If you are and Indie Publisher, one of the most confusing, exasperating things you can be asked is "What is your writing genre?". If you are like me, your writing style may cross several genres in the same novel. Several Years ago, I wrote a blog defining the many Art Genres. I decided to try the same with writing. I searched the internet and pulled up most of these definitions from Wikipedia, and various other internet sources who defined writing genre. It is by no means a comprehensive list, but it might help my fellow writers when asked by a publisher to define the genre of the book they have just written. There is an enormous amount of information about book genres. I limited myself to fiction. I may do a similar chart for non-fiction later though. I got the idea for the chart from a Facebook post, but I made some changes and additions to what was there.
WHEN IS A NOVEL RATED AS A MYSTERY?
Mystery fiction is a genre usually involving a mysterious death or a crime to be solved. In a closed circle of suspects, each suspect must have a credible motive and a reasonable opportunity for committing the crime.
NOIR/HARD BOILED: Noir fiction is a literary genre closely related to the hard-boiled detective genre except that the lead character is not a detective, but instead either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. Other common characteristics include the self-destructive qualities of the lead character A typical protagonist of noir fiction is dealing with the legal, political or other system that is no less corrupt than the perpetrator by whom the protagonist is either victimized and/or must victimize others daily, leading to lose-lose situation.
COZY MYSTERY: Cozy mysteries, also referred to as "cozies", are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are played down or treated with humor and the crime and detection takes place in a small, socially intimate community. The term was first coined in the late 20th century when various writers attempted to re-create the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.
GENERAL MYSTERY: Mystery fiction is a genre of fiction commonly involving a mysterious death or a crime to be solved. The central character must be a police or amateur detective who eventually solves the mystery by logical deduction from facts fairly presented to the reader. Sometimes mystery books are nonfictional. "Mystery fiction" can be detective stories in which the emphasis is on the puzzle or suspense element and its logical solution such as a whodunit. Mystery fiction can be contrasted with hard-boiled detective stories, which focus on action and gritty realism.
SUPERNATURAL MYSTERY: Mystery fiction may involve a supernatural mystery where the solution does not have to be logical, and even no crime involved. This was common in the pulp magazines of the 1930s and 1940s, where titles such as Dime Mystery, Thrilling Mystery and Spicy Mystery offered what at the time were described as "weird menace" stories—supernatural horror in the vein of Grand Guignol. This contrasted with parallel titles of the same names which contained conventional hard-boiled crime fiction. The first use of "mystery" in this sense was by Dime Mystery, which started out as an ordinary crime fiction magazine but switched to "weird menace" during the latter part of 1933.
POLICE PROCEDURAL: The police procedural, or police crime drama, is a subgenre of detective fiction that attempts to depict the activities of a police force as they investigate crimes. Traditional detective novels usually concentrate on a single crime. Police procedurals frequently describe investigations into several unrelated crimes in a single story. Traditional mysteries usually adhere to the convention of having the criminal's identity concealed until the climax (the so-called whodunit); in police procedurals, the perpetrator's identity is often known to the audience from the outset (this is referred to as the inverted detective story). Police procedurals describe several police-related topics such as forensics, autopsies, the gathering of evidence, the use of search warrants, and interrogation.
HOBBY MYSTERY: See Cozy Mystery. This is merely a specialized sub genre of Cozy mysteries. The story usually centers around the main character's hobby, such as quilting or animals.
HISTORICAL MYSTERY: The historical mystery or historical whodunit is a subgenre of two other genres, historical fiction and mystery fiction. These works are set in a time usually before 1960 and the central plot involves the solving of a mystery or crime (usually murder). Though works combining these genres have existed since at least the early 20th century, many credit Ellis Peter's Cadfael Chronicles (1977-1994) for making popular what would become known as the historical mystery. The increasing prevalence of this kind of fiction in succeeding decades spawned a distinct subgenre.
PARANORMAL MYSTERY: Sometimes the things in a mystery just can't be explained. That's where the paranormal mystery comes into play. These books have an element of supernatural in them, that can include magic, witches, skeletons or ghosts, and it can include werewolves, vampires, and other creatures. The difference between paranormal and fantasy is Paranormal concerns events or experiences not subject to scientific explanation or outside the ability of science to measure or explain. ESP, ghosts and other phenomenon fit this definition. Fantasy is a genre using magic or other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of the plot or setting. (Think Harry Potter or Harry Dresdin).
SCIENCE FICTION MYSTERY: This is a genre that all other mystery genres fit into nicely, except perhaps the Historical Mystery and I have seen writers of alternate universes pull that one off. The only real difference between a Science Fiction Mystery and any of the other genres is there must be some element of science fiction applied to the story. Science fiction or speculative fiction (often shortened to SF, sci-fi or scifi) is a genre dealing with futuristic science, technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life. Science fiction often explores the potential outcomes of scientific innovations, and has been referred a "literature of ideas," or future-casting. It usually avoids the supernatural, and unlike the related genre of fantasy, science fiction stories generally deal in plots and stories grounded in by some form of widely accepted scientific fact. Star Trek is based on the premise that man will discover a way to conquer light speed, or access parallel dimensions
When classifying a Romance Novel for publishing, the writer is often also required to define the Heat Level in the Novel. The first time I was asked about this, I had no idea how to classify my work, so I went to my old friend the internet and googled it. Heat Level refers to the intensity of the romantic scenes in the novel and can be applied to all romance genres. These Heat Definitions were borrowed from the RomCon Romance Heat Scale:
None: Sensuality is not the focus of the book. There may be mild profanity or mild violence. (e.g., Young Adult, Family Sagas)
Sweet: The romance deals with the emotional aspects of love rather than the physical. No sex or scenes of physical intimacy except kissing. No profanity. No graphic violence. (e.g., Christian Fiction, Sweet Romance, Young Adult Romance.)
Mild: There may be mildly described scenes of intimacy. There may be mild profanity or violence.
Medium: Sometimes described as "Blush level", it is a little more than halfway between sweet and hot with more descriptive loves scenes and more profanity than found in the mild rating. There may be sex scenes or the preliminary action related to it. Scenes are usually not graphic and euphemisms for sexual parts of the body are common. The emphasis is very much on feeling.
Hot: There usually are detailed sex scenes, profanity and/or graphic violence. Authors who often write at this level of sensuality include Nora Roberts, Susan Wiggs, Rebecca York, Judith Arnold, Mary Balogh, Edith Layton, and Candace Camp.
Wild Ride/Erotica: There will be graphic sex scenes, including multiple partners and or alternate lifestyles. There may be explicit adult language and/or graphic violence. (e.g., Erotic Romance, High Fantasy, Thrillers...) Within RomCon®'s website, this is referred to as Erotic Romance. Be careful here; certain subject matters are still taboo (sex with children among others) and you will need to be specific in the reasons for your rating.
Blood Thirsty: there will be graphic violence, bloody scenes, or horrific scenes with frightening or intense content. (e.g., Horror, Thrillers, some High Fantasy...), here again you need to be specific for the reason you gave the rating.
Paranormal Romance: is a subgenre of both romantic fiction and speculative fiction. Paranormal romance focuses on romantic love and includes elements beyond the range of scientific explanation, blending themes from the speculative fiction genres of Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror. In Paranormal romance some of the common devices are romantic relationships between humans and Aliens, vampires, shapeshifters, ghosts, and other entities of a fantastic or otherworldly nature. The more common themes concern vampires, shapeshifters, ghosts, or time travel. Paranormal Romances can also include characters with psychic abilities, like telekinesis or telepathy. Paranormal romance has its roots in Gothic fiction and is one of the fastest growing in the romance genre.
Science Fiction Romance: This genre seems to be written almost exclusively for and by women. In most cases, it is simply a love story set in the future or a distant planet, although the plot can be set in the past or an alternate world as well. It centers more on relationships than on science, and any futuristic or fantasy elements take second place to the relationships. Usually there is no attempt to explain why or how the technology works; only its actions are described. For example, a flying car or spaceship is simply said to go places, time travel simply happens without any attempt to describe the scientific method by which this might work. Probably the two most recognizable writers of romantic science fiction are Jayne Castle's (AKA Krenz) books on Harmony and Diana Gabaldon's Highlander series (now a TV series). Romantic Sci-Fi includes the sub-genre of Romantic Fantasy (virtually the same except magic is used rather than technology). “The book considered to be the PR novel is a futuristic romance called, "Sweet Starfire" by Jayne Ann Krentz. It was published in 1986 and is described as a "classic road trip romance" which just happened to be set in a separate galaxy.”1
1Beyond Twilight: Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy by Valkyrie1
Bully Romance: For those of you who don't know, bully romance is a new, more extreme (in my opinion) spin on the ‘enemies to lovers’ trope. It comes in varying levels and contains a lot of triggers for people, particularly if they have been bullied or are a rape survivor. In my opinion, while the ‘enemies to lovers’ trope is a popular method used to create sexual tension in the romance genre, this particular aspect of it portrays heroines (in my humble opinion) who are victims of the Stockholm Syndrome. As you might have guessed, this is NOT one of my favorite sub-genres, although like everyone else in the 80’s I read them because they were the only game around. Prime example of these stories were the old ‘bodice ripper’ romances so popular 20 years ago. A typical plot involved the heroine being kidnapped by the ‘hero’ (sometimes this involved rape or near rape). Examples of these novels are The Flame and The Flower and The Wolf and The Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss, The Fires of Winter by Johanna Lindsay, The Velvet Promise by Jude Deveraux, etc. Eventually, the two main characters will fall in love and so live happily ever after. (An unlikely outcome, I agree.) In the Sci Fi genre, the bodice ripper heroes seem to have been replaced by hunky looking aliens. If you want to learn more about this category, I can recommend https://www.sfrstation.com
Contemporary Romance: is a subgenre of romance novels generally set after 1960. Contemporary is the largest of the romance novel subgenres, These novels are set in the time when they were written, and reflect the ideas and customs of their time. Heroines in contemporary romances written prior to 1970 usually quit working when they married or had children, while those written after 1970 have and keep a career. As contemporary romance novels have grown to contain more complex plotting and more realistic characters, the line between this subgenre and the genre of women's fiction or Chick Lit has blurred. Most contemporary romance novels contain elements that date the books, so eventually the story lines become inappropriate to more modern readers and go out of print. Some do make the transition into Historical fiction, but they are few and far between.
Historical Romance: is a broad category of fiction where the story takes place in a setting located in the past. Settings in this category will run the gamut from 1960 back into caveman times. Walter Scott helped popularize this genre in the early 19th-century, with works such as Rob Roy and Ivanhoe. More recently author Jean Aeul's Caveman series have been on the best seller list. Historical romances continue to be published, and notable recent examples are Conqueror by Georgette Heyer, or the Roselynde Chronicles by Roberta Gellis.
Western Romance: These books are set in America or Australia or in a contemporary or historical western setting (western United States, Canadian prairies or Australian outback), with a female lead. Readers expect the story to include horses, cowboys and a simpler way of life (but not a simpler plot). Think Joanna Lindsay or Willa Cather. For more traditional male centered westerns see the Western genre under Adventure Fiction. Westerns are most noted for their clear lines of good and evil.
Gothic Romance: Combines romance and horror and may involve a mystery of some type. It has a long tradition, going back to the Regency/Victorian era. Made popular by Jane Austin and others, Gothic fiction, which is widely known by the subgenre of Gothic horror, is a genre that combines fiction and horror, death, and at times romance. Its origin is attributed to English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled (in its second edition) "A Gothic Story". Gothic fiction creates a pleasing sense of terror; Romantic literary pleasures that were relatively new at the time of Walpole's novel. It originated in England in the second half of the 18th century and had much success in the 19th as witnessed by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Another well known novel in this genre, dating from the late Victorian era, is Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Regency Romance: Regency romances are a distinct genre with their own plot and stylistic conventions. These derive from the 19th-century contemporary works of Georgette Heyer, who still dominates the genre. She wrote over two dozen novels set in the Regency starting in 1935 until her death in 1974. The more traditional Regencies feature a great deal of intelligent, fast-paced dialog between the leads and very little explicit sex or discussion of sex. The plot contrivances that can be found range from Marriages of convenience and false engagements to mistaken identities. Class differences are clearly defined and create barriers. (The son of the house never marries the maid for instance).
Romantic Suspense: The most plot driven of the romance genres. It generally has a strong woman as lead who is involved in dangerous situations. The male hero usually starts out looking like the bad guy but turns out to be good. The setting for these books can be anywhen from deep in the past to contemporary. Think Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt or Barbara Michaels aka Elizabeth Peters.
WHAT MAKES A BOOK A THRILLER?
Thriller is a broad genre having numerous subgenres. Thrillers are characterized and defined by the mood of fear and suspense they elicit, giving viewers heightened feelings of excitement, surprise and anxiety. A thriller generally has a more villain-driven plot than adventure. This list is by no means all inclusive.
Eco Thriller: Eco thrillers are normally set around a threat (natural or man-made) to the environment, and combine action, adventure with maybe a touch of mystery. They are fast-paced and usually interwoven with science fact or what is accepted fact at the time. The lead character must find a way to negate the threat.
Supernatural Thriller: Supernatural fiction or supernaturalist fiction involves plot devices or themes that challenge Ideas and assumptions accepted in the normal world. It is very closely allied with Horror though usually in a more inhibited manner. This genre brings in an otherworldly element, Often the hero and/or villain has (or at least claims) some psychic ability.
Historical Thriller: This genre differs from other thrillers in that is set in the past, usually prior to 1960. It may contain elements of espionage, military or other genres but should not be confused with political/conspiracy thrillers which occur in a contemporary setting.
Medical/Psychological Thrillers: I have lumped these to together because they draw from such similar backgrounds. In Medical Thrillers, a doctor's life is often threatened (because of duties performed in their profession), or a mysterious disease has broken out. Robin Cook and Tess Gerritsen are leaders in this subgenre. Sandra Wilkenson's novel Death On Call is an early example. (sometimes the authors are doctors themselves.) Psychological subgenre tales build up slowly, with ever-increasing doubt and tension, until some explicit action/violence takes place.
Political/Conspiracy Thriller: This genre is very similar in some ways to the Environmental Thriller. Usually the hero or heroine confronts a large, well organized company, government dept., or group. The threat posed by this group is only apparent to the Main Character. A great deal of the plot revolves around a single individual defeating the above groups while combatting disbelief from everyone around him/her. Puzzling forces pull strings in the life of the lead character -- if not throughout the world. Usually the hero becomes a threat to the conspirators, and must escape their wrath. Often these stories depict the irregularities caused by secrecy, and the corrupting influence of power.
Espionage or Spy Thriller: As a genre, spy fiction is related to the adventure novel and involves espionage as an important background or plot device. Spy Fiction emerged in the early twentieth century, inspired by rivalries and intrigues between the major powers, and the establishment of modern intelligence agencies. The most famous of these is Ian Fleming's James Bond series. The genre was given new impetus by the increase of fascism and communism in the lead-up to World War II. It continued to develop during the Cold War, and received a fresh impetus from the emergence of rogue states like ISIS, international criminal organizations, global terrorist networks, maritime piracy and technological sabotage as convincing threats to Western societies.
Techno Thriller: A techno-thriller is a hybrid genre drawing plot elements from science fiction, thrillers, spy fiction, action, and war novels. Tecno-Thrillers include a lopsided amount of technical details on their subject matter; only hard science fiction gives readers a comparable level of supporting technical details. The inner workings of technology and the mechanics of various routines (espionage, martial arts, politics) are thoroughly explored, and the plot often turns on the of that exploration.
Military Thriller: the focus of this genre is on the development of a crisis needing a military solution, and the detailing of subsequent the military action, i.e. an aggressive move by the Bad Guys forces the Good to wage large-scale combat to stop them. This can also be found on a smaller scale with many novels set in WWII or prior. However, these are cross genre novels coinciding with Historical thrillers.
Legal Thriller: the plot usually is centered around courtroom action, with a lawyer as the Main Character. This is not to be confused with a Courtroom Drama. In a courtroom drama, the reader often doesn't know who the villain is until the climax of the story. In a legal thriller, the reader generally knows who the bad guy is from the beginning and the action focuses on the conclusion of the trial.
WHAT DEFINES SCIENCE FICTION?
Science fiction or speculative fiction (often shortened to SF, sci-fi or scifi) is a genre dealing with futuristic science, technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life. Science fiction often explores the potential outcomes of scientific innovations, and has been referred a "literature of ideas," or future-casting. It usually avoids the supernatural, and unlike the related genre of fantasy, science fiction stories generally deal in plots and stories grounded in by some form of widely accepted scientific fact. Star Trek is based on the premise that man will discover a way to conquer light speed, or access parallel dimensions.
Dystopian / Utopian: utopia and its derivative, dystopia, are genres exploring social and political structures. Utopian fiction shows a setting agreeing with the author's ideology, and has attributes of different reality to appeal to readers. Dystopian (or dystopic) fiction (sometimes combined with, but distinct from apocalyptic literature) is the opposite. It shows a setting that completely disagrees with the author's ideology. Many novels combine both, often as a metaphor for the different directions humanity can take, depending on its choices. Both utopias and dystopias are commonly found in science fiction and other speculative fiction genres and arguably are a type of speculative fiction.
Apocalyptic Science Fiction is a sub-genre of Dystopian Science Fiction covering the end of civilization, through nuclear war, plague, or some other general disaster. The time frame may be immediately after the catastrophe, focusing on the travails or psychology of survivors, or considerably later, often including the theme that the existence of pre-catastrophe civilization has been forgotten or mythologized. Post apocalyptic stories often take place in an agrarian, non-technological future world, or a world where only scattered elements of technology remain.
Space Opera: is a subgenre of science fiction emphasizing space warfare, melodramatic adventure, interplanetary battles, risk-taking, and chivalric romance. Set mainly or entirely in outer space, it frequently involves conflict between opponents possessing advanced abilities, futuristic weapons, and other sophisticated technology. The term has no relation to music but was coined during the 1930s to indicate clichéd and overused stories in several genres. Space operas emerged in the 1930s and they continue to be produced in literature, film, comics, and video games. The most notable was probably produced by E.E. "Doc" Smith in the 1930's.
Cyberpunk: Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction taking place in a future setting. It tends to focus on society as "high tech low life" showcasing advanced technological and scientific accomplishments, such as information technology and cybernetics, creating a breakdown or radical change in the social order. Cyberpunk plots often center on conflict among artificial intelligences, hackers, and megacorporation's in a near-future Earth. The settings are usually post-industrial dystopias but feature extraordinary cultural turmoil and the use of technology in ways never anticipated by its original inventors. Much of the genre's atmosphere echoes film noir writers and often uses modus operandi from this genre of detective fiction.
Military Science Fiction: is a subgenre of science fiction that uses science fiction technology, mainly weapons, for military purposes. Its principal characters are generally members of a military organization involved in military activity. The action sometimes takes place in outer space or on a different planet or planets. It is found in literature, comics, film, and video games. A detailed description of the conflict, the tactics and weapons used, and the role of a military service and the individual members of that military organization generally forms the basis for a work of military science fiction. The stories often use events of actual past or current Earth conflicts, with countries being replaced by planets or galaxies of similar characteristics, battleships replaced by space battleships and certain events changed so that the author can induce what might have occurred differently.
Hard/Soft Science Fiction: is a category of science fiction marked by an emphasis on scientific accuracy. The terms were first used in print in 1957 by P. Schuyler Miller in a review of John W. Campbell, Jr.'s "Islands of Space" in Astounding Science Fiction. The complementary term Soft Science Fiction, formed by comparison to hard science fiction, first appeared in the late 1970s. It was created to emphasize the distinction between the "hard" (natural) and "soft" (social) sciences. Science fiction critic Gary Westfahl thinks that both terms are just ways of describing stories that reviewers and commentators have found useful.
Alternate History: or alternative history (British English), sometimes abbreviated as AH, is a genre of stories in which one or more historical events occur differently than as history recorded them. These stories are set in a world in which history has deviated from history as it is generally known; more simply put, alternate history asks the question, "What if history had developed differently?" Most works in this genre are set in real historical contexts, yet feature social, geopolitical or industrial settings that developed differently or at a different pace from our own. This subgenre comprises fiction in which a change or point of divergence happens that causes history to diverge from our own.
Steampunk: is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that refers to works set in an era where steam power is still widely used;19th century's British Victorian era or American "Wild West, where steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that employs steam power in the same way. Although its literary origins are sometimes identified with the cyberpunk genre, it has marked differences. Inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne are often included. Steampunk encompasses alternate history-style elements of past technology like dirigibles or mechanical computers combined with futuristic technology like multi-function goggles, giant robots and ray guns. Steampunk may be described as neo-Victorian. It most recognizably features anachronistic technologies or retro futuristic inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them, and is likewise rooted in the era's perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art.
Romantic Science Fiction: This genre seems to be written almost exclusively for and by women. In most cases, it is simply a love story set in the future or a distant planet, although it can be set in the past or an alternate world as well. It centers more on relationships than on science, and any futuristic or fantasy elements take second place to the relationships. Usually there is no attempt to explain why or how the technology works; only its actions are described. A flying car or spaceship is simply said to go places, time travel simply happens without any attempt to describe the scientific method by which this might work. Probably the two most recognizable writers of romantic science fiction are Jayne Castle's (AKA Krenz) books on Harmony and Diana Gabaldon's Highlander series (now a TV series). Romantic Sci-Fi includes the sub-genre of Romantic Fantasy (virtually the same except magic is used rather than technology). A fuller description of this sub genre can be found in the Romance category.
Fantasy is a fiction genre set in an imaginary universe, most often without any locations, events, or people from the real world. Most fantasy uses magic or other supernatural elements as a main plot element, theme, or setting. Magic and magical creatures are common in these imaginary worlds. Fantasy is generally separated from the genres of Science Fiction and Horror by steering clear of scientific and macabre themes. There are a lot of common characteristics among the three however, all of which are subgenres of speculative fiction, and I have included Horror as a sub-genre of fantasy.
Urban Fantasy: is a subgenre of fantasy defined by where it takes place; it is a fantastic narrative with an urban setting. Urban fantasy exists on one side of a scale opposite high fantasy, which is set in an entirely made-up world. Many urban fantasies are set in present-day times with supernatural elements. However, the stories can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods. The prerequisite is that they must be primarily set in a city.
Contemporary Fantasy: is generally distinguished from Urban Fantasy and Horror fiction—which also have contemporary settings and fantastic elements—from Horror by the overall tone; emphasizing joy or wonder rather than fear or dread, and from Urban Fantasy in that the setting doesn't have to be a city. These are stories set in the accepted real world in contemporary times; magic and magical creatures exist but are not commonly seen or understood. They exist by either living in underbelly of our world or by leaking over from alternate worlds. It has much in common with, and sometimes overlaps secret history. FYI: A work of fantasy where the magic does not remain secret, or does not have any known relationship to known history, would not fit into this subgenre.
Traditional Fantasy: Please see the definition of Fantasy above.
Horror: is a genre of fiction which is intended to frighten, scare, disgust, or startle their readers or viewers by inciting feelings of horror and terror. Literary historian J. A. Cuddon defined the horror story as "a piece of fiction of variable length... which shocks or even frightens the reader, or perhaps induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing". Horror creates an eerie and frightening atmosphere. Horror is frequently supernatural though it doesn't have to be. Occasionally the menace in a work of horror fiction can be interpreted as a metaphor for the larger fears of a society.
Historical Fantasy: This is a category of fantasy and a sub genre of historical fiction that combines magic elements into the story. There is much crossover with other subgenres of fantasy. Books classified as Arthurian, Celtic, or Dark Ages could just as easily be placed in Historical Fantasy. Stories fitting this classification generally take place prior to the 20th century.
Weird Fiction: is a subgenre starting in the late 19th and early 20th century. It can include ghost stories and other tales of the macabre. Weird fiction is distinguished from Horror and Fantasy in its blending of supernatural, mythical, and even scientific elements. British authors who have embraced this style have published their work in mainstream literary magazines. American weird fiction writers included Edgar Allan Poe, William Hope Hodgson, H. P. Lovecraft, Lord Dunsany, Arthur Machen M. R. James, and Clark Ashton Smith.
Comic Fantasy: is a subgenre of fantasy that is humorous in intent and tone. Usually set in imaginary worlds, comic fantasy can spoof and parody other works of fantasy, detective fiction or other genres. It is sometimes known as Low Fantasy in contrast to High Fantasy, which is primarily serious in intent and tone. The term "low fantasy" is used to represent other types of fantasy too though, so while comic fantasies may correctly be classified as low fantasy, many examples of low fantasy are not comic in nature. Two of the most famous examples in this genre would be Robert Lynn Aspin's Myth Series which successfully spoofed Fantasy, and the Garrett P.I. series by Glen Cook, which did a parody of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe detective series. Other writers of comic fantasy are emerging; notably Dakota Cassidy with her werewolf/witch spoofs and Amanda M. Lee's Wicked Witches of the Midwest series.
Slipstream: Slipstream is a kind of fantastic or non-realistic fiction that crosses traditional genre borders between science fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction. Slipstream falls between Speculative Fiction and Mainstream Fiction. While some slipstream novels employ elements of Science Fiction or Fantasy, not all do. A few examples of this are Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Anna Kavans Ice, or Magic for beginners by Kelly Link.
Epic / High Fantasy: High Fantasy, sometimes referred to as Sword & Sorcery, is a subgenre of fantasy, and is defined by its setting in a fictional universe or by the larger-than-life stature of its characters, themes, and plot. The term "high fantasy" was coined by Lloyd Alexander in a 1971 essay, "High Fantasy and Heroic Romance" (originally given at the New England Round Table of Children's Librarians in October 1969). Epic Fantasy has been described as containing three elements: it must be a trilogy or longer, its time-span must encompass years or more, and it must contain a large back-story or universe setting in which the story takes place. (Think Lord of the Rings).
Adventure fiction refers to fiction that puts the lead characters in danger, or gives the reader a sense of excitement. This type of fiction is hard to characterize because it can encompass both historical and contemporary settings. Some elements of Adventure can be found in almost all stories written primarily for entertainment Critic Don D'Ammassa defines the genre as follows: "An adventure is an event or series of events that happens outside the course of the protagonist's ordinary life, usually accompanied by danger, often by physical action. Adventure stories almost always move quickly, and the pace of the plot is at least as important as characterization, setting and other elements of a creative work."
Traditional Western: Western fiction is a genre set in the American Old West frontier from the late eighteenth to the late nineteenth century. Well-known writers of Western fiction include Zane Grey from the early 20th century and Louis L'Amour and John McCord from the mid-20th century. A traditional western includes cowboys, Native Americans, covered wagons, and women in aprons with shotguns. The genre peaked around the early 1960s, largely due to the popularity of televised Westerns such as Gunsmoke and Bonanza. Readership began to drop off in the mid- to late 1970s and has reached a new low in the 2000s. Most bookstores, carry few Western fiction books. Nevertheless, several Western fiction series are published monthly, such as The Trailsman, Slocum, Longarm and The Gunsmith. The genre has seen the rumblings of a revival with the advent of romances in western settings by authors such as Linda Lael Miller and Joanna Lindsey (see Western Romance under the Romance category).
Treasure Hunting: treasure hunting fiction has a great deal in common with both detective fiction and straight adventure fiction. The hunter must solve a series of clues to find the treasure A good treasure hunting novel delivers thrills and a rising excitement as clues are worked out and uncovered. A good writer of this type of fiction provides enough clues that the reader may be able to figure it out ahead of the MC. There is also opposition from rivals as well. And of course, the hunt has a successful conclusion, or an adequate reason is given why it does not.
General Fiction: like Children's and Youth Fiction, General Fiction can span all decades and genres. These are books that fall into the general fiction genre are often ones that straddle so many genres it’s hard to place them in any specific genre. The books in the general fiction genre can be a combination of any three or more genres of fiction that cause them to be outside the limits and rules of those specific genres. Examples of this: a science fiction, fantasy, romance that has strong elements of comedy and action and adventure. The Kite Runner, Water for Elephants, Life of Pi, The Great Gatsby, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and the Poisonwood Bible are excellent examples of General Fiction. General Fiction is that strange catch-all genre where titles no one knows how to classify end up. This section generally takes up about half a bookstore’s inventory. But even though it’s a vague term, there are some types fiction that are guaranteed to be found in this section of bookstores or libraries.
Classic Literature: Stories that are representative of the time in which they were written, but because they have a universal appeal, the books lasted in print and popularity.
Drama: A novel centered on the conflict or contrast of characters.
Traditional Literature: includes stories passed down from generation to generation. In many ways, the fact that they do change over time is what makes them so fascinating because of the link they provide to the past. To remain meaningful in different eras, the stories while keeping much of their original flavor and content, must evolve in subtle ways to be acceptable to current mores and culture. These are folktales, fairy tales, fables, legends and myths.
Humor: A humorous novel has one goal: to provide amusement and make the reader laugh.
Satire: This is category closely related to humor, but it has a more malicious edge. Its main elements are irony, sarcasm and parody. Unlike straight humor, satire is created to draw attention to social problems through wit. Satire always have a message of some kind.
Realistic Fiction: All realistic fiction has these three elements 1) a setting that can be found in the real world 2) the characters will be lifelike and fully formed 3) a conflict or problem that centers on everyday issues or personal relationships that could exist in real life.
Tragedy: A tragedy takes a reader through events leading to the self-destruction or catastrophe for the lead characters or those around them. It is sometimes referred to as a tear-jerker. A tragicomedy is a combination of tragedy and comedy. To qualify as this type of fiction there must be an equal mixture of both tragedy and comedy.
Chick Lit or Women's Fiction: This is fiction aimed at women and addresses a variety of subjects, i.e. from shopping to relationships. Think Sex and the City.Inspirational Fiction: this type of novel has the goal of inspiring the reader. Its lead characters overcome obstacles and it can be set in the past, present or the future provided that the setting could occur in real life. Most Christian fiction will fall under this category.
Historical Fiction: we covered Historical fiction in the various genres, but there are some novels who simply don't fit into them. The main idea would be to showcase the past in an accurate manner while making the characters and interesting. If it involves real events, they must be reported accurately and without change. The most successful historical fiction sometimes tells the story of ordinary people and how they are affected by historical events.
YOUNG ADULT & CHILDREN'S FICTION
Youth Fiction (YA): I made this a separate category because the plots of these novels span all the genres. Young adult fiction or young adult literature (YA) is fiction for readers from 12 to 18. However, authors and readers of "young teen novels" often define it as works written for age 15 to the early 20s. The terms young adult novel, juvenile novel, teenage fiction, young adult book, etc., all refer to the works in this category.The subject and story lines of young adult literature must be consistent with the age and experience of the main character, but this literature spans the spectrum of fiction genres. Stories that focus on the specific challenges of youth or teens are sometimes referred to as coming-of-age novels.
Children's Fiction: is a genre all to itself. This is children's books written especially for children from 0 to 12 years old. Like YA fiction, it includes a broad spectrum of the genres, with certain differences from YA and Adult fiction.
Picture Books: Children's books that provide a "visual experience" - tell a story with pictures. There may or may not be text with the book. The content of the book can be explained with the illustrated pictures.
Picture Story Books are Children's books with pictures or illustrations to complement the story and usually are aimed for a trifle older audience depending on their reading ability. These are often done on a collaborative basis with the author employing an illustrator, or vice versa. Both the text and the illustrations are important to the development of the story. The pictures are the "eye-candy" that get children's attention, but the text is needed to complete the story.
Children's Historical Fiction is stories that are written to illustrate or convey information about a specific time or historical event. Authors use historical fiction to create drama and interest based on real events in people's lives. Some of these are biographical: "Young Mr. Lincoln, Young Ben Franklin", etc., centering fictional actions and behavior around real historical events.
Children's Modern Fantasy is probably easier to define by example or by what it isn't. The stories are contemporary or nondescript as to time periods. They are imaginative tales requiring readers to accept story lines that clearly cannot be true. They may be based on animals that talk, facets of science fiction, supernatural or horror, or combinations of these elements. "Charlottes Web," "Winnie the Pooh," "Alice in Wonderland", "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," and "The Wizard of Oz" are all examples of modern fantasy written for young readers up to 12 years old.
Children's Realistic Fiction has main characters of roughly the age (or slightly older than) the book's intended audience. The books offer a "real-world" problem or challenge and show how a young person solves that problem.
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