When I was younger, I didn’t quite understand that adding random gore, nudity and swearing did not in fact make a story more mature. I’d always been under the impression that dark, cynical fiction equals good fiction. Naturally, this is not the case.
Darkness and grittiness are just flavours for fiction, not different dishes, and not everyone enjoys the same flavours. The fact that a story is as dark as one starless night does not make it good by default, despite what you may hear. Though some people, indeed quite a few people, are attracted to dark/grimdark fiction, it’s not really what people are there for. It’s really the same thing that attracts people to all fiction: substance, the dish itself if I may continue the food metaphor.
Adding the above things willy-nilly makes Adult Fiction, a markedly different thing to mature fiction. Adult Fiction (not that kind) is simply fiction which is inaccessible to younger audiences. Not useless, not by any means, but certainly more niche than most writers look to be. And it’s easy to mock this sort of fiction as being ‘edgy’.
Mature Fiction, on the other hand, contains mature subject matter, ie substance, and deals with it in a mature way. That is to say it is well handled and well crafted. It does not necessarily have to be down in the dumps or even of negative tone and mood. That’s a stylistic or atmospheric choice. Mature Fiction generally has depth and weight to it that makes it last longer and hit harder than Adult Fiction. It certainly can be gritty and bloody, but it does not have to be. For that reason, it can be accessed by whoever cares to consume it.
Fiction is what it is, whatever that may mean to you. Making it last is difficult but not impossible.
Thanks for reading and enjoy your day.