by Tamera Lynn Kraft
Genres are fluid things. They change from time to time, and sometimes a novel fits in more than one genre. Sometimes your novel will not fit easily in any specific genre. It would be easier if authors could check other for what genre their novels belong in, but publishers require us to label the genre. The reason genre categories are so important is because this is how publishers and book sellers define and market fiction to their readers. Genre is also important because readers use genre to choose what books novels they enjoy reading.
Like it or not, as an author, you need to decide what genre your novel falls under. The following is a list of genres, but it is not meant to be a complete list. There are some genres I include in my blog, let alone read, because as I Christian, I won’t promote them. So what’s your genre?
Age Classifications: There are four age classifications.
Children – Ages Birth to Twelve
Young Adult – Ages Twelve to Eighteen
New Adult – Ages Eighteen to Thirty (Coming of Age)
Adult – Eighteen and Above
Science Fiction: Stories often tell about science and technology. It is important to note that science fiction has a relationship with the principles of science—these stories involve partially true-partially fictitious laws or theories of science. It should not be completely unbelievable, because it then ventures into the genre fantasy.
- Hard science fiction: Classic science fiction, relies on science and technology
- Other Worlds: Setting on other planets
- First contact: First meeting between aliens and humans
- Space Exploration: Characters explore space.
- Cyberpunk: A bleak future of technological advances and computers, hacker, and computer/human hybrids
- Near-future science fiction: Takes place in the near future and include technology already here or in development
- Time Travel: Characters travel to the past or future, or are visited by time travelers.
- Military science fiction: Futuristic combat, weapons, and battling aliens. Heroism and the carnage of warfare are emphasized.
- Sociological science fiction: Future of the social sciences instead of the hard technology and focuses on individuals and social groups
- Light/humorous science fiction: Spoof science fiction. “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams is the best known in this sub-genre.
- Science fantasy/future fantasy: These stories have some elements of science but ignore the scientific principles involved
- Cross-Genre: Mix science fiction with fantasy, romance, mystery, suspense and other genres
- Space opera: Similar to Westerns where the good guys shoot them up with the bad guys – only the bad guys might be aliens or robots on another planet
Fantasy: Stories are often characterized by a departure from the accepted rules by which individuals perceive the world around them; it represents that which is impossible (unexplained) and outside the parameters of our known, reality. Make-believe is what this genre is all about.
- Fairy Tales and Mythology: Set in mythical lands with strange creatures
- Epic Fantasy: A young person thrown unexpectedly into a massive “Good vs. Evil” struggle, where he must become a hero to save the day. Often includes a “grail-finding” quest. J.R.R. Tolkien is the creator of this sub-genre with the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
- Heroic: Closely related to the epic fantasy and involves fantasy world, but heroes are not the young everyday characters. Magic is an accepted part of life in this sub-genre.
- Modern Fantasy: Tales of magic and wonder set in modern times
- Urban: Modern fantasy with a paranormal or supernatural element.
- Wuxia: Oriental fantasy involving Martial Arts, similar to the American Western where the lone hero saves the day
- Historic: Any fantasy set in historical times
- Romantic: Involves any fantasy story that surrounds a romantic relationship between two people
- Superhero: The heroes in these stories have super powers. Think comic books.
- Arthurian: These fantasy have a King Arthur setting.
- Dark Fantasy: Combines elements of fantasy with horror
Speculative: This is a catch-all term meant to inclusively span the breadth of fantastic literature, usually has a spiritual or supernatural element to it.
Subcategories not Included in Fantasy or Science Fiction:
- Alternate History: Stories where history changes
- Apocalypse/Holocaust: The end of the world as we know it
- Coming of Age: The human race takes a big evolutionary leap
- Dystopian: Dysfuntional utopias
- Slipstream: Set in our world but distorts things in some way
- Steampunk: Take a Victorian setting and give it modern technology, and you have steampunk.
Romance: Romantic Fiction has two strict criteria: The first is that the story must focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people. Secondly, the end of the story must be positive, leaving the reader believing that the protagonists’ love and relationship will endure for the rest of their lives. If those two criteria are not met, it’s not considered a romance. Romance may have any of the other genres as a subcategory.
Women’s Fiction: These stories generally appeal more to women than men. Usually the stories involve relationships, emotions, and a female main character. Sometimes women’s fiction has strong romantic elements, but the romance is not the main story.
Mystery: Intrigue, who-done-it’s, crime solving are major ingredients of the mystery genre. Basically the main character has a mystery or crime to solve. This mystery can involve murder, but it doesn’t have to.
- Whodunit: A detective works to discover hidden clues and solve the crime, usually murder. Written in one point of view, usually the main character and almost always in first person.
- Amateur Detective: The main character is not a police detective but is very invested in solving the crime.
- Cozy Mystery: The amateur detective, usually a women who lives in a small town or village where she knows everyone, is a likable, nosy, and trustworthy person who people feel comfortable revealing their secrets to. All the suspects know everyone. Cozies never reveal gory or violent details, and sex is always behind closed doors.
- Private Detective: The victim seeks the help of a private eye.
- Medical Mystery: Usually takes place in a hospital or medical setting usually involves medical personnel.
- Courtroom Drama: Usually a defense attorney representing a client he or she believes is innocent. The lawyer solves the crime to win the case.
Thriller/Suspense: This genre is characterized by a sudden rush of emotions and a sense of suspense, apprehension, and exhilaration that drive the narrative. In short, a thriller thrills. Skillful plotting is a major element of a thriller. Alfred Hitchcock movies fell into this genre. This is sometimes called men’s fiction because it’s believed to appeal more to men. Most of the time, it will have a male main character, but it can have a female main character.
- Action/Adventure: Race against the clock with lots of violence, and an obvious antagonist
- Conspiracy: The hero discovers a conspiracy among a powerful group of enemies, but he can’t prove it, and nobody will believe him.
- Crime: A crime or series of crimes is committed, but the perpetrator is identified immediately.
- Disaster: The main conflict is due to an act of nature.
- Horror: Main intent is to illicit fear in the reader.
- Drama: These suspense stories are usually a little slower paced and rely on character development more than plot.
- Eco-thriller: Involve environmental aspects where the antagonist is usually a corporation or government official whose actions cause havoc on the environment.
- Legal: The hero is a lawyer, and some or most of the setting takes place in a courtroom.
- Medical: Revolves around medical personnel.
- Political: The hero or antagonist is an agent of the government.
- Psychological: The conflict between the main characters is mental and emotional, rather than physical.
- Spy: The good guy is usually a spy fighting against terrorists, plots to overthrow the government, or evil regimes.
- Techno-thriller: These usually involve the military.
Historical: This includes any story that takes place more than twenty years ago.
- Historical Saga: Covers a broad period of time and can deal with families over several generations
- Historical Romance: A true historical romance is a romance that has the time period and setting as an important part of the story
- Historical Adventure: Takes place in history and brings the characters along for an exciting adventure
- Western: Set in the old West of the United States. Westerns typify the rugged individualism that built the nation. They are part history, part myth, and part American culture.
- Cross-Genre: Historical novels can have any genre as it’s sub-category if the story is set in the past such as mystery, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy.
- Historical Periods: Historicals are sometimes categorized according to time period such a regency, colonial, or World War II.
Contemporary: This is any fiction where the story takes place in the present that doesn’t fit in any other category.
Comedy: Any story that seeks to invoke laughter.
Leave a comment and let us know what your favorite genre is.