Big Fat Fiction Genre List

FT.com

Fiction genres may be determined by the content, literary technique, tone, and length of novels.

“Genre conventions,” as defined by Robert McKee, are “specific settings, roles, events, and values that define individual genres and their subgenres.”

So you want fiction genres? I’ve got fiction genres. The first list includes most of the popular and recognized genres and subgenres of fiction. Note that some subgenres of one basic genre will overlap with other subgenres of other basic genres. There’s no established consensus of what constitutes a “fiction genre,” so this list may change as I see fit. In deference to wiki, I excluded the categories of “Young Adult” and “Graphic Novel” from the first list of fiction genres: “Genre should not be confused with age category, by which literature may be classified as either adult, young-adult, or children’s. They also must not be confused with format, such as graphic novel or picture book. The distinctions between genres and categories are flexible and loosely defined, often with subgroups.” -wiki

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We’ll start with what I consider the 2 broadest fiction genres. Not all fiction falls under these two labels- in fact, I’d say most fiction does not. But I included these at the top of my list to represent the extremes of a spectrum:

AIRPORT NOVEL / PULP FICTION- Written for maximum market appeal, with minimum consideration given to other novel elements.

LITERARY NOVEL- Written with minimum consideration given to mass market appeal, with maximum consideration given to other novel elements. 

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Next, we’ll move to the basic genres and their subgenres:

ANTINOVEL- Written without many of the familiar conventions of a standard novel.

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GENERAL- Written with many of the familiar conventions of a standard novel. Also may fall under another basic genre label.

subgenres: Bizarro, Cross-Genre, Fabulism, Gothic, Historical, Magic Realism, Slipstream, Urban Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Men’s Fiction, Genderqueer Fiction

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ACTION / ADVENTURE

subgenres: Cross-genre, Historical

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EROTICA

subgenres: BDSM, Contemporary, Erotic Action-Adventure, Erotic Fantasy, Erotic Horror, Erotic Mystery, Erotic Romance, Erotic Science Fiction, Erotic Suspense, Erotic Western, Gothic, Historical, Paranormal, Shapeshifter, Vampire, Non-Vampire Monster

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FANTASY

subgenres: Bizarro, Contemporary, Cross-Genre, Dark Fantasy, Fabulism, Fairy Tale, Gothic, Heroic Fantasy, Historical, Light Fantasy, Magic Realism, Paranormal, Science Fantasy, Shapeshifter, Shared World, Slipstream, Steampunk, Superhero, Supernatural, Sword & Sorcery, Urban Fantasy, Vampire, Non-Vampire Monster, Weird Tale, Weird Western

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HORROR

subgenres: Apocalyptic, Bizarro, Creature Horror, Dark Fantasy, Extreme Horror, Fabulism, Gothic, Historical, Horror Western, Magic Realism, Noir, Paranormal, Psychological, Science Fiction Horror, Serial Killer, Shapeshifter, Shared World, Slipstream, Soft Horror, Supernatural, Vampire, Weird Tale, Zombie, Monster Other than Vampire / Zombie

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MYSTERY / CRIME

subgenres: Crime Fiction, Detective, Hardboiled, Historical, Noir, Police Procedural, Private Investigator, Supernatural

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ROMANCE

subgenres: Chick Lit, Guy Lit, Genderqueer Lit, Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Gothic, Historical, Paranormal, Regency, Romantic Action-Adventure, Romantic Comedy, Romantic Fantasy, Romantic Horror, Romantic Mystery, Romantic Science Fiction, Romantic Suspense, Romantic Western, Time Travel, Vampire, Non-Vampire Monster

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SCIENCE FICTION

subgenres: Alternate History, Apocalyptic, Bizarro, Contemporary/Near Future, Cyberpunk, Dystopian, Hard Science Fiction, Mundane Science Fiction, Science Fantasy, Science Fiction Horror, Science Fiction Western, Shared World, Slipstream, Soft Science Fiction, Space Opera, Steampunk, Superhero, Time Travel, Weird Tale, Weird Western

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SUSPENSE / THRILLER

subgenres: Conspiracy, Crime Fiction, Espionage, Hardboiled, Historical, Noir, Political Thriller, Psychological, Romantic Suspense, Serial Killer

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WESTERN

subgenres: Alternate History, Classical Western, Contemporary, Horror Western, Science Fiction Western, Weird Western

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Special acknowledgement to Duotrope.com for providing most of the above subgenres.

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Here’s an alternate list provided by wiki:

And lest we forget: Physician Bluegrass Fiction

Here’s the next big genre: Online (Novels about people living their entire lives online.)

Here’s an expanded list of subgenres.

Here’s a list of ALL genres.

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Fiction writers, do you write with a genre in mind? Why or why not?

 

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9 Comments

  1. You have almost every genre except my line; physician bluegrass fiction.

    Dr. B, author, “The Mandolin Case”

    Reply
  2. I don’t write with a particular genre in mind, but somehow I always end up writing something in the Sci-fi or Fantasy genre. Especially the philosophical themes I like to write about fit in the sci-fi setting… But I have written shorts that aren’t sci-fi at all.

    Thanks for these lists, C.M., it’s good to see this kind of information in one place. But with some subgenres I really wonder what it actually IS. Lol.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • You’re welcome!

      I don’t write with a particular genre in mind either. When I look at my work, however, most of it seems to be in the Psychological Horror / General genres. Last year I wrote a Speculative novel (Plausible Futuristic).

      Yeah, some of the subgenres sound pretty wacky. lol

      Reply
  3. Hi CM. I didn’t write my first novel with fiction in mind, and when someone first asked me what genre it was, I couldn’t answer. I was so clueless, I didn’t think it really mattered. Now, I know I write post-apocalyptic sci fi. Looks like you’ve got a label here for every occasion so I don’t have to be at a loss in the future. Thanks for the post. :)

    Reply
    • You’re welcome!

      In my opinion, when writers first start writing, they should just write without considering genre. This is “finding your voice.” After they’ve written a few stories, then they may want to determine if their work falls under a particular genre. Many authors do well commercially when they write with a particular genre in mind.

      Reply
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