Pop Fiction vs Literary Fiction: The Debate Continues

We all know that literature today has so many different genres and categories, and also that not all of them enjoy the same level of appreciation or popularity. Literature majors, academics, and the like tend to look down on what could be referred to as ‘Pop Fiction’. They don’t consider it ‘literary’ enough. 

What’s The Difference?

But what do these terms even mean? How exactly do we define the difference between the two? Pop fiction, also known as genre fiction, is pretty much what the masses read today. They are plot-driven works of fiction which are divided under different genres. Some of those would be Romance, Horror, Mystery, Fantasy, Science Fiction, and so on. Literary fiction, on the other hand, consists of works that do not fall under a genre. They are considered to have something termed as ‘literary merit’. 

In literary fiction, there is more focus on the characters as compared to the plot. The characters are said to be the ones driving the story. It is much more realistic as it is set in real life situations. Moreover, something can be learnt out of it (as can be seen by the fact that what we are taught in our classes is in fact literary fiction). Another realistic aspect is that these works are almost always influenced by the author’s surroundings at the time. The purpose of literary fiction is to serve as a mirror, or a reflection of humanity. It explores real issues, human values, and the like.


Pop fiction is plot-driven, and doesn’t particularly have to be realistic. It is what teenagers and young adults are often seen reading these days. It is often considered as an escape from reality. Some of these stories are set in completely different universes, transporting the reader to imaginary worlds. The purpose of pop fiction is to serve as entertainment, as an escape from reality. 

With regards to language, literary authors use language much more carefully and intricately, weaving each sentence with care and using devices like metaphors and foreshadowing to display meaning. Pop fiction, though it could also be written beautifully it may come out often simpler than literary fiction. 

Pop Fiction Is Less ‘Worthy’?

Many literature majors, academics and critics these days often believe that genre fiction does not deserve any merit and shouldn’t be considered as Literature. On the other hand, the masses generally prefer to read genre fiction and are often of the opinion that literary fiction is boring. To put it in short, literary fiction is considered art whereas genre fiction is considered escapism. There is a common belief that brands pop fiction as being ‘less worthy’ to read in comparison to literary fiction.

But is it right to completely look down on one in favor of the other? In both cases, we must give appreciation where it is due as both have their own merits.

As a matter of fact, some critics do recommend reading different genres as they believe it breeds empathy within people and makes them more sensitive. It’s also a form of entertainment and is easily enjoyed by many. We can’t just rule out one as being unworthy. People can have different opinions and preferences on which out of the two they prefer but it wouldn’t be perfectly right to downplay the other as it too is written with much effort to move people or give them enjoyment, etc. Credit should be given where it is due. Both forms of literature have their own merits. And at the same time, there could be works from each that don’t quite meet the requirements to be called good literature. Just like everything, each has the good and the bad.

Personally, genre fiction is more my cup of tea, simply because I enjoy it more. It’s much easier for me to comprehend and I find myself much more captivated while reading it. When reading literary works I feel the need to put in much more effort to be able to truly absorb all the meaning in it and appreciate it fully. I read books for entertainment and thus genre fiction agrees with me. If you turn to literature to learn and explore the realities of the world, then literary fiction may be for you. Just because they are two different styles of writing with different purposes, doesn’t have to mean that either should be considered lesser than the other.    


By Fawzia Morad Elmasry 

Featured image credits: https://lenleatherwood.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/literary-vs-genre-fiction-what-are-the-differences/