The Difference between Genre Fiction and Contemporary Fiction
This is of course the first and foremost characteristics standing out in a literary work. Literary merit is not really limited to contemporary fiction, since all literary compositions hold a certain degree of merit. Simply put, it is a certain degree of aesthetic value. So a good contemporary fiction should be able to maintain its freshness even through the march of time. Their characters should be realistic and multi-dimensional, having a definite character with complex emotions only concerned with what's real and what's true. Critics and the like usually start dissecting contemporary fiction works through literary merit.
More often than not, characters in literary fiction are subject to a deep study, which shows us their layers of experience, emotions, thoughts and even behavior. The reason for this is that in most works under this category, it will have an introspective view. This will examine the thoughts and feelings of its main characters in wondrous detail, allowing deeper empathy and understanding of humans in general.
A lot of contemporary fiction works do not hold the plot as it main focus because, more often than not, a novel in this category will not involve solving something, as if adding two elements in order to produce a result to solve the plot. The focus is shifted to the inner narrative—the emotions, the struggles and other important character developments associated to the protagonist. On the contrary, in a genre fiction, like mystery, most writers focus on who did what—how the villain will be caught and how the mystery will be unraveled and solved. For horror, we would really want to know who (or maybe what) is killing off various teenagers in a camp, for instance. Bottom line is, genre fiction will utilize the plot to find out the problem and fix it—the protagonist is the vessel used to solve the problem, so we are often given limited character depth.
For contemporary fiction, the prose should be more or less lyrical, elegantly written and with layers. Compared to genre fiction, this category uses a more elevated vocabulary. The reason for this is that the use of such might certainly turn off or even eliminate a good portion of your audience because genre fiction often focuses on the appeal of the masses. Actually, if you would look at the more accomplished contemporary fiction authors of today, it is easy to see from their prose that the vocabulary they are using is complex, poetic and deep. It will slow down most readers, since they'll probably need to look up unfamiliar words or derive their meaning based out of context. Comparing it to the accomplished genre fiction authors, with their workman-like prose quality, you will see a huge disparity.
As said earlier, contemporary fiction will lean more towards seriousness, but a lot of times this could be applied to genre fiction as well. Serious topics like genocide, murder and gore are also discussed by the latter. But when it comes to the degree of seriousness, contemporary fiction could definitely outclass genre fiction. The former will tend to ask big questions relating to existentialism, like "Why are we here?" and maybe answering it in a confounding manner. By far, the majority of topics presented by genre fiction could be about vampires and werewolves or other mythological creatures, which could be riveting, but the degree of seriousness is nothing compared to contemporary fiction.
Contemporary fiction is slower to read. More often than not, the pacing is slow in order to allow character development and other things like layering or weaving of a more lyrical voice; thus, overall the story will take a longer time to finish. With that, some readers might call this category "dry," which makes people perceive it as slow and boring. It would really depend on people though, because readers who love details will surely find the pacing of a contemporary fiction to their liking.
It is very fascinating to see the development of both contemporary and genre fiction. The basis of a good story or reading experience for each of us is varied, where the same book could inspire a reader and just entertain another. As such, it is a subjective experience for all of us, and it depends on our perspective on the kind of fiction that would appeal to us. If you want a fast-paced, plot-centric story, genre fiction is for you. If you want a slow-paced, character-centric work, the contemporary fiction will be the better choice.