Genres: Which Genre Does My Novel Fall Into?

Genres: Which Genre Does My Novel Fall Into?

A Lesson by Kumakani

This lesson basically goes over the genres and all their subgenres, so you can get the idea of what your story is and where it falls in all the literary genres.




Here’s a nice little list of all the main genres and their subgenres, with a short description of each. Not all genres are listed, since there’s probably a billion and one, but hopefully it helps you categorize your story.


There’s the major types, which basically categorize what your work is. These are:

·       Fiction

·       Non-fiction

·       Drama

·       Short story


I’m not really going to go into that, since those genres are self-explanatory. Then we get into the genres and their subgenres. They are as follows:


Mainstream and Young Adult: I lumped these together, since basically, both are just books you have a hard time classifying. It’s got your conflict, protagonist and antagonist, right and wrong, etc. Mainstream and Young Adult subgenres are:

·       Contemporary: Anything that takes place in the present, modern-day times and deal with every day issues.

·       Genre: Yes, the subgenre is genre. These are books that, instead of keeping us grounded in real-world or reality, it’s much more fictitious (if that makes sense).


Mystery: Anything that involves a crime and the events leading up to the solving of that crime. While the mystery can be anything, it’s usually a murder mystery. The subgenres of mystery include:

·       Cozy: These mysteries focus on every-day people, not detectives or cops, who solve the mystery. Mary Higgins Clark, for example, writes a lot of these. It’s probably the most popular subgenre of mystery fiction.

·       Thriller: Usually very violent and sort of like horror.

·       Police Procedural/Cop Drama: Pretty the genre of any cop show on TV, like NCIS, CSI, Bones, or Law and Order. It involves cops or some sort of law enforcement solving the case.

·       Historical: Self-explanatory. The mystery is set in the past. This usually turns out to be a cozy mystery as well.

·       Hardboiled: Detective mysteries! (Think Sherlock Holmes.)


Action/Adventure: Main character is put into some sort of exciting situation, with bad guys and beautiful women, etc. While fantasy books also can fall in this category, the action/adventure genre by itself usually does not have any magic or sci-fi elements. The Indiana Jones movies and The Three Musketeers could be considered action/adventure.


Romance: Very, very popular genre. There are shelves and shelves devoted to this genre at Barnes & Noble. The subgenres are as follows:

·       Contemporary: Romance occurs in a present-day setting.

·       Historical: Romance occurs in a historical setting.

·       Paranormal: All the rage on the young adult shelf. The main character falls in love with a mythical creature and romantic drama ensues.

·       Erotica: Very, very steamy fiction. And that’s all I’ll say about that.


Western: Not very popular. But the setting is in the Wild West in the mid-1800s. Think Dr. Quinn or Little House on the Prairie.

Historical Fiction: A novel set in the past. A lot of genres also have this subgenre (see romance, mystery, and fantasy.)


Horror: These are your scary books, like Dracula or, heck, even The Raven (even though it’s a poem.)

·       Slasher: BLOOD! GUTS! It’s basically Texas Chainsaw or Friday the 13th as a book. Lots of blood, violence, gore, etc. Relies mainly on shock value.

·       Psychological: These are less overt in their graphic-ness, at least in my opinion. These generally tend to play with your mind, as opposed to scaring you with an ax murder going around killing people.

·       Paranormal: Ghosts, vampires, witches, etc. Campfire stories (only maybe not as cheesy.)


Thrillers: It’s a subgenre of mystery that gets its own subgenres! They do tend to have elements of horror and science fiction in them.

·       Techno-thrillers: Usually sci-fi (ish). Usually set in the future and involves a lot of technology.

·       Historical: Do I need to explain this one? A thriller set in another time period.

·       Medical: It’s pretty much what it sounds like. It can sometimes have to do with science-fiction. It has to do with medicine and usually someone is testing some new, horrible drug on somebody or something along those lines.

·       Espionage: Spy novels!


Science Fiction: Also known as sci-fi. While it usually has fantastical, maybe unbelievable elements, it relies on science and technology, not fantasy creatures and magic, like fantasy does.

·       Hard: Relies on a LOT of science-fiction. Isaac Asimov was a popular hard science-fiction writer.

·       Military: Lots of emphasis placed on warfare, although it also can fall into the subgenre of hard sci-fi.

·       Space Opera: It has elements of military and hard sci-fi, but usually is a little lighter on some of the nitty-gritty stuff. Lighter. Kind of like a soap opera, only less cheesy. Star Wars is a space opera.

·       Steampunk: This is a subgenre that’s rising in popularity. Basically, the world’s technology is run on steam and it is set in a Victorian-era setting.

·       Alternate History: This focuses on real historical events, but throws in some twists. Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan is probably the most popular example of this. That series is an alternate history of World War I. It’s like a fairy-tale retelling, only with actual events.

·       Dystopia: This is set in a futuristic world, with a very messed-up government or society. (DO NOT mix this up with utopia. Utopia is a perfect, flawless society, which no one really wants to read about because it creates no conflict.) Anyway, the plot usually revolves around the main character trying to take down the government and change the world.


Fantasy: This one focuses on magic and mythological creatures. (My personal favorite genre.) Here are the subgenres of fantasy:

·       Epic: Epic fantasy is set in another, fictional dimension. It often has a wide, sweeping cast of characters, a complex plot, and a very intricate setting. Lord of the Rings is the prime example of epic fantasy.

·       Sword and Sorcery: This is more focused on action, with less focus on the setting and maybe even developing really strong characters. Often contains all sorts of magical creatures and knights and a lot of fantasy clichés.

·       Dark: No, no, not in a “horror” sense of the way. Dark fantasy just means there’s not really a central good guy. Your main character may be the villain or a gray character.

·       Historical: A novel set in the past with magic and fantasy. The book Grave Mercy is a historical fantasy.

·       High: While it’s similar to epic fantasy, with its fictional dimension setting, it doesn’t have the scope that epic fantasy does. This usually focuses on just a few main characters and the plot isn’t as complex.

·       Urban/Contemporary/Low Fantasy: It’s usually called one of those things. This is a fantasy story set in the real world. Most paranormal romances are set in the real world and books like Percy Jackson would be considered urban fantasy.


I think that covers most genres. I’m sure I missed a few, but like I said, there’s a lot. Your story might not fit neatly into just one genre/subgenre and that’s okay. Most books don’t. Now, moving on to plot.


Writing Exercise:

Write a short scene (between 500-1,000 words, although it can be as long or short as you want) in any one of the genres, preferably one that you don’t usually write in. It’s a nice way to get out of your writing comfort zone.



"List of Literary Genres." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 31 Dec. 2012. Web. 11 Jan. 2013. <


Sareh. "Birds of a Writer: Writing Tips- What Genre Is Your Story?" Birds of a Writer: Writing Tips- What Genre Is Your Story? N.p., 28 Aug. 2011. Web. 11 Jan. 2013.


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Added on January 12, 2013
Last Updated on January 12, 2013

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