Popular fiction, also known as genre fiction, refers to the various fiction genres and types that have proved to be popular with wide audiences. This is opposite from literary fiction, which tends to be more academic, invites analyses and has a more narrow market among the scholarly. Also known as mass market fiction, this type of work is typically divided into genres such as mystery, romance, horror, adventure, science fiction and fantasy.
The focus of most popular fiction is the plot. Readers want to see a well-defined and interesting plot, with plenty of complications and conflicts to keep them entertained. The conflicts might be physical between characters or might involve problems that characters must solve. Characters in these types of works might be embroiled in verbal fights with one another or might have a murder mystery that they must solve.
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Unlike some literary fiction, conflict in pop fiction must either be resolved totally or at least wind down toward a resolution by the end. It tends to have more of a clearly defined resolution of conflict by the end of the story. Literary fiction might end without any resolution whatsoever to the conflicts presented.
Since the purpose of popular fiction is to appeal to the general public, it has to be written in a way that sells. It is marketed toward the interests of the public. Pop fiction authors who are serious about being published might have to make sure that their writing conforms to the guidelines of publishers who develop their guidelines based on what the general public will buy.
The opposite of this type of fiction is literary fiction. Literary fiction can be said to come more from the writer than popular fiction, which comes directly from the desires of the general public to increase its sales. Also, literary fiction is concerned with ideas and deep thought, and it is a manifestation of self-expression for the author as opposed to being driven by popularity in the market. Literary fiction tends to focus more on the characters, giving them considerable psychological depth, and on the universal issues of life and existence, whereas popular fiction is more concerned with keeping audiences interested through the plot and might sometimes have characters who lack depth.