Escape vs. Interpretive Fiction

By Cassia Schaar

Until a few months ago, I had know idea that there were two categories that all fictional novels fit into.

The first type is Escape Literature. The primary focus of these novels is to entertain the readers. I’m pretty sure that most books these days fall under this category…or least the ones that I read and write. The authors of this type of fiction are interested in an obvious and immediate response. For example: if a character dies, they’re hoping the readers feel sorrow (or joy if it’s the antagonist) and if two lovers finally get together, they want people to feel elation towards the event.

“Yah they’re finally together! They were made for each other!”

There’s not really a deep meaning to a death or a couple getting together. When an event like that happens in my stories, I don’t really think of them as symbolic to anything. But interpretive fiction writers do.

Interpretive literature is meant to expand life awareness and to communicate truths of human existence. It also is used to illuminate some aspect of life and to understand life situations. So when someone dies, maybe they symbolize the fall of a society.

Pretty much every book that you read in school for a novel study will be interpretive rather than escape. These types of books make you think. Most biographies are interpretive non-fiction as the person the story is about discovers something that changes their life, creating a dominant theme in the story.

But this doesn’t mean that escape novels don’t have a theme; they do; every novel has a theme. But let’s take a look at the difference between themes in interpretive and escape stories. I did some research on some popular books in both categories and found some of their dominate ideas.


The Hunger Games

-The inequality between the rich and poor

-Suffering for entertainment

-Evolving Identity

-The importance of appearances



-Physical and self Isolation

-Personal choices

-Forbidden love



-The dangers of totalitarianism

-Psychological Manipulation

-Control of Information and History

-Language as mind control

The Giver

-Escaping the world through death

-Importance of human emotion

-The dangers of stability and predictability

-The relationship between memories and wisdom

See the difference?

Once I figured all this out I was actually pretty disappointed with myself for reading and writing more escape fiction than interpretive. I want people to read my books and not only enjoy them, but ask questions while they read. I really do want symbols in my novel and I want to show people a new perspective on life. Sure it’s going to be more work, but it will be completely worth it.

The key is, to read a lot of interpretive fiction (and non-fiction) so that you can write it easily. Of course everyone says that but I guess it just goes to show how important it is!

What do you read and write more of? Escape or Interpretive literature?

5 thoughts on “Escape vs. Interpretive Fiction

  1. Excellent post! I’d never thought about them being separate categories. . . I’d just labeled them as stuff that made me think and stuff that was just fluffy. My own writing? Bah, it’d probably be considered an escape, though I think of it more as interpretive. The only difference is that it probably interprets more for me than it would the reader. I went in thinking of some of my nations as political parties and other such stuff. But it probably reads more like an escape.

  2. There’s nothing wrong with escape fiction. Think of people who are sick, lonely, or have a bad home life. . Yes, obviously, it’s good to have your book be more than “junk food” and give the reader something to think about, but there’s nothing wrong with a book being escape.

    • No you’re right, escape fiction is awesome! I love reading escape fiction! And let’s face it, I may add some deeper themes to my novel but it’s probably going to be escape 😀

  3. Great post! I never viewed it like this before, even though I have always judged which books are “junk food” volumes and which ones aren’t. I read a ton more interpretive than I do escape, however, lately, I’ve been indulging in some of the latter. My book is a mix of the two.

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