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This is a topic that I struggle with as do many writers and reviewers. Crystal has insight, and she has crafted this guest post to help us all with knowing our Genres better.
Crystal also is a brilliant writer who has a book coming out soon. For more details on Crystal, please read all the way to the end!
Without further ado, Crystal, please take it away!
How To Determine Your Genre
It’s easy to get confused about what genre your novel falls under, especially when you start mixing genres together and get caught up in all of the subgenres and details. When it comes to figuring out what genre classification is right for your novel, don’t stress. Below is a handy guide that covers some of the genre basics.
Remember, when you’re trying to determine the primary genre of your story, ignore the subplots and focus on the big picture. What is the main focus of the story about? A lot of stories will contain elements of more than one genre but start with determining what your main plot is about and start with that as your primary classification.
Not all genres are listed here, but I did the best I could and focused on the more common genres that you come across.
Adventure fiction has a pretty broad definition that can encompass many other genres. In this case, the adventure of the story is your primary focus. Think ‘Treasure Island’ or 'Swiss Family Robinson.’
If the focus of your story is all about the adventure, if it’s fast-paced and your characters are in constant danger, this may be your main genre. However, often times the adventure portion is more of a secondary genre classification than a primary genre, but not always.
I don’t think many people need help understanding whether or not their novel falls in this category. Basically, if you have those sensual adult stories that tend to describe intimate situations in a way that leaves little to the imagination, then this is the forum for you.
However, don’t confuse this for Erotic Romance, where it combines elements of Erotic Fiction with more of a focus on the Romance aspect found in your standard Romance genres.
This is pretty straight forward for most. Fanfiction is fiction about characters or settings from an original work of fiction, created by fans of that work rather than by its creator. Most people who create Fanfiction know that is what it is. They also know that, due to copyright issues, this work cannot be traditionally published without big changes too much of it.
A lot of great writers start out writing Fanfiction, and it certainly deserves mention on the list.
Surprisingly, this can be a very confusing genre for most people. Fantasy encompasses an incredible range of subgenres. Too many to list, and it’s a continually changing list as well. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on what defines fantasy in general.
Fantasy can basically be summed up as any story where “fantastical elements” are an integral part of the main plot line. Fantastical elements can include mythical creatures, magic, and fantasy realms. It is a genre that will almost always encompass elements of many other genres within it.
In fact, you will see the term Fantasy pop up in relation to almost every other genre listed here. Inclusion of any fantastical, non-realistic elements will push any other genre classification over into Fantasy.
Historical fiction is for fictional stories that are set in the past. If the key element to your story is that it takes place outside of a modern timeframe, then this is your base genre. This can be a confusing category for many writers, though the idea of Historical Fiction itself isn’t that hard to understand.
When you start writing alternate histories (alt-history) or incorporate non-realistic elements into these novels, you start to move over into the area of Historical Fantasy. And when the entire story is based on real people and real events, but slight creative license is taken in the writing of these real things you start to move over into Creative Non-Fiction.
Although Horror and Supernatural are often bundled together, they are not the same thing. Horror will often contain supernatural elements such as ghosts, werewolves, vampires, angels, demons, etc., but the primary focus of a horror novel is to frighten the reader, or if you are intentionally writing fear into your plotline to scare the characters, this is going to be your genre.
Keep in mind that horror can come in many different formats from your traditional scary monster to psychological horror. There are plenty of subgenres to be explored here.
Supernatural/Paranormal stories do not have to be horror stories, and they sometimes walk over the line into urban fantasy. If supernatural and paranormal creatures are the main players in your story than this going to a part of your genre classification.
This is the genre that grapples with topics like the human condition, social or political criticism without the pretty wrapping of fantasy or futuristic world. These are stories that are more concerned with the style of writing, and they tend towards being more introspective and character driven. This is you if you are writing a story to make a point.
Mainstream & Realistic Fiction
Mainstream and Realistic Fiction can often be confused with Literary Fiction, but the key difference here is that these are plot-driven stories that take place in the modern world and this case, you have set out to entertain the reader as opposed to making a point.
You can basically break this down to – entertaining stories that take place in the modern world with realistic elements. No fantasy or science fiction to be found here.
Mystery, Thriller, & Suspense
These are generally fictional crime stories, and I’ve put them together for that reason, but there are a few key differences.
In Mystery, the reader doesn’t know who did the crime until near the end of the story. Here, the focus of the story is on discovering who-done-it.
In a Thriller, the reader is often aware of who committed the crime, so the focus on the story is less the discovery of the criminal and more on the action and danger of catching the criminal.
Suspense combines these two genres, the building of danger with no knowledge of who-done-it until the end.
A lot of people often confuse these three genres, but the differences between them are easily discernable if you understand the definitions of each genre.
Really, this shouldn’t need to be defined. Non-fiction is any story that is about real people, places, or events without a creative license being taken. If you have taken a slight creative license in the writing of the non-fiction story, then you are writing Creative Non-Fiction.
If the focus of your story is on the development of a romantic relationship between your characters, then this is where you want to be. Romance can range from the development of the relationship to slightly more intimate occasions, but if you’re focusing more on graphic depictions of the latter, then that is where you cross the line into Erotic Romance.
And if the relationship isn’t the important part of the story… well, go read the definition of erotic fiction again. If the relationship is an important part of the story, but not the main part, this might be a part of your subgenre instead.
Satire, Humor, & Parody
Any story that sets out to make the reader laugh falls under the category of Humor. It can be your primary genre or a subgenre, but the point is to make someone laugh.
A parody is a story that imitates the style of another story, and it expands it into something more outlandish - think Pride, Prejudice & Zombies.
A satire, on the other hand, is a commentary on the world through the use of humor - think Animal Farm.
Alien races, futuristic settings, time travel, space operas; these stories encompass many subgenres and can even cross into other genres, but the focus and premise of these stories are based in science and technology. It’s a pretty straightforward genre in that sense, but it is also one that is constantly expanding with new and changing subgenres.
The most important thing here is that the story has a strong base in science and technology no matter what other things it encompasses.
Now if you want to get confusing, there is such a thing as Science Fantasy which covers these two large fields of speculative fiction. If you find that your story covers the fantastical elements and also has a base in science and technology, welcome to this fun little genre.
Women's fiction is an umbrella term for women-centered books that focus on women's life experience that are marketed to female readers, Many of these stories will also fall under mainstream fiction as well, but the key focus here is telling a story that focuses on the experience for a women’s perspective.
Young Adult, Children's Fiction, & New Adult
Most of these stories are going to be about characters under the age of 25 and intended for an audience of the same age.
While there is some wiggle room under the age categories, they generally break down as such: Children’s Fiction (in which there are further broken downs for categorizing) is under the age of 12, Young Adult is 13-18 years of age, and new Adult is 19-25.
If you didn’t see where your story might fit anywhere else in this list, then chances are you might have one of the many less common genres. There are so many, and this is a constantly changing landscape.
The most important thing you can do is ask questions and do your research. There are plenty of genres out there and, I hate to burst your bubble, but chances are what you’re writing isn’t a brand new, never before seen genre. Maybe you are, but there is so much out there when it comes to genres and subgenres, that all I can tell you is to make sure you do your best to learn move about it all.
And with all the potential for confusion, determining the genre you’re writing is both a simple and a complicated matter. So, good luck and I hope this helps.
𝓒𝓻𝔂𝓼𝓽𝓪𝓵 𝓛. 𝓚𝓲𝓻𝓴𝓱𝓪𝓶
More about Crystal!
Crystal L. Kirkham resides in a small hamlet west of Red Deer, Alberta. She’s an avid outdoors person, unrepentant coffee addict, part-time foodie, servant to a wonderful feline, and companion to two delightfully hilarious canines.
She will neither confirm nor deny the rumors regarding the heart in a jar on her desk and the bottle of reader's tears right next to it.
Her paranormal urban fantasy series, Saints and Sinners, is available on Amazon and her YA Fantasy, Feathers and Fae will be released October 11, 2019, from Kyanite Publishing.
Find out more on her website: https://www.crystallkirkham.com/