Nancy’s Notes: Genres
Genres: The Basics
It used to be that the writing world was divided into two realms: fiction, which is a creation of the imagination, and non-fiction, which is based on fact. Since most of the readers who visit this site are fiction writers, I’ll start there. And while there are numerous genres and sub-genres, I’m going to stick with the major categories: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Mystery, Suspense/Thriller, and Romance. So let’s take a look at each utilizing the chart above.
Fantasy genre calls for you as a reader to suspend your ideas of reality and enter a world where the sky is green and dragons can fly. It can build in aspects of romance, horror, and mystery. The key is that the author creates a world with different rules. An author must learn this ‘world building’ and ride the line between utter fascination and enough reality to keep the reader from getting confused. There is a great deal of description in this genre.
Science Fiction is grounded in the use of science to create weapons, starships, and living machines or environments alien to that which we know. It often goes hand in hand with fantasy. It projects its vision of the future whether it be peaceful (what fun would that be?) or dystopian, whether it be on this planet or another.
Thrillers keep us on the edge of our seats. There is always a massive risk and a countdown to a deadline. Danger is around every corner. The protagonist takes us on a roller coaster ride in his journey to subdue the antagonist and we love it.
Mysteries call upon us to piece together a puzzle. The clues are littered throughout the narrative and the general idea is to make you think you have it all figured out only to be startled at the true perpetrator. Bait and switch and false clues are commonplace. They range from cozy and sweet to hardcore detectives.
Romance, ah sweet romance. Regardless of whether it is romantic suspense or paranormal, it all has to do with love. There are specific rules and expectations for this genre and the writer had better be aware of them. The ultimate goal is happily ever after but not before a significant amount of conflict and angst.
There are those who keep their nose high in the air and declare that genre fiction is pulp for the masses and the only real writing is literary fiction. Basically, genre fiction is plot driven; literary fiction is character driven and includes most of what we have come to know as the classics. I say that genre fiction is for the reader who wants to be entertained. Literary fiction will center on a characters growth and change over the course of the time span. It will always have a better seat at the bar and the awards banquets.
Today there are many crossovers or genre smashing. Science Fiction/Suspense, Western/Science Fiction, Mystery/Steampunk. The combinations are endless. As you can see by the chart, each category breaks down into sub-genres. Bear in mind there are other genres such as Westerns that don’t have as large of an audience but are well respected.
There is debate over whether an author can jump genres and maintain their readers. I write romantic suspense. I’d like to think that someday I might try fantasy but currently it seems as though every writer I meet is writing a fantasy novel. I think I will stick to my genre for a while longer. I feel at home there. Besides, don’t we all write fantasy to one extent or the other since our works are figments of our imagination?
So whatever genre you choose to write, do your research. Each one has a format that you can only break once you master the blueprint.