Genres and what they mean

I have probably read every single genre there is. For me reading is a compulsion. I read notices, I read signs and one of the things I’ve come to despise are the advertisements in public toilets. Because I cannot not read them!

Since there has been a discussion regarding the genres of The Story Mint serials, I thought a brief overview might just be a good idea. This post will only focus on fiction. One thing that has to be remembered is that there is a fair overlap in genres. You might have a romance with elements of crime or a crime story with a bit of romance in between. The difference is usually found in the writing itself. Read a Harlequin book based on a crime, the story itself is romantic and the focus is on the romance between the man and woman, the crime is a secondary plot and is used to increase the contact between them. Then read a book like a Lee Child’s suspense and you have a crime story with a hint of romance. In this instance the romance is more a form of character building than anything else.

 

Chick Lit

Chick Lit is a sub-genre in Romance. It is written with female readers in mind, but always features a strong female character that is not going to fall for the guy as a matter of course. She is self-assured and comfortable with who she is. She also knows exactly what she wants and goes for it. Don’t be surprised if the woman does the chasing in this genre.

 

Contemporary

These are realistic books. Often this fiction fits into our current lifestyle. Included in this genre is the Slice of Life sub-genre where the aim of the story is to describe a slice of life. Contemporary books also overlap with other genres.

 

Crime and Mystery

These are your detective novels. It usually starts with a crime or mystery and the investigation into it. Think Patricia Cornwall or Dan Brown and you have a good idea of what this entails.

 

Espionage

These are the spy vs spy novels. My favourite espionage novels are the Jack Ryan series by Tom Clancy and the Bourne trilogy by Robert Ludlum, but not the movies. The Cold War was a great time for espionage books. Current espionage books tend to go more into electronic espionage as the latest Tom Clancy novels are doing.

 

Historic

These books are fictional stories based in a historical time. The Bal Maid of Great Condurrow is a perfect example of this genre. Jean Auel’s books are also historical although quite a bit further back in history.

 

Literary

These books are the classics, the ones that are prescribed reading. Think Chancy, Dickens, Shakespeare, etc. My personal favourite is “Much ado about nothing” from Shakespeare. Oh and "Emma" by Jane Austen.

 

Poetry

This should be easy to spot. Poetry has many forms, but there are definite indicators that will show immediately.

 

Prose

These are written mostly for theatrical purposes. Shakespeare obviously also falls into this category. There is a lot of dialogue and action.

 

Romance

These are the stories where the main element is the budding romance between a man and a woman. Nora Roberts is probably one of the best known in this genre. But since romance has such a large sub-genre list, it would take a blog on its own just to explain the various sub-genres.

 

Sci Fi/Fantasy

These two I have to split because there is a vast difference between these two genres.

Sci Fi is any story based on elements of new technology, futuristic and quite often on space travel and other planets. One of the pioneers in this field was Arthur C Clarke. As you can imagine there are several sub-genres in this field.

 

Fantasy is a completely different genre. There are also a lot of sub-genres in this field. Probably the most well know author of High/Epic Fantasy would be JRR Tolkien with "The Lord of the Ring". One of the aspects of fantasy is the 'world building' that takes place, making these types of books large in word count. Fantasy books are also quite often written in serials. Technology does not play a role in this genre. Fantastical creatures, quests and the Good vs Evil, with Good winning most of the time. Then there is also the 'magical thing' that Good has to master to be able to win usually against astronomical disadvantage. Since this is my personal favourite genre I can give you several authors that were/are masters in this genre: David & Leigh Eddings, Brandon Sanderson, Anne McCaffrey, Elizabeth Moon (who also writes great Sci Fi), George RR Martin, Margaret Weis, Pierce Anthony, Robert Jordan, Raymond E Feist, Robin Hobb, Terry Brooks and the fantastic Terry Pratchett.

 

Suspense

When the writing keeps you on the edge of your seat because you can’t leave the book before finding out what happens. “We need to talk about Kevin” by Lionel Shriver is an excellent example.

 

Thriller/Adventure

These two also need to be explained separately. Although they are very similar it still is two different genres.

The Thriller is the one where someone is being chased or threatened by violence and death. One of the sub-genres is the Psychological Thriller where the mental state of the person is being attacked.

Adventure is your typical Greg Bear novels. These are the stories that follow a person(s) to a place/event and the 'adventure' that they experience. A good example of this is the Deep River serial.

 

Westerns

Stories set in the American west during the late eighteenth to late nineteenth centuries. Cowboys, highway men and all around shoot outs in saloons and single street towns. 

 

 

There are a few genres that are not on the profile selection. These are some of the more obvious ones.

Young Adult (YA) – These books are aimed at the younger reader, mostly the 16 to 25 year olds. Think "Vampire Academy" by Richelle Mead or the Martha Dyer trilogy by Michelle Hodkin.

Horror – The ultimate horror writer would be Stephen King. Until today I still don’t know what happened in "Pet Cemetery", I was just too scared to finish. But I loved "Carrie". 

Erotica – This is a sub-genre of Romance and for obvious reasons will not feature on The Story Mint. It is basically porn in book form.

Children’s Books – This falls mainly into two categories, the picture story books for small children low on word count and always with interesting graphics ("The Gruffalo" is my favourite). The other is aimed at the child reader for example "The Diary of a Wimpy Kid".

Comedy – If you start laughing after the first paragraph you are reading a comedy. These also have several sub-genres. I have to say that in my opinion, the British are the masters of comedy. Jeremy Clarkson, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams and Neil Gaiman are the first that come to mind. My favourite quote is from the back blurb on “Mort” by Terry Pratchett – “Death comes to us all, but when he came to Mort he offered him a job.

 

New genres are constantly being added or added as sub-genres, because of the variety that gets added with each new author’s point of view. So don’t stare yourself blind at the genres that are listed. There is always a new way of telling a good story.

genre

Comments

Very Informative Sumanda!!! Just one question.
Where would you place "Wait Till I Tell You"? or "Eleven"?
I think also one more genre you forgot was "Social Drama", quiet popular here. I am trying to mix "Comedy" and "Suspense" in a new starter I am writing.
Hi Vatsal, Social Drama is a sub-genre of Contemporary.
Wait Till I Tell You ended as a romance and depending on where Eleven goes it could be a romance, contemporary, suspence or thriller.
Good luck with your new starter.
That all makes sense. I'm contemporary with some comedy and bodice ripping.
My favorite genres to write in are fantasy, sci fi and romance
A really good informative blog. Strange that this is posted right at the moment I am finishing my last spy novel and starting my first ever fantasy. Should be interesting. Great blog. Hope there are more to come.