For those who have been following my blog for a while, you know I’m writing a big series of posts on genres in fiction and how to identify what your book is, and what it’s not. It helps especially when you’re querying, because when an agent sees “time-travel sci-fi”, they know exactly what they’re in for, and that’s a good thing. You can find part one here.
For now, I’ll be wrapping up the last post on the series, which I’ll talk about the “easier” genres to identify. While all the others have a series of subgenres that may confuse people, the last ones are quite simple, which is why I’ll be brief about them.
Literary is a genre that’s most easily identified with purple prose and “lack of plot”. It is very character-driven, and we follow the life of a character throughout a difficult period or just his entire life. Literary is what many people describe as “adult fiction”, although we can also have literary YA. Literary is often used as a synonym for “serious” fiction, which is a term I particularly dislike.
Mystery is the classic who-dun-it narrative we’re so familiar with, as in Poirot and Sherlock Holmes novels. It’s usually familiar and quiet, and we have a list of suspects and in the end, the detective solves the mystery and everyone finds out what happened and live happily ever after. Yay! Mystery novels can have many different settings, but they’re usually set in a place where the list of suspects is confined, or all live in a small town.
Thrillers are James Bond and Jason Bourne types of novels. They rely on action scenes, on big bad guys with mafia, on a chase throughout the world to get the bad guy. Thrillers can also be quieter — an unsolved murder in the 70s that now comes back to haunt someone in particular, or a series of gruesome murders that a small town only wants to forget. It can go from Gone Girl to Dan Brown.
Romance is what it is. There’s no secret here. It’s about two people falling in love, the difficulties presented because they want to get together, the obstacles they must overcome, and the happily ever after. Romances can be considered as a formula, but a good romance will make you care about the characters most of all, and then you’ll be hoping everything works out in the end.
Chick-lit is a bit of a derogatory term for fiction written by women centering on women. It’s contemporary adult fiction, but because it has a happier or light tone, it’s considered as lesser by the general public and reviewers. Chick-lit is Becky Bloom and The Devil Wears Prada.
Like chick-lit, it’s stories written by women centering on other women. But unlike the other genre, it usually centers on more painful or “serious” experiences on the life — difficulties of marriage, raising children, or juggling jobs. Women’s fiction can also often contain romance, but it’s not the main focus of the narrative.
Western is a genre everyone knows and loves, and that is set on the Old West, and often center around a cowboy or gunfighter. They focus on the harshness of the desert and the lifestyle of that time, and have common settings like saloons, ranches, mines, trains and other tropes.
Thanks so much for following me through this series of posts, and I really hope they helped in clarifying genres. Make sure you check out all my other writing resources on the website!