Mainstream fiction is a general term publishers and booksellers use to describe both commercial and literary works that depict a daily reality familiar to most people.
These books, usually set in the 20th or present-day 21st century, have at their core a universal theme that attracts a broad audience. Mainstream books deal with such myriad topics as family issues, coming of age initiations, courtroom dramas, career matters, physical and mental disabilities, social pressures, political intrigue, and more. Regardless of original genre or category, most of the novels that appear on the bestseller list are considered mainstream, whether the author is Sue Grafton, Arundhati Roy, Michael Crichton, or David Guterson.
In addition to mainstream fiction, more narrowly defined categories of popular fiction appeal to specific audiences. These different fiction categories, which are described briefly in the sections that follow, are classed as a group as genre fiction. Each type of genre fiction has its own set of rules and conventions. So, if you want to try your hand at writing fiction, start with what you like to read. A solid grounding in the conventions of your chosen genre helps a great deal, so the more familiar you are with the books in it, the better.
If, for example, you’re a voracious reader of mysteries, look closely at the conventions in the work of Agatha Christie, P.D. James, or whoever your favorite mystery writer is. If you can’t get enough of Jennifer Wilde’s historical romances, that may be where you start. Likewise, if the thrillers of Le Carre or the westerns of Louis Lamour are on your bedside table, make those your model as you embark on writing your novel.