I must credit Linda, over at Out of my mind for the idea for this post. Linda posted about a recent experience with “pigeon-holing” her fiction into the right genre.
A genre is a category of artistic works; sadly defining the word genre doesn’t help you define which genre you are writing in. Specifically I’m talking about literary genres. Currently I know of no books that address the issue of fictional categories , which comprehensively outline the criteria for inclusion in a specific genre. There’s a good reason for this: genre is ever evolving, inventing and redefining itself. For each new generation of writers and readers, it seems a dozen new subcategories appear.
So I decided to do some research and see if I could come up with a reasonable list. After spending several hours with my head in books or with my finger on the mouse button I’ve discovered that this is a very complex topic, and that to describe each genre and subgenre would require many many days, if not weeks of hard research, which I’m not unwilling to do, but for the fact that I don’t have the time. The following categories are a suggestion only and are in no way meant to be comprehensive. It seems there is a lot of overlap between categories too.
As far as I can tell there are three levels of categories of adult literature. The first level I will refer to as a market, of which there are about a dozen, give or take. Below the market level is the category level, referred to many as genre. This category includes major “genres”, each is sometimes further segmented into subcategories (level three). I have not included the subcategories here, since it would take me outside of a few weeks to accomplish and would fill several posts like this.
Thus the hierarchy looks something like this
MARKET (Eg, Speculative fiction)
Category (Eg, Science fiction)
Subcategory (Eg, Time travel)
ACTION/ADVENTURE market – Action/adventure novels are historically quest-focused with a hero (or heroine) as the lead, written for a male audience. Stories usually involve tales of conflict and courage and include physical violence and sometimes explosive action. Subgenres might include:
- Martial arts
- Sports, including motor racing
CHILDREN’S AND YOUNG ADULT market – the children’s market usually includes books written for readers under the age of 13. Young adult fiction is aimed at readers 13 – 18. Many of the categories in adult fiction apply to this market.
- Picture books
- Chapter books
- Young adult fiction
CONTEMPORARY FICTION market
- Gay and lesbian
- Transgender literature
- Political fiction
- Religious fiction
- Human rights fiction
HISTORICAL FICTION market. Some historical fiction categories will have subcategories
- Alternate history
- Prehistoric fiction
- Historical mystery
- World War fiction
- Middle Ages and Renaissance
- Journals and diaries
- Medical mystery
POETRY market – I’ve included only five examples of categories
WOMEN’S FICTION market
- “Chick lit” – ghastly term, but popular nonetheless and includes novels such as Briget Jone’s Diary
SHORT STORY market
- The short story
SPECULATIVE FICTION market – Speculative fiction describes the collective works of fantasy, horror and science fiction. This kind of fiction asks “What if?” Each of the categories includes potentially dozens of subcategories.
- Science fiction
- Paranormal fiction
TRADITIONAL LITERATURE Market
- Myths and legends
- The handbook of creative writing, Edited by Steven Earnshaw
- For a review of specific genres visit Wikipedia
- For a comprehensive review of genres visit AgentQuery.com
- For a list and description of literary generals visit AustLit
For specific categories
- For a description of history subcategories see Pratt Library
- For descriptions of mystery subcategories see WritingWorld.com or Mysterynet.com
- For subgenres of speculative fiction see Jennifer Fallon’s 51 subgenres of speculative fiction