- A type or class.
- A category of artistic composition.
If there is one thing which universally stymies new writers and authors, and even some experienced ones, it is the definition and borders of the genres into which works of fiction are classified.
Literary fiction, interestingly, is classed as being separate from “genre” fiction. There are some key differences between genre and literary fiction, of course, but this is all about genre fiction! There are many genres and sub-genres these days, but to save time we’ll cover the main ones. These are, broadly speaking;
- Science Fiction
Of course, every single genre has a set of characteristics, subgenres, tropes, and boundaries which bear consideration when you are writing and, especially, when you are pitching your novel to agents and publishers.
Fiction designed to frighten, shock, repel, and invoke a sense of dread. Common themes are supernatural creatures, biblical horrors, human horrors (think serial killers etc), and psychological horrors.
Horror can overlap with science fiction and fantasy, any other genre at all really, but in order for it to be a horror the key motivator must be the “fear factor”.
Popular horror novels are; Bram Stokers Dracula, Stephen Kings It, Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, and Clive Barkers The Damnation Game.
If you want a small sampler for how to write horror, start here.
When you say fantasy, most people think of High Fantasy fiction such as the kind written by J. R. R. Tolkien which involves elves, dwarves, and epic heroism. But, in truth, fantasy is simply speculative fiction which contains a plot that could not happen in the world as we know it today. It is most common for fantasy to take place in worlds which resemble Medieval Europe in technological level and society, but this is a trope, not a boundary.
Famous fantasy novels (other than The Lord of the Rings) include Robin Hobbs The Liveship Traders, Joe Abercrombies The Blade Itself, and Lewis Carrolls Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
You can find tips for writing in the fantasy genre right here.
Science Fiction, much like Fantasy, is speculative in nature but differs in that its basis is most often in the future or an alternative history where technological advances make the impossible possible.
Common themes are space travel, genetic modification, and artificial intelligence. The focus is very often on how these advances alienate people, cause the creation of new moral problems, or on colonial themes.
Famous Science Fiction books include Michael Crichtons Jurassic Park, Ernest Clines Ready Player One, and H.G. Wells The War of the Worlds. You can find a few tips on writing Science Fiction right here.
Romance novels can come in many forms but revolve around the development and obstacles faced by a romantic relationship. Romantic novels can be supernatural, historical, or erotic, but no matter what their underlying themes the main focus is upon the relationship in question.
Good examples of romance novels are; Jane Austins Pride and Prejudice, Emily Brontes Wuthering Heights, Jojo Moyes Me Before You, and Jenny Hans To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.
A short breakdown of writing Romance can be found here
Comedy may well be the most subtle and diverse of all genres, and while you may well have guessed that the aim of the game here is to amuse, many people find it hard to understand the lay of the land beyond that point.
Comedy writing may be dark, it may be satirical, political, vulgar, or even slapstick, but it is also most often a genre used to make some kind of commentary. Comedy does not always have a happy end, but more often than not is optimistic.
Good examples of comedy novels are; Terry Pratchett, Wyrd Sisters (anything by Pratchett actually), Douglas Adams Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, Anne Donovans Buddha Da, and Oscar Wildes The Importance Of Being Earnest.
You can find a crash course on comedy writing right here.