controls what you write and how you write it. It describes the style and focus
of the novel you write. It is the blueprint for different types of stories.
are general rules to follow, for example, manuscript length, character types, settings,
themes, and plots. For instance, certain settings suit specific genres. These
vary in type, details, intensity, and length of description.
great because they fulfil reader expectations. We buy certain books because we have enjoyed similar stories in the past. Reading these novels gives us a sense of belonging, of sitting down with an old friend and knowing we’re on familiar ground. There is also a camaraderie between readers who follow the same genres.
models on which to base stories. Genres reflect trends in society and they evolve when writers push the boundaries. Readers ultimately decide if the experiment has worked by buying these books.
17 Popular Fictional Genres
These stories are about a
romantic relationship between two people. They are characterised by sensual
tension, desire, and idealism. The author keeps the two apart for most of the
novel, but they do eventually end up together. There are many sub-genres, including
paranormal, historical, contemporary, category, fantasy, and gothic.
story that puts the protagonist in physical danger, characterised by thrilling near
misses, and courageous and daring feats, belongs to this genre. It is fast paced, the tension mounting as the clock ticks. There is always a climax that offers
the reader some relief.
Fiction. This genre incorporates any
story set in the future, the past, or other dimensions. The story features
scientific ideas and advanced technological concepts. Writers must be prepared
to spend time building new worlds. The setting should define the plot. There are many science fiction sub-genres.
These stories deal
with kingdoms as opposed to sci-fi, which deals with universes. Writers must spend plenty of time on world building. Myths, otherworldly magic-based
concepts, and ideas characterise these books. They frequently take cues from historical
settings like The Dark Ages. There are also plenty of sub-genres here.
- Speculative Fiction. These stories are created in worlds unlike our real world in certain important ways. This genre usually overlaps one or more of the following: science fiction, fantasy fiction, horror fiction, supernatural fiction, superhero fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and alternate history.
Suspense/Thriller. A character in jeopardy dominates
these stories. This genre involves pursuit and escape. There are one or more
‘dark’ characters that the protagonist must escape from, fight against, or best in the story. The threats to the protagonist can be physical or psychological, or both. The setting is integral to the
plot. A Techno Thriller is a sub-genre.
Adult. Young Adult (YA)
books are written, published, and marketed to adolescents and young adults. The
Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) defines a young adult as
someone between the ages of 12 and 18, but adults also read these books. These are generally coming-of-age stories, and often cross into the fantasy and science
fiction genres. YA novels feature diverse protagonists facing changes and challenges. This genre has become more popular with the
success of novels like The Hunger Games,
Twilight, and The Fault in our Stars.
Adult. New Adult
(NA) books feature college, rather than school-aged, characters and plotlines. It
is the next age-category up from YA. It explores the challenges and
uncertainties of leaving home and living independently for the first time. Many
NA books focus on sex, blurring the boundary between romance and erotica.
These are high-pitched
scary stories involving pursuit and escape. The protagonist must overcome
supernatural or demonic beings. Occult is a sub-genre that always uses satanic-type
These are also
known as ‘whodunits’. The central issue is a question that must be answered, an
identity revealed, a crime solved. This novel is characterised by clues leading
to rising tension as the answer to the mystery is approached. There are many sub-genres in this category.
mysteries that involve a police officer or detective solving the crime. The
emphasis rests heavily on technological or forensic aspects of police work,
sorting and collecting evidence, as well as the legal aspects of criminology.
Historical. These fictional stories take place
against factual historical backdrops. Important
historical figures are portrayed as fictional characters. Historical Romance
is a sub-genre that involves a conflicted love relationship in a factual
Westerns. These books are specifically set in the
old American West. Plotlines include survival, romance, and adventures with
characters of the time, for example, cowboys, frontiersmen, Indians, mountain
men, and miners.
Saga. This genre is about on-going
stories of two or more generations of a family. Plots revolve around things like
businesses, acquisition, properties, adventures, and family curses. By their
nature, these are primarily historical, often bringing the resolution in contemporary settings.
Fiction. These plot lines are characterised by female
central characters who face challenges, difficulties, and crises that have a
direct relationship to gender. This is inclusive
of woman’s conflict with man, though not limited to that. It can include
conflict with things such as the economy, family, society, art, politics, and religion.
- Magic Realism. Magical events are part of ordinary life in this genre. The characters do not see them as abnormal or unusual. They are a natural part of the story. One Hundred Years of Solitude is a classic in this genre.
- Literary Fiction. This genre focuses on the human condition and it is more concerned with the inner lives of characters and themes than plot. Literary fiction is difficult to sell and continues to decline in popularity.
With the advent of self-publishing and ebooks, these genre guidelines have become less strict. This is because a publisher does not have to produce thousands of physical copies of the book. However, if you want to publish traditionally, you should still consider genre requirements.
To Become Generic
your target market, research it, and adapt your story if necessary. Look in
bookshops – they are generic, sorting books into categories to make it easier
for their busy readers to choose and buy whatever will guarantee them a good
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