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
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.
Next, we’ll move to the basic genres and their subgenres:
ANTINOVEL– Written without many of the familiar conventions of a standard novel.
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
ACTION / ADVENTURE
subgenres: Cross-genre, Historical
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
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
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
MYSTERY / CRIME
subgenres: Crime Fiction, Detective, Hardboiled, Historical, Noir, Police Procedural, Private Investigator, Supernatural
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
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
SUSPENSE / THRILLER
subgenres: Conspiracy, Crime Fiction, Espionage, Hardboiled, Historical, Noir, Political Thriller, Psychological, Romantic Suspense, Serial Killer
subgenres: Alternate History, Classical Western, Contemporary, Horror Western, Science Fiction Western, Weird Western
Special acknowledgement to Duotrope.com for providing most of the above subgenres.
Here’s an alternate list provided by wiki:
- Crime fiction
- Epistolary novel
- Historical novel
- Magic Realism
- New novel
- Picaresque novel
- Proletarian novel
- Psychological novel
- Science fiction
And lest we forget: Physician Bluegrass Fiction
Here’s the next big genre: Online (Novels about people living their entire lives online.)
Fiction writers, do you write with a genre in mind? Why or why not?