What is a genre?
Fiction is a broad category of literature that includes any imaginative work of prose, such as novels, short stories, novellas, and plays. What exactly then, is a genre? A genre is a specific subcategory of fiction that shares similar characteristics in terms of its subject matter, tone, style, or audience. A category of book type if you will. A genre describes the style and focus of a novel.
Genres give the author blueprints for different types of stories. There are general rules to follow, for example, manuscript length, character types, settings, themes, viewpoint choices, and plots. Certain settings suit specific genres. These will vary in type, details, intensity, and length of description.
The tone employed by the author, and the mood created for the reader, must also suit the genre. There are often sub-genres within genres, for example, a fantasy story with sinister, frightening elements would belong to the dark fantasy sub-genre.
Some examples of popular fiction genres
Romance: This genre typically features stories about romantic relationships, often with a focus on emotions and personal connections.
Action Adventure: Any story that puts the protagonist in physical danger, characterised by thrilling near misses, and courageous and daring feats, belongs to this genre.
Science fiction: Science fiction often explores futuristic or fantastical worlds and technologies, and often incorporates elements of science and technology.
Fantasy: Similar to science fiction, fantasy often takes place in imaginary worlds and features magical or supernatural elements.
Mystery/thriller: These genres focus on suspenseful and often dangerous situations, and typically involve a mystery that needs to be solved or a threat that needs to be neutralized.
Historical fiction: Historical fiction uses real historical events or settings as a backdrop for a fictional story, often featuring characters or situations that are fictional or fictionalized.
Literary fiction: Literary fiction is often characterized by its focus on character development, symbolism, and themes, and often explores more complex or abstract ideas than other genres.
I will go more into each genre in depth in a later post.
Why Does Genre Matter?
Genres are great because they fulfil reader expectations. We buy certain books because we have enjoyed similar stories in the past. Reading these novels gives us a sense of belonging, of sitting down with an old friend and knowing we’re on familiar ground. There is also a camaraderie between readers who follow the same genres.
Writers can use this to their advantage because their boundaries are models on which to base stories. Genres reflect trends in society and they evolve when writers push the boundaries. Readers ultimately decide if the experiment has worked by buying these books.
The most important part of genre fiction, though, is that it fulfils our human need for good, old-fashioned storytelling. We sometimes need stories we can rely on to blunt the harsh realities of life.
Changes In Genres
With the advent of self-publishing and ebooks, genre guidelines have become less strict. This is because a publisher does not have to produce thousands of physical copies of the book. However, if an author would like to publish traditionally, they should still consider genre requirements.