By Ronda Simmons
We humans like to categorize things: friend or foe, sweet or sour, paper or plastic. When it comes to literature, a book has got to fit into a niche. Not only does it help the library or bookstore know where to shelve the piece, but it also helps the reader, who wants to know just what exactly he or she is getting themselves into.
What Is Genre?A genre is a category of literature characterized by similarities in style, form, or subject matter. In fiction, there are dozens of kinds, but for the purposes of this blog, let's focus on some of the most common:
- Literary Fiction is all about the inner lives of characters and the human condition. It's hard to write and harder to sell. Literary Fiction writers always have a cat, or several, lurking around. They wear velvet, sigh a lot and look off into the distance in search of their muse.
- Speculative Fiction is any story set in a world other than the real one. Those superhero movies you can't get enough of? Spec Fic. Writers of speculative fiction tend to be the poorest dressed at any writing conference, but they tell the best jokes.
- Science Fictionincludes any story featuring scientific ideas and advanced technological concepts. Sci-Fi writers think in terms of entire universes when creating their masterpieces. These writers almost always wear glasses and wanted to be astronauts when they were kids, probably still do.
- Fantasy stories deal with kingdoms, as opposed to the universes favored by science fiction stories. Myths and magic figure prominently. Fantasy writers wear lots of lavender, are vegetarians, and collect crystals.
- Suspense/Thriller stories have a character or characters in jeopardy. They include pursuit and escape, and have either physical or psychological threats, or both. The authors of this genre are usually insomniacs, drink whiskey, and prefer their steak rare.
- Romance stories are about romantic relationships between two people, or animals, or both. They are fraught with sexual tension and desire. Writers who write romance are mostly women who wear scarves, bangle bracelets, and dramatic eye shadow.
- Action Adventure includes any story that puts the protagonist in physical danger. Lots of near misses and daring feats keep the readers of this genre turning pages well into the night. Action adventure writers wear khaki, know how to tie at least 20 kinds of knots and can drive a stick shift.
- Mystery/Crime novels are also known as "whodunits" or "whydunits." These stories have an abundance of clues, red herrings, and twisty plots. Mystery writers wear jackets with satin linings and prefer a dry red wine like a cabernet sauvignon or perhaps an amusing pinot noir.
These last two aren't genres, per se, but rather, age categories. I include them here because they are very much in vogue and you need to know what they are.
- Horror/Paranormal/Ghoststories are the ones that give their readers nightmares. The protagonist is dealing with supernatural or demonic beings. These writers wear black and are always the first to show up at Happy Hour.
- Young Adult, or YA, is written for and about young people, usually ranging in age from 12 to 18. They almost always are coming-of-age stories. YA writers don't have to be teenagers themselves, but they should dress whimsically, know all the latest slang, and name their cars.
Figure out what your genre is, write it to the best of your ability, and, for goodness sake, dress the part!
- New Adult, NA, refers to stories in which the protagonist is out of his or her teen years and is facing the challenges of leaving home, starting a career, and making all of the mistakes that their parents warned them about. These books often have romance at their core and can slop over into erotica. NA writers dress in all black, like the writers of Horror, but are less likely to be wearing underwear.
For more on all genre, here are a couple of websites to check out:
Do You Know What Your Book Genre Is?
The 17 Most Popular Genres in Fiction and Why They Matter
List of Writing Genres