Genres and Subgenres of Fiction Writing
When readers talk about different fiction genres, they use these designations to help them decide what to read next.
When writers talk about genres and subgenres, it's usually a matter of submitting the right story to the right publication or agent and marketing.
Genres basically describe what type of story you get. You can tell the difference between a science fiction space opera, a cozy mystery, and an erotic romance.
Different sources claim different numbers of genres. It doesn't really matter how many you list. There are innumerable subgenres, crossover fiction, and things that can't be categorized neatly at all.
Some people say, "Write what you love! Worry about genre later." Others say "Write to market using the well-loved genre tropes readers expect." Either way is fine, depending on your goals. The fact remains that whatever short story, novella, or novel you write will end up in one or more genres in the end.
What are The Main Genres of Fiction?
- Suspense & Thrillers
- Mystery & Crime
- Historical & Western
- Fantasy & Science Fiction
- Romance & Erotica
"But wait," you might be saying right now. "What about…?"
(One of the most popular "genres" I see being talked about that isn't on this list is Young Adult. The thing is, there are young adult books in all of the above genres. It's just about younger people coming of age or finding their way toward independence at the same time. Since most books include character growth of some sort, I tend not to consider Young Adult a genre in and of itself.)
There are others. There are plenty of subgenres. Some people may not agree with the ones I grouped together. The biggest genre listed up there is contemporary because it covers so many other types of books.
Click through the menu selections above to learn more about the different genres.
Why, How, and When to Pick a Genre?
Some writers don't care what genre their story will fit into when they start writing it. Some writers channel their muse and type as quickly as possible as the character or the magic inside their heads narrate the tale. That's fine. It's awesome when it happens.
People who want to be professional, published writers may have to pay more attention to these designations. Genre, after all, is about submission, marketing, and the reader's expectations. If you want readers, you have to give some what they want.
I prefer to pick a genre right away. There are tropes and "rules" (They're more like guidelines anyway.) for different genres that probably should be followed.
There are those writers who strike a pose, roll their haughty eyes, tip their nose up in the air, and start making noises about Art! They believe people who actually want to sell their writing are sell-outs and hacks. They start sneering and saying things like, "You're not a REAL writer then…"
Of course, writing is artistic and creative. It should be anyway. But for many people, it is also about sharing what they have to offer with other people. I personally have little patience with people who try to make others feel bad about actually wanting to get paid for their efforts.
Where was I?
Genre. Picking one early on in the writing or planning process helps you maintain a focus that will get your book to a satisfying end. If you choose horror, you know you have to make things increasingly scary. If you pick the romance genre, there must be a happily ever after conclusion.
If you write what you call a horror short story and submit it to a horror magazine but the focus is not on fright, you didn't understand the genre. If you have a book with two people falling in love but they break up halfway through and go about their own business, you can't submit that to a romance publisher. They could be awesome stories, but they don't fit those genres.
Understanding the genres helps you submit to the right places, attract more readers, and find whatever type of success you dream of.