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Thread: What is Mainstream/Contemporary?

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  1. #37
    The Anti-Magdalene KellyAssauer's Avatar
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    Mar 2006
    Anytime you sit down to try and figure out all the different labels for fiction, the first thing you have to do is ask where the labels originate!

    Some come from Book Stores, some from College courses, more yet from writers and agents trying to be as specific as possible with what the book offers.

    Fiction has its groupings by age:
    Middle Grade (MG)
    Young Adult (YA)
    New Adult (NA) *until I'm told otherwise, I'm keeping New Adult under this age listing since the subject of NA novels can differ greatly between published samples.

    -Oddly- most book stores would classify any book written to these specific age groups as being in the children/MG/YA/NA section. The theme, or setting, or 'manner' of story does not matter. The style of writing can vary greatly.

    Once the story becomes written for an adult... then we get more classifications!

    Genre fiction:
    Romance *Note: Contemporary Romance as a sub-grouping within the 'romance genre' has come to mean a romance that is: not historical, and does not contain any paranormal or suspense (thriller type) elements. (per Gingerwoman post 43).
    Science Fiction
    *one might include erotica here as well*

    Fiction novels which make this list of "genre fiction" offer a theme or setting that are somewhat 'expected' by reader. However, the style of writing can -again- vary greatly.

    Contemporary fiction

    Some say it's fiction set during 'our' time period - meaning the lifespan of anyone living today - which is quite a stretch. Others say that the 'Contemporary' label can be attributed to any fiction novel that was written with a setting equal to the times it was written in. Meaning any fiction novel ever written that had an internal "setting" that was of the same time period of the writer... is also contemporary. Also, these can be written in many different styles.

    Mainstream Fiction:

    Means it's for the adults, but... it's not genre fiction!
    It could be contemporary! Mainstream fiction also implies an acceptance of the story and characters by a wide range of people or large audience. You could call it 'general' fiction.
    Yet, it too, can be written in many different styles of prose.

    *also note that according to sales - any fiction novel might become what is considered mainstream: in that the work has sold to a huge general population. This definition of 'mainstream' is a label that is created after publication and is only used to describe the identity of the audience that the book sales encompassed. If your horror novel sold across a wide range of the population, then it became mainstream. It doesn't mean that once the sales peter off that it isn't still a horror novel.

    Literature: (aka "the classics")

    Once upon a time, somewhere in the hallowed halls of academia, learned scholars decided that a course in 'Literature' needed to exist. (If for no other reason than to bore students to death) "Literature" now is often offered as a shelf of books that are assembled together in a historical or academic grouping. The texts chosen for this honor... have for some reason stood the 'test of time' and the themes, or the audacity of publication, or the truths told, or an appreciation of the language therein... etc. etc. etc. have somehow marked these works to be considered "literature" - or to have some 'literary' merit - but these should not be confused with the writing category or bookstore shelf of 'literary fiction'. Novels on the 'Literature' shelf can and have been plucked from all the subgroups mentioned above!

    Literary Fiction:

    Isn't exactly a genre, and it isn't exactly a well defined sub group. We can 'tell' by reading these books that maybe they aren't so 'mainstream' but they can be contemporary.

    Many different things apply to what may be 'literary fiction' but most people agree that perhaps the fiction has a very peculiar style to the writing. Or perhaps there isn't so much plot and it's the characters that are the plot... or perhaps it's the unusual way that the time sequence is jumbled together or perhaps it's sub-plots upon sub-plots, or the level of difficulty in the reading or that the 'reading level' is far advanced or complicated...

    Oddly... any of these 'perhaps' qualities can show up in any of the above sub groups... so what exactly is on the Literary Fiction shelf may be the whim of the book store owner, or perhaps these are the works of an author that has previously won a big award and now everyone just assumes that all of their work should be 'literary'... or maybe these are stories that just do not fit mainstream? There as many reasons why an author might end up on the 'literary fiction' table as there are reasons why the fiction is defined as literary...


    I know you may not all agree with the ways I just defined the fiction novel... so if you can provide clear evidence and examples as to why I should change a definition...

    I'd love to hear it!

    Let's get this craziness out of our way so we can all agree on it... and then get back to writing our kind of fiction!! =)
    Last edited by KellyAssauer; 01-03-2016 at 07:40 PM.
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