The New Yorker blog "Page-Turner" has a very interesting two-part post by Michael Cunningham on his work on the Pulitzer fiction jury this year, when no Pulitzer for fiction was awarded. The whole story is quite interesting, but for present purposes, these are the tidbits:
Fiction involves trace elements of magic; it works for reasons we can explain and also for reasons we can’t. .... A great work of fiction involves a certain frisson that occurs when its various components cohere and then ignite. The cause of the fire should, to some extent, elude the experts sent to investigate.
We loved each of the authors for their triumphs over the forces of banality, contrivance, predictability, thinness, falseness, randomness, tidiness, and all the other forces that defeat almost everyone reckless enough to write fiction at all.
Once again, for "fiction," say "poetry."