Being aware of your genre can help you contextualize your story but remember—just because you may have been writing towards a certain kind of genre, it may not mean that’s what your story actually is.
Common Genres include:
- Thriller –built around the fast-paced pursuit of a life-or-death goal.
- Fantasy – typified by fantastic aspects, such as magic.
- Sci-fi – Sometimes called ‘speculative’ fiction. Fiction typified by scientific aspects, such as nonexistent technology or alternative realities.
- Horror – instilling dread or fear in the reader. Sometimes but not always featuring supernatural aspects.
- Mystery – solving of a mysterious set of circumstances.
- Crime – typified by a focus on criminal activities.
- Historical – set within a defined time period but drawing context from the cultural understanding of that time.
- Western – typified by aspects of the American frontier.
- Romance –focuses on a romantic relationship as the source of its drama.
- Erotica – primarily intended to instill arousal in the reader.
- Literary – focuses on realistic, weighty issues, typified by character-focused writing and a lack of other genre features.
- Adventure Story
A genre of fiction in which action is the key element, overshadowing characters, theme and setting. … The conflict in an adventure story is often man against nature. A secondary plot that reinforces this kind of conflict is sometimes included.
- Biographical Novel
A life story documented in history and transformed into fiction through the insight and imagination of the writer. This type of novel melds the elements of biographical research and historical truth into the framework of a novel, complete with dialogue, drama and mood. A biographical novel resembles historical fiction, save for one aspect: Characters in a historical novel may be fabricated and then placed into an authentic setting; characters in a biographical novel have actually lived.
- Ethnic Fiction
Stories and novels whose central characters are black, Native American, Italian American, Jewish, Appalachian or members of some other specific cultural group. Ethnic fiction usually deals with a protagonist caught between two conflicting ways of life: mainstream American culture and his ethnic heritage.
- Fictional Biography
The biography of a real person that goes beyond the events of a person’s life by being fleshed out with imagined scenes and dialogue. The writer of fictional biographies strives to make it clear that the story is, indeed, fiction and not history.
This type of category fiction dates back to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Contemporary gothic novels are characterized by atmospheric, historical settings and feature young, beautiful women who win the favor of handsome, brooding heroes—simultaneously dealing successfully with some life-threatening menace, either natural or supernatural. Gothics rely on mystery, peril, romantic relationships and a sense of foreboding for their strong, emotional effect on the reader.
- Historical Fiction – story set in a recognizable period of history. As well as telling the stories of ordinary people’s lives, historical fiction may involve political or social events of the time.
- Horror – includes certain atmospheric breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces.
- Juvenile – intended for an audience usually between the ages of two and sixteen. The language must be appropriate for the age of the reader, the subject matter must be of interest to the target age group, the opening of the work must be vivid enough to capture the reader’s attention and the writing throughout must be action-oriented enough to keep it with the use of suspense and the interplay of human relationships. Categories are usually divided in this way: (1) picture and storybooks (ages two to nine)… ; (2) easy-to-read books (ages seven to nine)… ; (3) “middle-age” [also called “middle grade”] children’s books (ages eight to twelve)… ; (4) young adult books (ages twelve to sixteen.
- Literary Fiction vs. Commercial Fiction
Literary, or serious, fiction, style and technique are often as important as subject matter. Commercial fiction is written with the intent of reaching as wide an audience as possible. It is sometimes called genre fiction because books of this type often fall into categories, such as western, gothic, romance, historical, mystery and horror.
- Mainstream Fiction – transcends popular novel categories—mystery, romance or science fiction, [etc.] and is called mainstream fiction. Using conventional methods, this kind of fiction tells stories about people and their conflicts but with greater depth of characterization, background, etc. than the more narrowly focused genre novels.
- Nonfiction Novel – real events and people are written [about] in novel form but are not camouflaged and written in a novelistic structure.
- Popular Fiction
Generally, a synonym for category or genre fiction; i.e., fiction intended to appeal to audiences for certain kinds of novels. … Popular, or category, fiction is defined as such primarily for the convenience of publishers, editors, reviewers and booksellers who must identify novels of different areas of interest for potential readers.
- Psychological Novel
A narrative that emphasizes the mental and emotional aspects of its characters, focusing on motivations and mental activities rather than on exterior events.
- Roman a Clef
The French term for “novel with a key.” This type of novel incorporates real people and events into the story under the guise of fiction.
- Romance Novel – the romance novel is a type of category fiction in which the love relationship between a man and a woman pervades the plot.
- Romantic Suspense Novel – romantic suspense novel is a modern emergence of early gothic writing and differs from traditional suspense novels because it moves more slowly and has more character interplay and psychological conflict than the fast-paced violence of [most] suspense thrillers.
- Science Fiction [vs. Fantasy]
Science fiction can be defined as literature involving elements of science and technology as a basis for conflict, or as the setting for a story.
- Techno-Thriller – utilizes many of the same elements as the thriller, with one major difference. In techno-thrillers, technology becomes a major character.
- Thriller – intended to arouse feelings of excitement or suspense focusing on illegal activities, international espionage, sex and violence.
- Young Adult – refers to books published for young people between the ages of twelve and seventeen.
Do real research, describe aesthetic/tone/vibe over content, and be open to adjusting your decision down the line as you grow more accustomed to working with genres.
Genre is different from age group
Genre isn’t the age group you’re writing for. Age group and genre are often said together, so it’s easy to think they’re the same, but they’re not. For example: Young adult is the age group – Spy and thriller are the genres.
The primary age groups are:
– Board books: Newborn to age 3
– Picture books: Ages 3–8
– Colouring and activity books: Ages 3–8
– Novelty books: Ages 3 and up, depending on content
– Early, levelled readers: Ages 5–9
– First chapter books: Ages 6–9 or 7–10
– Middle-grade books: Ages 8–12
– Young adult (YA) novels: Ages 12 and up or 14 and up
Choose a primary genre
When you pick your primary genre, you’re identifying the most prominent elements of your book. Ask the following questions.
You may have a handful of these elements in your book but when picking a primary genre focus on the most dominant aspects of your novel.
Is there magic?
If the answer is yes, then your book is most likely a fantasy. Is it set it in a fictional world that you created from scratch (like Lord of the Rings)? Then you probably have a high fantasy. Or is it built into our own world? If so it is most likely an urban fantasy.
Is it a fairy tale or a fairy tale retelling then you might want to classify your book as such.
Are there paranormal creatures (such as vampires, zombies, etc.)?
If there are, then it could be a fantasy, or it could be a supernatural/paranormal. Fantasy and paranormal are closely related and share some overlap, so it comes down to what is the more dominant element. If the magic is the more dominant element, then you have a fantasy. If the creatures are the more dominant element, then it’s supernatural.
When is it set?
If it’s set in the past, it’s probably a historical fiction. If it’s set in the present, you’ve got a contemporary and if it’s set in the future, it’s probably science fiction.
Where is it set?
If it’s set in this world, it might be a historical or contemporary. If it’s set in a world you made up, it might be some kind of fantasy or science fiction.
Is there manipulated science/technology?
If you are using significant manipulation of the science, we know today it’s likely to be science fiction. If you have time travel, then you could consider it science fiction.
Is there an element of mystery/crime to solve?
If the main purpose of your plot is mystery, then this is the genre you will use.
Is it laugh-out-loud funny?
If it is, then you’ve got a comedy
Is it a tear-jerker or a book with a lot of interpersonal conflicts?
Then it’s probably some form of drama.
Is there a romance?
Use the romance genre when the central plot of the book is a romantic relationship.
Is it intended to scare?
Then you’ve got a horror.
Is it “literary”?
If it’s a deep book, rich with symbolism and deeper meaning that’s meant to be dissected an analyzed than you most likely have written a work of literary fiction.
Is it action packed?
If your book is littered with action scenes like fights and car chases, then you have an action or thriller on your hands.
Is it about a terrible version of this world?
Then you’re looking at a dystopian.
Now decide which elements you think are the strongest/most prominent. That’s your primary genre.
Do your research
Make sure you do your research and have a good understanding of genre conventions. Readers of each genre have certain expectations. While you can most definitely take some liberties, you want to make sure you’re giving your readers what they’re looking for.
Note*** I did a series of posts throughout 2018 detailing every genre if you want to scroll through put ‘genres’ in the search box.***