls into this category. It would certainly be worth doing a post on those sorts of books in the future. I don’t often receive such erudite critique of my blog, so thanks.

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You’re welcome! And thanks for being so receptive…sometime I default into poncy academic voice, so apologies for that! I’m looking forward to seeing what you think of The Recovering Academic. It’s a new venture so any feedback would be much appreciated!

What are you all talking about?! It’s very simple. If the writing doesn’t exercise your brain and raise your intelligence and awareness, then it is not well crafted. Silly academics and teachers focus on themes, historical context, character traits, literary devices and so on. Oh look! there’s another symbol, in this context it means… Utter drivel. This is quite useless. Linguistics academics seem to want to treat words like mathematical data. Again, useless. The only useful way to analyse literature, is to focus on ‘how’ the writer puts words together, that makes the exercise of reading worthwhile, as described.

Thanks for your comment, Gregor. I guess, as with so many things in life, there’s no right or wrong answer.

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Writing Tips Oasis

A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Literary Fiction

By Georgina Roy

a beginner's guide to writing literary fiction

Welcome to Writing Tips Oasis’s guide on the one genre that a lot of writers secretly wish to excel at: literary fiction. Literary fiction is widely considered to be superior to genre fiction – wherein genre fiction is considered commercial.

In other words, many writers consider literary fiction to be true form of art, while genre fiction seems to fall into another category – a piece of fiction that is not art. Some even go as far to consider genre fiction a money maker, while literary fiction has worth that goes beyond that.

We here at Writing Tips Oasis believe that each genre has its own merit – and as such, we decided to tackle literary fiction and add it to our growing collection of writing guides.

First and foremost, and most importantly, literary fiction is a genre – and like any genre, you need to understand what the genre is, what are the unwritten rules of the genre, what are the readers’ expectations of the genre, and more. Because of that, we decided to dedicate the first part of the guide on understanding literary fiction.

Another important note we wish to make is that all tips about writing – found in books, in articles online, including Writing Tips Oasis, need to be adapted. As in, every tip you ever read that worked for a different writer, will need to be adapted and modified to fit your own personal storytelling and writing style and method.

So, let’s continue to the guide. Keep writing – and good luck!

Table of Contents

Part I: The Truth about Literary Fiction

1. what is literary fiction, 2. what is not literary fiction, 3. literary fiction myths, 4. treating literary fiction as just another genre, part ii: writing a literary fiction novel, 1. the importance of plot, 2. the importance of characters, 3. how to create a character driven plot, 4. prose and fine writing, 5. purple prose and excessiveness, 6. common literary novel structures, 7. finding your own style and voice, part iii: finalizing a literary fiction novel, 1. literary fiction demands, 2. the importance of the title and cover, 3. themes, ideas, and stories, 4. thoughts, reflections, and opinions in literary fiction, 5. the main differences between genre and literary fiction novels.

tips for writing literary fiction

In order to understand literary fiction , first we must get to the truth about it. In these modern times, a literary fiction author is considered to have published a literary fiction novel – and that is usually viewed with regard by the publishing world and the academic world, regardless of whether the literary fiction novel has generated a lot of sales for that author or not.

In addition to that, when a novel has literary merit stemming from social, philosophical or other commentary that can be found among the prose of the novel – it is considered a literary novel. Again, regardless of sales. Often, the authors of such novels are professors at universities, or in other jobs related to academia and, often, the publishing world as well.

However, if a genre novel, let’s say, a mystery one, or a thriller, which has a tight plot, a good story and vivid characters – and, social and other commentary as well – it is bumped up into the literary fiction category, even though the novel is primarily a genre novel.

That, in and of itself, poses the very important question (and this question has been debated by many authors and writers and professors) – what, exactly, is literary fiction?

Let’s say that you’ve decided to write a literary fiction novel. However, you also have created vivid characters and a tight plot. In fact, that plot is so action packed that your agent is wracking his or her brains trying to figure out whether to try to sell your novel as a literary novel or as a genre novel. Which way would you go?

The best way to go for it is to always research the demands of the genre, if we’re taking a look at literary fiction as just another genre (and we will talk more about this later). However, the terms “literary merit” and “commentary” and “philosophy” and all the others are quite vague. If you have one profound sentence in your novel, does that make your novel literary?

If you show scenes of real life, if you have characters learn to improve themselves throughout your novel, but the philosophy is never spelled out in profound paragraphs and sentences, does that mean that your novel is not literary?

If you’re mixing another genre with literary commentary, does that somehow devalue the literary merit of your novel?

The answer to this is not simple, especially because there are so many opposing opinions at hand to choose from. In the end, write the novel that you want to write. If your mind – and if your characters’ thoughts – tend to go in a philosophical direction, then feel free to write it as it is. In the end, if you decide to go away from the literary fiction and label your novel as a genre novel, you’ve done nothing wrong.

Among the most successful literary novels, you will find titles that also belong in the more commercial genre category. And, if your novel has literary merit, your novel will definitely be bumped into the literary fiction category – regardless of its commercial success.

On the other hand, it is very easy to define what is not literary fiction.

Genre novels that do not have any kind of literary merit are easy to distinguish. They’re often considered brain candy, or, novels that serve only as entertainment and an escape. In other words, when you’re done reading a genre novel that doesn’t belong in the literary fiction category, you will feel like you read a pretty entertaining novel, but it doesn’t leave you with a really profound feeling of having been on a hero’s journey of your own.

In other words, you don’t really learn anything from those novels. That doesn’t mean that these novels don’t have value of their own. Quite the opposite, in fact. People read novels for many reasons, and entertainment and escapism are among those. A really deep literary fiction novel can make you think and leave you with a profound feeling that you’ve discovered a new insight into human nature, however, would you really constantly be reading novels like that? At some point, are you reading stories or are you reading philosophies?

The readers always decide for themselves. Your job is to write the story you want to tell (and, literary fiction is still fiction – and fiction means stories, not just philosophies).

However, this doesn’t mean that there haven’t been literary fiction myths that have built up over the years. And we cannot talk about writing literary fiction without busting some of them.

Here is the most common myth about literary fiction: literary fiction doesn’t need a plot. That is wrong. Plot is not something that can just be excluded from a story. Plot is the backbone of the story, the blueprint of it and it is what gives the story a proper beginning, middle and end. The real truth is that in a literary fiction novel, the plot can be both action-based (or plot based) and character-based. In most cases, a literary fiction novel will have a plot that is based on character. It means that the events of the plot itself are internal – however, they will be caused by parallel external factors.

Another myth is that literary novels cannot be mixed with other genres. For example, it’s a myth that you cannot write a literary fiction novel that also belongs in the science fiction genre. What if you create a science fiction world, place your characters there, and have your protagonist change profoundly throughout the novel? What if your writing and your prose belong in the literary genre – but the story doesn’t?

However, on the other side of the coin, one can find the myth that literary fiction novels are the luxury brand of literature – and that while literary fiction novels are widely acclaimed, they also would not sell well. This is for all aspiring literary fiction writers out there: a good novel will find a way to break through and sell. Do not shy away from writing the literary fiction novel you wish to write just because some authors and writers believe that literary fiction does not do well in sales. In the end, what you need is a really good story, even if that story is represented in a literary fiction novel.

Many authors will claim that it is impossible to look at literary fiction as just another genre – however, that is just another myth in and of itself. The belief that literary fiction is on a level above genre fiction is also a myth – especially because when you look at literary fiction as just another genre, you will be open to all the possibilities of genre bending and mixing that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

In other words, treating literary fiction as just another genre enables you to write a science fiction literary novel, or a mystery novel that will also belong in the literary fiction genre.

On the other hand, it is also perfectly fine to keep looking at literary fiction as a step above commercial genre fiction. If that suits your purposes during the writing of your novel, then go for it. In the end, you need to perceive your novel in a way that you want to perceive it, regardless of what other writers and authors say about literary fiction.

What we can easily conclude from all of this is that the way you perceive your novel – and the way that others will perceive it, both authors and readers – will be different. You might think you’ve written a good genre novel, and all of a sudden, the writers’ community is praising it as literary.

On the other hand, you might believe that you’ve written a good genre-bending novel that can be both a literary and genre novel, only to have readers shy away from it because it’s too literary – or maybe even not literary enough. Every novel that you will write will feel like a gamble – you did your best, but that doesn’t really guarantee you anything, especially in this day and age.

Remember, getting acclaimed rewards doesn’t mean getting sales and popularity as a writer (not that they don’t help). But, if you have a good story and a good novel, and you have a lot of sales and commercial success, it doesn’t mean that your novel will not be accepted and appreciated by the writing community. In other words, just because your novel is genre bending and can be sold as a genre novel, it doesn’t mean that it will not receive literary fiction awards – especially if it has literary merit and is an excellent novel.

writing a literary fiction novel

Now that we (attempted) to define literary fiction in a more rounded way, it’s time to take a look at how to write the literary fiction novel. Just because the expectations of the literary fiction are a bit difficult to define, that doesn’t mean that they cannot be defined. If the marking of a good literary fiction novel is literary merit, then we can try to break down this merit into edible bits and pieces and tips that you can use to your benefit.

And because we also want to enable you to write the story that you want to write, we are talking about writing a literary fiction novel in the same way as writing a novel in any other genre. And just like any other genre, this means that the basis of your novel will fall on plot and vivid characters – everything else, including the social commentary or philosophy that you wish to share with the world – becomes second to the plot and the characters. So, let’s take a look at how you can build a literary fiction book that will please the critics – but still entertain your readers immensely.

Many writers think that it is not plot what makes the readers sigh when they’ve finished a novel, but characters that are vivid and realistic, characters that have become our own avatars in that story, and through those avatars, we’ve also lived the story and learned from it. And while it’s true that vivid characters we can relate to enable us to live the story, it is the plot that gives us that sense of satisfaction – the sense of having read a rounded story that has a defined beginning, middle, end – and most importantly – a point.

The difference between the plot in a regular genre novel and the plot in a literary novel is that the plot in a literary novel is character based, while the plot in a genre novel will be action based. The regular genre novel focuses more on what happens – external plot, while in a literary novel, the plot focuses more on whom it happens to – internal plot. And constructing a plot is most easily done in three steps:

Characters are important – as previously concluded, they are the avatars through which your readers will experience the story. Regardless of which point of view you use to tell the story, the readers need to be able to connect with your characters. In a literary novel, where the plot is mostly internal, the side characters that appear can be:

Ideally, every character in your novel will have a character arc. In a literary novel, many characters can have their own stories and arcs that usually relate to a theme. However, you can only cram so many themes and ideas into one novel, and one thing to keep in mind is to ensure that these complement each other. In addition, beware of using too many of them – you can only tackle so many themes in a way that leaves the readers satisfied. For example, if you’re trying to tackle difficult themes like domestic violence and rape, make sure that you give them their due. Otherwise, many readers who have actually experienced these things will be left feeling unsatisfied – or even worse, hurt and misunderstood.

Remember, your characters and their vividness in a literary novel falls second hand to what these characters represent. But both of these things fall behind the importance of their role: if a character doesn’t add to the story, then that character doesn’t belong in the novel. For that reason, you need to know, at all times, what are you trying to say with each character, and then, you need to give those characters their own backstories and their own stories within the course of the novel – especially for the major secondary characters. On the other hand, even the episodic characters need the same. Then, when they slowly fade into the background, the readers understand that these characters have completed their role in the story, and are being replaced by other characters.

In a literary novel, the plot will most often be character driven. If we take the guidance we previously presented on building a plot, then we would have the inciting incident, plot point one – where the protagonist makes the wrong decision, and plot point two, where the protagonist makes the right decision. Ideally, the inciting incident happens in the middle of the first act, and plot point one is the end of the first act. The end of the second is marked by the second plot point, and the third act is the resolution. In a genre novel, the inciting incident and plot point one can happen a lot earlier, with most of the novel focusing on the second and third act.

In a literary novel, however, where the plot is driven by character rather than action, the inciting incident and two plot points will be completely internal. Here, we do not care much about what happens – the focus is rather on the result of that event within the protagonist. You need to send your protagonist on a spiritual journey – or a journey of the mind – and while this journey should be caused and influenced by external events, the crux of the plot is focused on what the protagonist has learned along the way.

Genre bending novels, or novels where the literary genre is mixed with other genres, like mystery or romance, have plots that are a perfect blend of action and character. The protagonist goes through both an external and an internal journey within the course of the novel, which is what sets apart these novels from genre novels.

Here is a truth about literary fiction: if you promise, you need to deliver. That is, if you want to label your novel as literary fiction, you need to deliver prose and fine writing that taste like fine wine. There is no definite formula as to what fine writing exactly is – and in a lot of ways, appreciating prose and fine writing is a very subjective thing.

Most writers would describe it as poetic writing – although this doesn’t necessarily mean that you need find ten different ways to describe pouring rain. While the genre novel writer can write in a simpler way, the literary fiction writer must pay attention to how he or she constructs sentences and paragraphs. For example, literary fiction prose will be peppered and riddled with metaphors, and the characters will speak in a manner that’s engaging and intelligent, yet deep and profound. In literary fiction, you can witness how syllables of different words complement each other to make a sentence seem like a piece of well-composed music. And yet, within it, it’s very easy to give in to excessiveness – which, inevitably, leads to purple prose.

Where do you draw the line between fine writing and purple prose?

The easiest way to determine whether you’re going into purple prose territory is to choose your favorite passage or chapter from your novel – and give it to someone to read. More importantly, listen to their feedback. If they failed to comprehend and understand what you wrote, then chances are you’ve given in to excessiveness, which resulted in purple prose.

Purple prose is not necessarily a bad thing for a literary novel. After all, literary fiction is praised for fine writing. However, you need to decide on what is more important: the actual prose or the readers who are supposed to enjoy your novel and (hopefully) learn something from it. If purple prose prevents you from doing that, then maybe you need to rethink your writing style – and maybe kill a few of your wordy darlings in order to achieve this.

We’ve already established that literary fiction novels also need a plot – with the sole difference that it’s character based. In addition to this, there are two other types of structures often found in literary novels: the coming of age, and the picaresque structure. Many writers also consider coming of age and picaresque to be separate genres of novels, however, both of them belong under the umbrella of literary fiction as a whole.

Coming of age as a structure is very easy to understand (even if it’s not so easy to portray): we follow the protagonist throughout his or her life, from childhood to adulthood, and often, the protagonist engages grand philosophical ideas throughout his or her life, and we get to engage in those ideas as well. Among the most popular examples of this include The Catcher in the Rye and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn .

The picaresque novel, on the other hand, often features one protagonist, while all the other characters appear in an episodic fashion. The picaresque novel has been around since the 1500s, even though the term wasn’t coined until the 1800s. The mosaic-like novel often depicts characters of lower standing, and often, the depiction is comic and satirical.

However, one of the best things about literary fiction is the freedom in choosing your own structure. The slow pacing of the novel itself, and the character-based plot gives you the freedom to construct it in any way you wish. You may construct your novel in a rose pattern, where each part of your novel will unfold a new revelation for the characters and for the readers, breaking all other structures – and still managing to engage the readers and keep their attention glued to your words.

All writers have their own writing style and writing voice. Moreover, writers have different voices and styles in different novels – different series, and this is also true for literary fiction. Your first literary fiction novel will be different than your second one, and so on.

So, how to find your style and voice? Moreover, how to ensure that your writing style will pass the “literary prose” bar?

The best thing to do is to read literary fiction, not just the classics like Catcher in the Rye , but newer literary novels as well, like Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid and others. Remember, everything you read, you absorb within you. You will find yourself regurgitating favorite phrases that you read in your favorite books, even though you’re not conscious of doing that. For that reason, the second step is always to write, and then keep writing. When your aim is a literary novel, then you need to try to emulate a literary style. The more you write, the better you will become at it. You will notice it in your sentences – you will probably even notice it in speech.

In addition, try to work some writing exercises in your daily writing routine. In these exercises, your task would be to write paragraphs, sentences, and titles that are both creative and read beautifully. Try using more metaphors and similes, rather than writing everything in a straightforward manner. While straightforward prose is good for genre fiction (and we will get to the differences between genre and literary fiction in the third section), literary fiction demands fine writing and beautiful prose. And it is your task as the writer to deliver it.

finalizing a literary fiction novel

The reason why we named this section “finalizing” is because the best way to write a novel is to write it in the way that you want to write it. Use any kind of aid you can possibly think of to improve upon your prose, however, the story, the characters, and the things you wish to tell in a novel will be told best when you do not think about the demands of literary fiction as a genre.

For that reason, it is during the editing process when you should focus on those demands. Ideally, the first editing will be on a macro level, where you need to read through your novel (even better: get a beta reader – another pair of eyes will help you see problems in plot, characterization, world consistency and continuity).

Now, the second level of editing goes beyond the story and should focus on the writing. When it comes to editing a literary novel, this would be the edit when you need to make sure that your novel delivers everything promised by the label of literary fiction. For that reason, we’ve dedicated this section to the demands of literary fiction, the incorporation of ideas and themes, how the title of the novel and the cover will help you set your novel apart from genre fiction, and the differences between genre novels and literary novels.

Here are some of the most common rules that pop up about literary fiction:

However, the term literary is very subjective. Some readers enjoy reading literary novels, others will read a literary novel for the story and not see your novel as literary. In the end, the term literary fiction only matters to critics and academics, and authors who aim for literary fiction awards. If your aim is the same, then the best thing you can do is to try to emulate the literary fiction novels which have been hailed as such by the critics and which have received awards for literary merit.

Keep in mind, though, that even the critics are subjective. You might have written the best literary novel of all times, however, there is always a chance that the literary critics will just pass it over and not consider it to have literary merit. Here, we will mention a beta reader again: especially if you can find someone who has read many literary fiction novels and knows the most common markings of a literary novel. That beta reader can give you the kind of constructive feedback you need to ensure your novel shows literary merit and deserves a spot in the hall of literary fiction.

Here is the thing: in the digital age, genre novels can have beautiful covers that are worthy of all literary fiction covers. However, the cover of a literary fiction novel will still set the novel apart from the rest. This means that you need to pay special attention to the font used on the cover, and the illustrations on it as well. Both of these need to match the themes that will be found between the covers. For example, with regards to illustrations, if a key theme in your literary fiction story is the breaking up of a family that was once unshakable, appropriate imagery on the cover needs to depict this occurrence. Moreover, literary fiction is usually published in hardback or trade paperback – which means the book is published in paperback, but it is the same size and quality as hardback books, rather than mass paperback (which are smaller and printed in larger quantities, reserved for genre books).

Now, when it comes to the title – the title will set your novel even further apart. This is where your ingenuity and creativity need to come to the forefront and deliver not only a straightforward title, but a title that will also relay an idea. For example, here are some titles of genre novels:

Egomaniac (a romance novel by Vi Keeland)

Dating You Hating You (another romance, by Christina Lauren)

And here are some literary fiction titles:

What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky (by Lesley Nneka Arimah)

Sing, Unburied, Sing (by Jesmyn Ward)

The Ninth Hour (by Alice McDermott)

While there are genre novels with wonderful titles, the literary fiction novel titles always carry with them the theme of the novel. The title gives us a glimpse not into the story itself (as it is with genre novel titles), but into the underlying theme as well.

Every novel needs an idea and a theme, and every story relays something from the real world. Whether your novel is a mirror into your characters’ souls, or it is a window through which your characters see the world, it doesn’t matter – what matters is that there is an underlying theme or idea that will be shown throughout the novel. This idea or a theme needs to be both on your character’s mind (or your protagonist’s mind) and within the story. Otherwise, there will be no connection between the story and the idea – there will be no cause for the protagonist to be focusing on that theme, and as a result, your novel might lose the literary merit you’re aiming for.

In any novel, readers enjoy reading the plot that’s on the surface. However, in a literary novel, there is always the underlying theme that shows what the meaning of the novel is about, that is, the underlying theme gives the literary novel its meaning. And readers of literary fiction expect the theme to show itself through both the events of the plot and the thoughts and changes in the protagonist, and his or her character.

There are many themes that you can tackle in literary fiction, from taboo themes like the relationship between a professor and a student, to dark themes like family violence, rape, death, and so on. When it comes to tackling these themes, please keep in mind that you need to do them justice – because chances are, many of your readers will have gone through the same experience.

Here, we wish to talk about preaching.

Any writer who aims for a literary fiction novel aims so because he or she has something to tell to the world. Maybe you wish to share your own philosophy on what real love should feel like, or maybe you wish to show your readers how a real human being deals with the death of a loved one.

What you must never do is preach. And it is very easy to slip into preaching mode when you’re writing a novel, especially if you feel that the things you have to say are important. The best way to ensure that your voice as the author doesn’t slip into the voices of your characters is to ensure that each character, first and foremost, talks differently. Second, you need to ensure that the things that the characters are saying make sense – as in, that character would say that, because those words stem and come from his or her personality. For example, you cannot have a 10-year-old child talk like an adult and philosophize about life. A 10-year-old child will philosophize about life, true, but he or she will do it in a childish way, using the words of a child, not the words of an adult.

On the other hand, always remember that your readers will understand that these are your words. It is very easy for our own personality to slip into our words, and as a result, your story might not show the readers what you think about the world, but who you are. A racist character that doesn’t change within the course of the novel implies that you believe that racism is okay. And while the previous example is crude, it gets the point across: your story shows who you are, regardless of how explicitly you relay your opinions.

We already talked about some of the differences between genre and literary fiction novels. Here in this section, we want to put them all in one place.

Genre fiction has action based plot, while literary fiction focuses more on character. In genre fiction, the actions of the protagonist move the story forward, while in literary fiction, it is the thoughts of the protagonist and his or her personality as a character that are more in focus.

Genre fiction is usually written in prose that is straightforward. You will not find ten different ways to describe snow in a genre novel. But, you might find a paragraph in literary fiction that only describes someone’s laugh. In genre fiction, descriptions are more straightforward and short. In literary fiction, the act of a breakup can mean the character starts thinking about being unraveled among the stars above. Metaphors and similes are the marks of literary fiction prose, while a more straightforward prose dominates genre fiction.

Genre fiction has an underlying theme, true, but this underlying theme may need to be teased out of all the action. On the other side, the theme in a literary fiction novel is always there and tangible to the reader.

The main difference is the aim: genre fiction novels tend to entertain, to offer a place where you can escape from the real world. Literary fiction novels aim to engage the readers’ minds. Literary fiction novels tackle themes about life that wouldn’t come up in a regular genre novel. In other words, a literary fiction novel might not be the ideal place to escape the world, because literary fiction tends to portray real life. This means that there will be a little bit more chaos to the story, characters that are a little bit too realistic, themes that may hit a little bit too close to home. As the writer, you need to decide just how close to home you wish to hit. Many writers go for deep impacts that leave the readers both emotionally and intellectually affected after reading the novel. Other writers go deep into the philosophy of the themes, and their novels leave you thinking about those themes for a long time after finishing the last page.

Some literary novels have themes that are so positive and good that reading those novels feels like therapy. This cannot be achieved with a common genre novel that only offers entertainment and a means to escape (although, this in no way diminishes the worth of genre novels – in fact, sometimes, being able to escape reality in a book is therapeutic, while reading a literary novel with a theme that hits too close to home can just make the reader spiral into desperation at being unable to solve his or her problems).

As we previously mentioned, the title itself, and the cover itself, of a literary fiction novel will set that novel apart from the genre novel. Moreover, bookstores dedicate separate sections for literary fiction.

It is worth noting that we live in the digital age of e-books. Previously, in order to be able to publish a literary novel, you needed certain credentials: perhaps a teaching position, or something else that would be used to distinguish yourself as an author. Nowadays, however, you do not need any of this to publish your own novel, be it a literary fiction novel or not. Yet, at the same time, anyone can self-publish e-books on Amazon. As a result, today, unless a big publishing house stands behind your literary fiction novel and publishes it, you will need to work really hard on the marketing aspect in order to ensure that your book will be picked up by the right audience. In fact, this is true about genre fiction as well.

How to begin the process of writing a literary fiction novel?

First, we would advise you to determine whether literary fiction is something that you really want to do. Because often, there is a stark difference between the novel you wanted to write and the novel you actually publish. In fact, many published authors say that the first draft barely even resembles the final one. Many writers tell of the pain of having to kill all the things they really loved about the novel – because they were not necessary to the stories. Since we talked about theme, will the theme match the events in your novel? Will it make sense for the characters to be thinking and speaking about things that almost never happen in the novel?

More importantly, how much of the plot is action based, and how much of it is based on your characters? If the plot depends on action, do you go for a genre novel, or do you change the plot to fit the literary fiction limits?

Have you considered writing a genre-bending novel? A novel that has both literary merit, and action-packed plot? As we said at the beginning of this guide, the rules that determine the literary merit of a novel are not clear and are quite subjective.

On the other hand, if writing a genre bending novel that has both a mystery plot and literary merit due to how much you also focus on your characters and your protagonist will bring more readers to you as an author, then is the ‘literary fiction’ label really that important to you?

In the end, the best advice we can give is this: write the story you want to tell. Write it in the style that comes most naturally to you – be it straightforward, workmanlike prose (usually found in genre fiction), or purple prose sprayed and riddled with metaphors that are both profound and beautiful at the same time. And then, if the literary fiction label really means that much to you, then do your best to ensure that the cover, the title, the themes, and the prose in your novel will match the so-called rules of the literary fiction genre.

A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Literary Fiction is an article from Writing Tips Oasis . Copyright © 2014-2018 Writing Tips Oasis All Rights Reserved

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/photo.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic. As a screenwriting student, she is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, watching a film or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her own. [/author_info] [/author]

Story in Literary Fiction

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Resources for Writers

Understanding Empathy

Incorporating Rhythm in Prose Style

Sister Carrie

The Spirit of Want

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The Art of Creating Story

Lee K. Abbott

Steve almond, john biguenet, robert olen butler, ron carlson, lan samantha chang.

Peter Ho Davies

Jonathan dee, fred leebron, michael malone, rebecca mcclanahan, josh neufeld / sari wilson, richard north patterson, michael ray, jim shepard, rob spillman, kirby wilkins, susan yeagley / kevin nealon.

Book Reviews


★ ★ ★ ★ ★ McDowell

Review from OnlineBookClub.org

 At first, when I picked up this book, I had no idea it would contain an interesting plot that would teach me a lot. From this book, I was able to understand so many secrets in the medical world because this book is relatable in every sense. From McDowell's life, I was able to learn the dangers that come with betrayal. Above all, this book taught me that no matter how wicked and selfish a man can be, there is always space in him for love for his family, as in the case of Hiram. Despite the level of his selfishness, his love for his children was very obvious.

The plot of this novel is among its strongest selling points, as every genuine reader would concur with me. Given how interesting and twisted the plot is, it would be wrong not to give the author kudos for a job well done. The writing style is another aspect of this book that is deserving of mention because it made the book unique in its own way, and the author also did a wonderful job in character development, which is another part of the book that piqued my interest..  Read the entire review Here

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Tour of Duty

 Tour of Duty is a work of historical fiction. It begins in the year 1960. We see the arrival of a physician named Miles Ballard in France. Miles is to serve in the Air Force at US Air Station, Châteauroux. Ingrid Stern, the wife of Doctor Oliver Stern, welcomes Miles to France, and Oliver Stern becomes Miles' best friend. Miles, being a man of morals, faces challenges in the hospital he serves in. This brings hostility to Miles from his superior, and he is faced with two choices: to uphold his morals and ethics or to succumb to the corrupt leadership in the military.

Williams H. Coles created an outstanding work out of this novel. While reading the book, I was completely immersed in it, enjoying each chapter and desiring to know what happens next. The author's writing was easy to follow and intriguing. This book made me admire Miles a lot. He didn't only stand his ground, unlike the other doctors on the military base, but he upheld his morals and ethics and stuck to them.  Read the entire review Here

 This amazing book by William H. Coles is really unique because it doesn’t just tell the tales of a man without leaving us with reasons not to learn. After going through this book, I found myself thinking about and checking the aspects of my life that need to be changed. So many things went south in this book, and it was driven by the negative human nature we naturally possess. This book teaches us why we should be good friends, a good husband, a good father, and personally, to be good individuals.

I really want to use this opportunity to thank the author for such an amazing book. I enjoyed every second of reading this book. I rate McDowell by William H. Coles 5 out of 5 stars. It was absolutely worth my time and life-changing.  Read the entire review Here

 I read every part of this book, and I just could not find anything to dislike about it. William H. Coles gave a comprehensive description of the interactions between the characters, making it simple and enjoyable to read. I enjoyed how the author addressed real-life issues that happen in a society like racism, rape, and suicide, their effects, and how a single person could cause a significant change. I enjoyed how the author pointed out the love and care most doctors in the book have for their patients.

The book Tour of Duty by William H. Coles was written to perfection. It was exceptionally well edited. It was compelling to read, with nonstop excitement and drama. I would rate it 5 out of 5 stars because it inspired me to continually stand up for my principles and fight for what I believe in.  Read the entire review Here

 I really enjoyed this novel. For one, it was very historically accurate. The author subtly alluded to historical events, like the Jewish Holocaust and Hiroshima, in such a way that it never overshadowed the main narrative but was still enough to immerse me in the past. In addition, for a book written last year, the tenor of the novel was superb. It’s written in the sort of archaic English common to the time; it reads like a book published straight out of the 1950s. It’s consistent throughout the story, and it really put the finishing touches on the book for me. The characters themselves were wonderfully written. They were all affected in some way due to their identities and respective histories; they all had motives for their actions, and their backgrounds were fully explained. Moreover, these characters changed throughout the story due to these experiences.

This book is deserving of 5 out of 5 stars. It’s an exceptionally well-written and well-edited piece of literature. The writer took up the challenge of manufacturing a plotless story and has done so brilliantly. The characters were compelling, creative, and all of equal importance to the story. It’s an inventive glimpse into the past and a joy to read.  Read the entire review Here

 I simply adored this book. A big part of its allure is its historical accuracy; you felt like you were in the 1960s. Subtle references to the past, like the bombing of Nagasaki, the acquisition of France by Germany, and D-Day, were always referenced in some way. This helped preserve the book’s authenticity while simultaneously preventing the storyline from dwelling too much in the history of the times and consequently causing it to diverge from the story. Moreover, I liked that these events had an impact on the characters’ lives.

The novel’s tone is one of my highlights. Published in 2022, the novel reads like one typewritten in the 1970s and reminded me of The Great Gatsby due to its old-school tone. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. It’s a highly creative, brilliantly written, and well edited piece of work. The author has spun a wonderful story from the perspective of captivating, relatable characters.  Read the entire review Here

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With this course, you will learn, in eight lessons, to create effective characters with action scenes, conflict resolution , change , identifiable core desire , enlightenment , and working dialogue ; and you will learn to structure dramatic literary plots that are character-based , narrated effectively , and created with agreed-upon prose that lasts as an art form .

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Tour of Duty by William H. Coles

New Novel: Tour of Duty

Tour of Duty is a fiction novel-literary and historical--set in France, 1960-1966, at the height of the cold war and written with strong characterization, conflict, and dynamic plots. Major characters are Miles Ballard, a physician drafted and eager to succeed in providing best care for his patients who frequently clashes with military demands and morality; Ingrid Stern, wife of Ballard's best friend, seeking truth about lost relatives and the Holocaust; Alyce Read, a newspaper journalist documenting capture the suffering and ruination of Holocaust victims and survivors.

Available in print and ebook format at: Amazon ( Kindle ) and Barnes & Noble .

how write literary fiction

An educative volume with essays about the process of creating fictional story; interviews with authors, editors, publishers, and a Pulitzer Prize winner on the writing process; and original short stories that illustrate concepts and techniques of storytelling in prose. Major topics include: characterization, narration, character-based plotting, dialogue, drama, point of view, significance, and revision.

Available in Print and as eBook at: Amazon ( Kindle ) and Barnes & Noble .

Tour of Duty reviews from Goodreads.com:

Tour of duty reviews.

Have you ever wondered how fiction writers could change their style of prose in writing fiction story? This essay details a process.

READ How to Change Fiction Writing Style

2021 reader’s favorite awards:.

McDowell , audiobook, Silver medal • McDowell , Drama, finalist • Guardian of Deceit , Literature, finalist • Creating Literary Stories, A Fiction Writer’s Guide , writing/publishing, finalist

McDowell by Coles

Tour of Duty One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Different viewpoints and perspectives can change a lot. Tour of Duty by William H. Coles is an amazing work of fiction about the lives of military personnel. General Thomas is not a loved leader; he is more tolerated than respected. His family life is complicated, with one […] Read More Reviewed by Frank Mutuma for Readers’ Favorite
5/5 Tour of Duty Tour of Duty is a work of historical fiction by William H. Coles and is set in France in the 1960s. Captain Miles Ballard graduated from Boston University and has just finished his medical training. Miles is sent to serve at the American military base in Chateauroux, France, as a doctor under the command of […] Read More Reviewed by Alma Boucher for Readers’ Favorite
5/5 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org The characters were well-developed, for instance, Oliver, who the author described as his physical appearance. The description of his physical appearance created a mental image each time he appeared in the text, making the book enjoyable. The author made some emotional incidents to connect readers to the book; for instance, you could […] Read More Said Noor
5/5 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org The book was like a historical novel about the story of the Nazis and Europe’s state after World War II. It gives information on what happened in that era, such as the incarceration of the Jews, researched by Alyce and Ingrid. It is a perfect romance novel that discusses the romance story […] Read More Ramla Zawadi
5/5 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org I liked the flow of the book and the interesting plot twists the author used to make the story enjoyable. I can’t mention them without creating spoilers. They made the story enjoyable as the readers tried reading the book to find out what happened since each scene created suspense. I liked the […] Read More Christian Maundu
5/5 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org I can’t find anything I didn’t like in the book. On the contrary, there are many aspects I liked. I liked how the book depicted the atmosphere of the 1960; its greyness was felt throughout the pages. I felt I was there with them, in the middle of rubbles, demolished houses and […] Read More Umida Kholmatova
5/5 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org I have nothing to criticize in this novel. It was enjoyable and had several interesting stories to follow, such as the career and love story of Miles Ballard. I rate Tour of Duty by William H. Coles five out of five stars. The book was professionally edited because it had an error. […] Read More Geoff Muriithi
5/5 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org This book was great since I liked reading about the life of Miles Ballard. The author made it feel real since Miles showed the challenges he faced while doing his job and other personal issues. The descriptions of characters’ physical appearances were important in helping readers create an image of their appearance […] Read More Erin Jeffson
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org I enjoyed reading about the politics in the book. It was fun as I tried to guess the next move of some characters. Their unpredictability made the book realistic. Every character had a role to play and wasn’t just used as filler. The book was easy to comprehend. I loved reading about […] Read More Unique Mary Iloakasia
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org I enjoyed reading this fictional novel. It was captivating and fun. One of the things I love about this book is the moral lesson I got from it. These lessons are practical. I went back to think about my life and critically examine my actions with my friends, colleagues and family members […] Read More Emmanuel Okotie
McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org Coles’ character development was so masterful that I legitimately despised the protagonist and that may be why I felt so challenged to continue reading early on in the novel. McDowell reminded me of so many old affluent, arrogant, white men I have met through my life. It made me remember how I […] Read More PoeticGem65
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org When I first started reading this book, I had no idea that it would have a compelling story and provide me with a wealth of knowledge. Because this book is applicable in every way, I was able to learn so many medical industry secrets from it. I was able to learn about […] Read More Salah2580
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org I’ve never read such a suspenseful and intense book as this. Hiram McDowell is such a perverted sociopath who doesn’t care for anything or anyone but his interests. His indifference sometimes pushed him over the edge, and he sometimes brushed shoulders with those he shouldn’t have. Take his wife, Carole. No matter […] Read More Maxreview
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org It was a delight to read this inspirational book. The plot of this book is exciting and creative, and it was well-written by the author. The book’s suspense kept the readers engaged while reading the book. Because of this, I was engrossed from the beginning to the end of this book. This […] Read More Mateo Kante
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org I love how the book started by telling us briefly about his family, and from the information I got from there, I began to understand better the character, Hiram. This novel is filled with drama, action, twists, and suspense, which is why I was so engrossed in the read. Promises look easy […] Read More Jerry Anozie
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org It is not common to come across a book that provokes so many thoughts and even gives you an emotional surge. I must say McDowell by William H. Coles falls into the category of intriguing books that have made it to the top of my library. This may be a fiction book, […] Read More Chimezie Agbata
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org There were many things I liked about this book. It was well-written and evoked a lot of emotions in the reader. The author gave a vivid description of the psychology of humans and how most of us behave when we attain success. The book talked about the challenges the doctor faced to […] Read More Francis Ignacio
McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org One thing I love about this book is that it spans Hiram’s personal life. As a father and husband, he did not play his role effectively, as was evident in the lives of his children. This reminded me that as a father and a husband, money is not the only requirement in […] Read More Gift Chidex
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org This book had a lot of positive aspects. To be honest, I was unsure of what to expect from this book, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover it was written in a manner that would inspire a rollercoaster of emotions in the reader. The story shows the doctor rising to fame […] Read More Gerald Hilary
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org Would it be better to be recognized for who you are? or by the achievements they have made in life? How does it feel to have a buddy who is solely interested in their own success, fortune, and notoriety? William H. Cole’s novel McDowell is a story of loss, retaliation, atonement, remorse, […] Read More Park Cherri
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org This amazing book by William H. Coles is really unique because it doesn’t just tell the tales of a man without leaving us with reasons not to learn. After going through this book, I found myself thinking about and checking the aspects of my life that need to be changed. So many […] Read More Jerry Anozie
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org I did find this book fascinating to read. The shocking and unexpected twist in the story was what I enjoyed most about this novel. Nobody could have predicted Hiram’s fate the way it did. I had emotional instability when I was reading this book. I used to detest Hiram so much and […] Read More Hakim Kelvin
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org Character is the basic thing needed by every successful person to maintain their position or go higher. It is difficult to see a long-lasting success in a person without character. McDowell by William H. Coles is a lesson-filled fictional book with other themes that concern our world today. This book is very […] Read More Jerry Anozie
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org Readers I may not want to be quick in judging this book because the author may have portrayed Dr. Hiram as a very ill-behaved man, but as the book went on, we saw what Dr. Hiram’s true character was and how he adapted to a life that he never planned for. Another […] Read More Jeffery King 1
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org McDowell may not be a true life story, but its story is quite inspiring and interesting and would make you think otherwise. This book also contains vital information about parenting, and from this, I was able to learn a thing or two about the necessity of close parenting. Of all the aspects […] Read More ojukwu2
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org I found McDowell by William H. Coles to be engaging and thought-provoking. “How frequently do we perform acts of kindness that are really intended for our own gain?” is one inquiry that piqued my curiosity. I think this is something that should be thought about before doing something that seems to be […] Read More Iam Ama
5/5 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org William H.Coles approaches his fiction novel Tour of Duty with historical accuracy. The novel is set in France during the cold war, but there are also references to the past: D-Day, the bombing of Nagasaki and the Jewish Holocaust. The story begins in 1960 and ends in 1966 and the tone of […] Read More Cristina Corui Mihailescu
5/5 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org First off, I’d like to say that I really enjoyed this novel. For one, it was very historically accurate. The author subtly alluded to historical events, like the Jewish Holocaust and Hiroshima, in such a way that it never overshadowed the main narrative but was still enough to immerse me in the […] Read More James Carter 8
5/5 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org Honestly, I simply adored this book. A big part of its allure is its historical accuracy; you felt like you were in the 1960s. Subtle references to the past, like the bombing of Nagasaki, the acquisition of France by Germany, and D-Day, were always referenced in some way. This helped preserve the […] Read More davidejioforr
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org At first, when I picked up this book, I had no idea it would contain an interesting plot that would teach me a lot. From this book, I was able to understand so many secrets in the medical world because this book is relatable in every sense. From McDowell’s life, I was […] Read More Nicholas Bush
McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org The book was entertaining to read. From the prologue on, it captured my interest and held it for the duration of the novel. I think this book contains a secret lesson as well. It made me think about all the things that I not only overlook but also fail to express my […] Read More Onyinyechi Orji
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org Have you ever been seen in a negative way by a lot of people? Do you allow your position to control you? What do you know about purpose? Have you ever come across a terrible person? This book, McDowell by William H. Coles, is a novel that depicts human psychology. The traits […] Read More Ben Filla
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org This book teaches a lot, but the most important lesson I learned is that everyone deserves a second chance. No one is irredeemable, no matter what the person might have done. In my opinion, the death of his second wife broke Hiram. He had dealt with too much, having lost his first […] Read More Rofenty23
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org This uplifting book was a pleasure to read. This is a well-written book with an intriguing and original plot. Suspense and drama in the book keep the reader interested in the protagonist’s life. The characters were well-developed, and I was captivated until the very end. This book is chock-full of useful information […] Read More Malthide Jones
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org McDowell by William H. Coles is a page-turner story featuring a man’s journey to self-realization. Hiram McDowell, the main character, experiences a rollercoaster lifestyle that makes him realize his shortcomings, which he never saw before. I enjoyed the book’s plot twists and bits of suspense. It was fascinating how McDowell’s luxurious lifestyle […] Read More Joule Mwendwa
5/5 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org The book Tour of Duty is an intriguing book that immediately captures the reader’s attention. I loved how the author introduced the characters. I enjoyed the character development. It was interesting to see these characters grow in their various fields. He was able to bring out the unique personality in each of […] Read More Saint012
4/4 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org There was absolutely nothing I disliked about this book. It ticked all the boxes of a great story. The plot is progressive and solid. The characters are well developed and intriguing. The story does not reveal too much immediately but comes together beautifully as you read on. It was easy to digest […] Read More Amarachi Nwankwo03
5/5 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org I love Ballard’s stubbornness yet brave actions. Its refreshing to see such a well-written character I rarely see in reality. The book was such an adventure, making it worth reading for. I love the relationship between Ballard and his friends. I will rate this book 5 out of 5 for it is […] Read More Allyza Faith Demape
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org This book’s plot was intriguing. William H. Coles wrote the book in such a way that even a layperson could understand it. While writing the book, he used simple words. The book was exceptionally well edited and had no grammatical errors. The plot of the book was full of suspense. My interest […] Read More Favour Ozone
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org I must thank William H. Coles for writing such an excellent book. He didn’t rush the story and allowed each scenario to unfold at its own pace. Although there were few characters in the books, they were well-developed and managed. What I liked best about the book’s characters was that they displayed […] Read More Hyfr Z
4/4 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org I really liked this book. In the first part of the book I was not a fan of Hiram at all. He was a selfish womanizer who thought he was above the law. But by the end of the book Hiram grew on me and I began to sympathize with his character. […] Read More Stacey Harkins 1
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org Mr. Coles does a beautiful job of describing his characters. He gives excellent care to their development and how they go through learning life lessons. The author has written previous stories and has a website to learn how to write about characters and much more. I especially enjoyed how I cheered for […] Read More Deborah Dodd
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org There are many positive aspects to this book, but what I loved the most is how the book ended. Hiram realized his mistakes and bad decisions and tried to amend them. The story of Hiram McDowell was really interesting to read. I enjoyed the book as it came with a lot of […] Read More Hakeem nuel
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org A 5 out of 5 is appropriate for this book. From one viewpoint to the next, Mr. Coles writes with ease. Even though the point of view shifts often (about every couple of chapters), the reader is still able to appreciate the novel despite this. In actuality, the many viewpoints emphasize various […] Read More Elendu Clement Ekechukw
5/5 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org Williams H. Coles created an outstanding work out of this novel. While reading the book, I was completely immersed in it, enjoying each chapter and desiring to know what happens next. The author’s writing was easy to follow and intriguing. This book made me admire Miles a lot. He didn’t only stand […] Read More Raymond N
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org This William H. Coles book, entitled McDowell, discusses lies, treachery, retaliation, bitterness, wrath, greed, and similar topics. I discovered that it’s best to honor promises that we make because breaking them can have negative effects on the other person. Couples should learn to treat their marriage seriously and to raise their kids […] Read More Chiwenduik078
4/4 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org What I loved most about the book was how the author was able to give us an insight into the character’s mind. I felt connected to the character. I felt angry when the commander kept rejecting his ideas, even though it was going to save many lives. I wondered if the military […] Read More Remmy Adisa
4/4 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org The positive aspects of this book are quite glaring and sobering. You get to discover truths about our society and the reality we wake up to each day and how everyone else fares in it. We get to see people’s responses to norms and values, their perception of love and fulfillment and […] Read More Stewardex
4/4 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org I found this book to be one of a kind. It’s one thing to be presented with an amazing plot, and another to be taken back in time to the 1960s. But all thanks to Williams, these two were fused perfectly together. My favorite character in this book is Miles. I admire […] Read More Nicole Adam
4/4 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org The book is enthralling and the end is really satisfying. I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. The author creates emotional appeal when he writes about the experiences of non-Aryan during The Nazi rule. There is a lot to learn from the book, for instance, enabling the world to understand […] Read More Maryline Adhiambo
Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org I liked a number of aspects of the book. It is less than twenty years after World War II and memories of German atrocities are still fresh in the minds of the local population. There is still distrust of people suspected of having been Nazi collaborators. The author handles this subject delicately […] Read More Robert Bruce-Brand
4/4 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org The book is excellent. I can’t say anything negative about it. The only thing I didn’t like was that I wished the book was even longer. I did not want to part with the main characters of the novel. I rate this novel four out of four stars because I thoroughly enjoyed […] Read More Eteri Topuria
5/5 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org I found McDowell an interesting character and one that evoked strong emotions in the reader. Kudos to author William H Coles, who was able to extract the gamut of emotional responses from the reader. Initially, we feel nothing but scorn and disbelief at the coldness and callousness of the character but as […] Read More Hokageq
4/4 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org This was a masterpiece of storytelling and character development. Even if they only played a small part in the overall book, you still felt like you got to know the personalities of almost every character. It also seemed like a realistic story, like it was something that truly happened instead of being […] Read More Mystic96
4/4 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org McDowell is an exhilarating read. From the first chapter, it had my full attention and never lost momentum. If anything, I was more inclined to keep reading in the second half than in the first. Coles has written an undoubtedly unique story that stretches from high-brow charity balls to the life of […] Read More Melissa Best
4/4 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. It was thought-provoking, well-written, interesting, and engaging. I particularly enjoyed the feeling of having just dropped into the life and timeline of the characters without the need for backstories on them. The way they were all shaped through descriptions of their personalities and […] Read More Jackie Kook
4/4 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org The author, William H. Coles, is a literary genius who created a dramatic story about a surgeon’s adventures through a tumultuous life. The book was very believable, especially considering the author’s background of ophthalmic surgery. He allowed the reader to experience the main character, Hiram McDowell’s, vulnerable life ridden with constant decision-making […] Read More Lonawin
4/4 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org One thing I really liked about the book is when H. Coles made Hiram experience both sides of real life, one in which he is really privileged and has almost everything that we may all need in life, and the other side where he has nothing and has to begin his whole […] Read More Frank Aspire
4/4 The Surgeon's Wife Review from OnlineBookClub.org The author did an outstanding job of creating the characters and their personalities. The storyline was realistic and gave an accurate view of pressures in the medical profession. As a retired nurse, I can relate to the day-to-day stress of working in the medical field; and how adding personal drama to an […] Read More Brenda Creech
4/4 Creating Literary Stories Review from OnlineBookClub.org I had never realized the importance of a word choice in stories before reading this. Characterization, starting from the name of the character, is also something that holds significance in causing an impact on the reader. William Coles did an excellent job to help writers improve! What I liked most about the […] Read More samps1910
4/4 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org What I loved most about the book was the author’s fluidity and how he was able to connect each chapter. All the characters in the book had their unique characteristics, but they still connected very well throughout the book. I loved the historical references made in the book. I was able to […] Read More Remi akinluyi
4/4 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org I absolutely enjoyed reading this book. The writing was very compelling and it got me hooked from the very first sentence. It had the perfect balance between historical facts and fiction. The story was very interesting and the historical facts were not overwhelming. Instead, they complimented it really well. Something else that […] Read More readingswithsoso
4/4 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org This book allows the reader to get an insight into what living in such times could feel like. The book portrays what finding or not finding self and love can cost us as human beings. I believe in finding love and happiness if you earnestly seek it and take the right steps […] Read More Liney Eyo
4/4 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org This book is written in a way that each of the chapters has its own separate plot (similar to a “slice of life” story). It’s also written from multiple points of view, which adds depth to the overall storyline. This is a unique writing format, especially for historical fiction. It’s a breath […] Read More EmmaGraciela
4/4 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org Life is an adventure, a journey. Sometimes we face troubles but troubles may lead to good things when we learn a lesson from them. That’s the main message shared by William H. Coles in his historical fiction book entitled Tour Of Duty. I really love this book and I recommend it to […] Read More Tonymamy
4/4 Tour of Duty Review from OnlineBookClub.org William H. Coles has brought to life a myriad of characters that help to shape up Tour of Duty into a wonderful story. The main character has also been well-developed; he is very imperfect, but yet kind and thoughtful. The book is clearly well written, and it is very obvious that the […] Read More Ochieng Stephen Owino
4/4 The Surgeon's Wife Review from OnlineBookClub.org I loved every aspect of the book and found it hard to put it down. Every event in the book kept me hooked on discovering what would happen next. In addition, I appreciate how the author gives every character a voice of their own. My favorite character is Mike. Although he had […] Read More Orizon
5/5 Tour of Duty Reviewed by Maria Victoria Beltran for Readers’ Favorite Tour of Duty by William H Coles is set in France, in the tumultuous 1960s at the onset of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and conflict in Vietnam at the height of the Cold War. The story unravels as physician Miles Ballard, inducted to serve in the US […] Read More Reviewed by Maria Victoria Beltran for Readers’ Favorite
Tour of Duty Tour of Duty is a work of fiction in the historical and realistic drama subgenres and it is a standalone work. It is best suited to the general adult reading audience and was penned by William H. Coles. In his new novel, this prolific author brings life in the 1960s to full living color, focusing […] Read More Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite
Tour of Duty Tour of Duty by William H. Coles is a historical novel set in post-war France in the 60s, principally on an American airbase, part of Europe’s defensive strategies against the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation from the Soviet Union. Miles Ballard was a newly graduated doctor, drafted into the United States Air Force and posted […] Read More Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers’ Favorite
Tour of Duty During the Cold War and with the prospect of a nuclear attack, Miles Ballard, an American medical officer who also works in the army, travels to France for training. He is forced to work with an unreasonable and narrow-minded superior and serve as the general’s doctor, a role that other people avoid for strange reasons. […] Read More Reviewed by Adanna Ora for Readers’ Favorite
Tour of Duty Tour of Duty by William H. Coles is a historical novel set in France in the 1960s. Central character Miles Ballard arrives at the US Air Force base and soon gets a taste of the French hostility towards Americans. Nevertheless, his work as a physician is all-consuming as he attends to not only General Thomas […] Read More Reviewed by Iza Grek for Readers’ Favorite
5/5 Tour of Duty William H. Coles is a realistic novel set in France during the 1940s. Miles Ballard is the charming young protagonist sent to work as a doctor in the air force. Honest, hardworking, and ambitious, Miles is liked by everyone he meets, except his superior, Colonel Barney Springer, who makes life difficult for Miles. Springer refuses […] Read More Reviewed by Kayleigh Perumal for Readers’ Favorite
Tour of Duty Tour of Duty, a gripping novel by William H. Coles, is set in France during the 1960s. It is here that Miles Ballard serves as a doctor in the Air Force. Although he becomes the General’s physician, the hospital commander considers any suggestion insubordination. Our hero’s life interweaves with that of other characters as a […] Read More Reviewed by Astrid Iustulin for Readers’ Favorite
Tour of Duty Tour of Duty follows a set of characters at a US Air Force base in 1960s France during the Cold War. Written by William H. Coles, the book opens with Miles Ballard, a physician newly drafted into the Air Force who finds himself assigned as the GMO to Brigadier General Thomas Read of the Châteauroux […] Read More Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers’ Favorite
Tour of Duty Americans in France. Not so unusual, or is it? Tour of Duty by William H. Coles is set in 1960s Europe in the Cold War era during a nuclear attack threat. Physician Miles Ballard is serving in the Air Force at US Air Station, Châteauroux, France. Ingrid, the beautiful wife of Ballard’s best friend Oliver […] Read More Reviewed by Gordon D. Durich for Readers’ Favorite
Tour of Duty Tour of Duty by William H Coles is an outstanding literary historical work set during the Cold War, in post-war France. In 1960, Miles Ballard is inducted to serve in the US Air Force. He arrives in France and immediately becomes aware of the French hostility to Americans. Miles’s hope of providing patients with proper […] Read More Reviewed by Edith Wairimu for Readers’ Favorite
McDowell McDowell by William H. Coles presents the tragic fall of an arrogant man from grace. Hiram McDowell is a brilliant, admired, and respected surgeon with many flaws — arrogance, narcissism, and boundless pride. He is a selfish man who watches his climbing partner die on Mt. Everest, belittles his wife, ignores his children, and tricks […] Read More Daniel Rhodes – The Book Commentary
The Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016 The Amish Girl Short Story from the book: The Amish Girl is a sweet but sad story of love loss and yearning. The author left a hint of reconnection by mentioning Belize a country in central America that she may have been forced to go to where there are a number of Amish folk. While […] Read More marshall dell
4/4 The Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016 Review from OnlineBookClub.org Every short story I read was simply relatable, which was my number one monumental positive aspect about the book. The author seems to possess a skill to assessing the status-core of today’s norm and depict it in stories. Once again, recalling from the story of the gift, Catherine’s parent seems to fail […] Read More The_bookwarrior
4/4 The Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016 Review from OnlineBookClub.org He is arguably known as the father of modern short stories and one of its most prolific writers. He is none other than the great poet, Edgar Allan Poe, who once said: ‘A short story must have a single mood, and every sentence must build towards it.’ In Illustrated Short Fiction of […] Read More Fola_M
4/4 The Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016 Review from OnlineBookClub.org I did enjoy reading this book. As an avid reader and huge fan of short stories, this has to be among the best pieces I have read so far. The plots are written in beautiful and artistic ways that help readers form imagery as they read. All the themes discussed are very […] Read More nerdychikka
The Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016 Review from OnlineBookClub.org I appreciate the dark-adapted characters I have met in these stories. Characters that may easily be perceived as pure evil and malevolent until you get to know them more and realize how capable of goodness even these people can be. One example I can think of is Harry. The nature of his […] Read More Adrienne Abad-Alipe
4/4 The Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016 Review from OnlineBookClub.org Most of the stories in this book are exceptionally beautiful, unique, and come from different topics. Reading this book was a very interesting and exciting experience. Each ending is satisfying, even though most of them are sad and mysterious. At the end of my reading, I wondered which chapter was my favorite, […] Read More Viva Marina
The Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016 Review from OnlineBookClub.org I liked how his stories didn’t always have a “happy ending” but an ending that I had least expected. Although they hit us hard, they portrayed the reality of life. The stories are navigated based on human emotions and not based on anything that justifies which is right or wrong. The readers […] Read More MS Lefty
4/4 The Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016 Review from OnlineBookClub.org Another aspect that I like about this book is the uniqueness found in some of its short stories. Consider The Activist, for instance. The story doesn’t read like those I have read before. Told from the perspective of a young girl, this story has newness to it because it approaches activism from […] Read More kennedyodindo
4/4 The Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016 Review from OnlineBookClub.org I liked this book especially because of the uniqueness of each of the stories. I found each story different and interesting, and was amazed at how all those ideas could come from one person. I also liked the illustrations for each of the stories because they satisfied my imagination. They were all […] Read More Stella Bereebera
4/4 Creating Literary Stories Review from OnlineBookClub.org He introduces the book with an important definition of the term “Literary Fiction”, he clarifies that it is distinct from general fiction, memoir, creative non-fiction, auto biography and non-fiction. Further definitions and explanations give the readers insight into what authors do, and why they would prefer a certain literary work more than […] Read More FABIAN_BATS
4/4 Creating Literary Stories Review from OnlineBookClub.org I loved and enjoyed various things in the book. I liked how the author incorporated examples from famous literary works, such as Little Red Riding Hood and works of William Shakespeare like the famous play Hamlet, to illustrate themes in a way that is easy to grasp. I also loved how the […] Read More Manas Ranjan Mishra
4/4 Creating Literary Stories Review from OnlineBookClub.org I’m excited to have read this book. I’m keen to find out more about his other works. He anticipates that a novel should be well written without being compromised to the nature of the writer’s belief and environment. Inspiring writers would definitely find this book helpful. Coles gives sound counsel to the […] Read More apadanag
4/4 The Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016 Review from OnlineBookClub.org William H. Coles has put together an astonishing collection of thirty-three short stories, including breathtaking stories like; The gift, The Wreak of the Amtrak’s Silver Service and Nemesis. In his book, Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000- 2016, each character is caught in a specific situation- desperate to get out. […] Read More Angelique O 4
4/4 The Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016 Review from OnlineBookClub.org It was my first time reading the works of Mr. Coles. I didn’t know what to expect but I got the most unexpected tales. Some complex emotional traits, such as betrayal, despair and anguish, are touched upon. I was totally hooked to the pages. The narrations will leave you thinking to fill […] Read More Shubham Shah
The Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016 Review from OnlineBookClub.org I love how William H. Coles brought the characters to life in all the stories. Readers can feel the presence of the characters in the book and the different roles they played in each piece. There is nothing that I disliked about the book. The stories I found to be wholesome, and […] Read More Eva Nyaburi
4/4 The Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016 Review from OnlineBookClub.org I liked the book. The book grabbed me from the beginning till the end. There are no unnecessary events and situations which can distract the reader from reading this book. Many stories were opened, others ended in suspense while others were explained vividly. This book promotes moral values to young people in […] Read More Moseh2021
4/4 The Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016 Review from OnlineBookClub.org These stories were well-written and easy to read. The stories are about human nature filled with love, hope, hate, and lust. But also with love lost, lost chances, hardships, sickness and so much more. I think what struck me most about these stories was love. We, humans, crave to be loved. To […] Read More Adelle v
4/4 The Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016 Review from OnlineBookClub.org Coles has addressed the major common issues of every society, ensuring that no particular race is being scolded, as the plots are set in different regions and cities of Africa, Asia, and Europe. The characters are real descriptions of the author’s ability to develop unique characters with uncanny endings. His style in […] Read More The Reviewer63
4/4 The Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016 Review from OnlineBookClub.org Do you love reading short stories? Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 by William H. Coles will be your go-to book, containing life lessons. The writer did a great job in this book; it consisted of short stories with topics that teach valuable lessons and make it enjoyable. Also, as […] Read More Mvjdarling
4/4 The Spirit of Want Review from OnlineBookClub.org The Spirit of Want by Williams H. Coles is the story of a woman who never knew how to love because she never allowed herself to feel loved by her foster family. This was the foundation of a series of unfortunate events for her aided by the decisions she made. Fortunately, Luke […] Read More cutecandy90
4/4 McDowell Review from OnlineBookClub.org William H. Coles provides such a crazy yet believable story. Hiram McDowell is such a complex character who we love to hate, especially at the start of his story. Many events that happen are so surprising yet fit right into Hiram McDowell’s life. We are able to see things that are a […] Read More dpadgett1
Creating Literary Stories Review from OnlineBookClub.org I really enjoyed almost every aspect of the book. As an aspiring author, I really benefited a lot from the many teachings that were there. I learnt how to begin and end a fictional story in a captivating way, how to use humor and suspense in the story, and also how to […] Read More Caleb 044

Read latest reviews of the works of William H. Coles: McDowell, The Spirit of Want, Guardian of Deceit, The Surgeon's Wife, Sister Carrie, Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles.


“The writing is gorgeous and Coles’ ability to build a strong connection between readers and characters — thanks to the intelligent use of realism in the writing —augments the entertainment potential of the story. McDowell is a winner for fans of literary fiction and psychological thrillers with characters that are robust and complex.”

Read the entire review at The Book Commentary

how write literary fiction

Collections available on Kindle Short Stories and Novels (free on Kindle Unlimited)

how write literary fiction

Reviews from Goodreads.com:

Mcdowell, the spirit of want, the surgeon's wife and guardian of deceit reviews, literary fiction story series 2 - short fiction reviews, creating literary story reviews.


All novels available as audiobooks at audible

Read audiobook reviews here.

"I have rarely listened to short stories, preferring to read them, but I've decided to listen to these. The first time around, I listen purely to the story to see if it moves me; the second time around, I listen with an ear that tries to analyze where they succeed. Interestingly, this process in the second run denotes that the story has in fact moved me or I wouldn't give it a second listen. I'm beginning to really enjoy the process. I've written enough creatively through the years to see the words on a page by listening only. I think Mr. Coles succeeds on a number of levels. For example, in "A Simple Life," the dialogue is great and gives a lot of information about the characters, using vernacular language that not only presents the listener/reader with insight as to who the people are but it hints at what they might look like. Likewise, he endows them with certain physical, mental, and emotional qualities that further brings them to life. To do so simply and deftly is truly a talent. I also listened to this story in terms of narration, how he is handling this part of writing a short story, something I've been focusing my attention on in my own writing. Again, I think he succeeds in this realm, probably the most difficult thing I'm trying to hone right now."

Essays: The Art of Writing Literary Stories

William H. Coles

Story: what to do

Philosophy: write for the right reasons

Craft: do it well.

how write literary fiction

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NEW! Story in Fiction Podcast

The award-winning stories and novels of William H. Coles. Each unique, character-based with dramatic plots, and written as an art form to engage, entertain, and enlighten. Read by the author.

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how write literary fiction

Award-winning short stories by William H. Coles, read or listen online for FREE.

how write literary fiction

Learn the art of writing great literary fiction:

Beauty and the Building of Character in a Literary Story

Is it, or is it not, irony, interviews by william h. coles, novels by william h. coles.

how write literary fiction

Guardian Of Deceit

Darwin Hastings is seventeen and his dying aunt sends him from Pittsburgh to New York to a new guardian, a famous wealthy football player. He is excited and afraid.

how write literary fiction

Lucy MacMiel is a successful trial lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, married, who falls in love with a client accused of sexual assault on a girl. He is a famous and powerful faith-healing evangelist.

how write literary fiction

The Surgeon's Wife

A New Orleans aristocrat and doctor, Clayton Otherson, is an aging national leader in the field of trauma surgery who begins to injure patients with his unacceptable technical and judgmental mistakes.

how write literary fiction

An admired and lauded surgeon climbs to the top of his profession. But his callous and questionably moral determination angers colleagues and friends who vow to destroy him.

how write literary fiction

A literary psychological thriller by award-winning author William H. Coles. Two orphaned sisters, facing a future of want and loneliness.

Illustrated Short Fiction by William H. Coles

The collection of thirty-three award-winning short stories, two graphic novels, and the novella Sister Carrie is available in print and as ebook at Amazon ( Kindle click here ) and Barnes & Noble . The stories are crafted by William H. Coles with artistic intensity for engagement and entertainment. Each short story is illustrated by one of six artists commissioned for the story. “Coles’s stories are inspiring, memorable, and enjoyable–a treasured addition to any library.” Read reviews and more.

More Features: Literary   Fiction Workshop

Literary fiction workshop.

Challenging exercises for improving creative writing with free critiques and the work of other students for comparison.

Submit your work for interactive instruction. Teaching targeted to creating literary stories rather than fixing existing works for publication or contests.

About Things Literray Opening Lines Women Authors

Great stories / Books on writing

Great stories: recommended classic and contemporary literary fiction for enjoyment and learning—short fiction and novels.

Workshop Advice

What should you look for in a creative writing workshop to assure maximum learning and value? How to critique manuscripts. What to expect.

Kenyon Lectures

Narration in Literary Fiction: Making the Right Choices , June 22, 2010 How Humor Works in Fiction , June 25, 2009 Presented by William H. Coles at Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio.

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Two Graphic Novels by William H. Coles, illustrated by Peter Healy:

Reddog Homunculus

Enjoy art from the website in the Online Gallery . You can purchase images in a number of different formats in the Online Store.

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Story in Literary Fiction

The search for new ways of thinking about and creating effective dialogue are crucial to great characters and great writing... Improve your character's dialogue. READ-- ow.ly/GzCC50EI1pz #dialogue #believable #words #actions #emotion ... Read More Show Less

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Would you like to UNDERSTAND more about narration in successful literary STORYTELLING? Read NEW ESSAY by award-winning author of FICTION and STORY in CREATIVE WRITING, by William H. COLES, here: ow.ly/fWhj50CmLEo ... Read More Show Less

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  1. Literary Fiction Writing

    Vintage Wisdom (Good and Bad): 14 Short Fiction Writing Tips From 1929. Writer's Digest editors selected their favorite fiction writing tips from the 1929 WD magazine article "The Way to the Fiction House Market" by Jack Byrne

  2. Literary Fiction

    According to Goodreads, the term “literary fiction” came into vogue in the 1960s to distinguish serious fiction from popular (aka, genre) fiction. Many literary classics were popular fiction at the time they were written

  3. Literary Fiction

    Phil Ivory / reading flash fiction, Probably Last Meeting of Bluebell Ridge II Homeowners Association. Donna Aversa / reading flash fiction, A Little Bit Of Sausage

  4. How to Write Literary Fiction in 6 Steps

    Second, literary fiction shines a light on the human condition, and in doing so it isn't always a ‘happy' read. Whereas genre fiction aims primarily to entertain, literary fiction, it might be argued

  5. Literary Fiction vs Popular Fiction

    If you're a book lover, you'll often hear the words ‘popular fiction' and ‘literary fiction' being bandied about. While literary fiction aims to hold up a mirror to the human condition, popular fiction aims to entertain

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    Welcome to Writing Tips Oasis's guide on the one genre that a lot of writers secretly wish to excel at: literary fiction. Literary fiction is widely considered to be superior to genre fiction – wherein genre fiction is considered commercial

  7. Story in Literary Fiction

    Read latest reviews of the works of William H. Coles: McDowell, The Spirit of Want, Guardian of Deceit, The Surgeon's Wife, Sister Carrie, Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles. Creating Literary Stories: A Fiction Writer's Guide