I Write Literary Fiction…But What Is It?

Sonee Singh
4 min readJan 19, 2023
Author’s Own

At the heart of any type of fiction is storytelling. People love stories, they have since the beginning of time. Stories were recorded when we developed the ability to communicate. Stories are captivating because we love to find ourselves in them, discover something we find relatable, and identify with something that makes us feel less alone, and more human.

I write literary fiction, but I often get asked what that means. Fiction comes in many genres, and there are particular characteristics to each type. Literary Fiction is a broad genre that includes anything that isn’t crime, fantasy, romance, horror, or science fiction. It tends to be more character-driven than plot-driven in that the focus of the writing is the protagonist’s journey rather than the sequence of events.

A character-driven plot means that the purpose is to create characters that are unexpected or unusual. Literary fiction usually works under the assumption that life isn’t always fair, that happiness is not something that is taken for granted, and that human life is mortal and ambiguous. Events are important, but not as crucial to the story line as in other types of fiction.

The most important element to any type of writing is the story. According to the book Writing Fiction; A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway, “A story is a series of events recorded in their chronological order” (p. 142). She says that stories have characters, themes, setting, and incidents or events but they may or may not have significance.

Story is different from plot, and plot is what is essential to most types of fiction. Plot, according to Burroway, “is a series of events deliberately arranged so as to reveal their dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance” (p. 142). The events are organized in a way that is meaningful and purposeful, and the focus is on the “what, how, and why, with scenes ordered to highlight the workings of cause and effect” (p. 142).

When it is a character-driven plot, what takes precedence is the protagonist’s personal development or growth. This is the case with Lonely Dove where the purpose of the story is to showcase Anji, the protagonist, and her journey of self-discovery.

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Sonee Singh

Novelist, poet, avid reader, Dr. of Divinity, cross-cultural seeker of deep knowing. Novels: Lonely Dove, Can You Be. Poetry books: Embody, Embrace, Embolden