top of page

How to Choose a Genre to Write About and What Works For You

Pick It to Win It!

by Aaliya Shah

If you are a writer, you are probably a victim of this situation. Often we have this dilemma of not knowing which genre to write about. While it may seem easy to label yourself a fiction writer, in this vast genre, picking a category within that is anything but a piece of cake. This is mainly because a genre specifies your writing and the style, although it may create a certain appeal to readers it doesn’t do as well with writers.

First, let us take a look at what exactly is a genre. A type of style that defines the piece of art or literature. Fiction is also as easily defined, a work of literature in which the author has made up a scenario that unfolds during the length of the book in a particular sequence.

It also includes characters and a setting which can be equally imaginary. This genre adheres to the style of make-believe worlds that may or may not draw parallels from the real world or their personal experiences. For instance, John Green was inspired to write The Fault in Our Stars after working in a children’s hospital which is loosely based on Esther Earl, a patient at the hospital he grew fairly close to.

Even though the book is completely fiction, it was born from a few real events. All writers have different strategies, some write what they know, what they are good at and others what they love to write about. These are methods that have time and again proven to have an impact on the readers, especially in the last category.

Staying true to your passion for writing and just jotting down the story that you thought of, fell in love with, the characters, the world, the plot. Now while that does reflect a certain rawness from the author, it can lead to a chaotic and messy novel. That is one of the main reasons why planning the structure of your novel, and deciding how to make everything flow seamlessly is essential. Knowing what sub-genre your book belongs in will give you the direction your novel can take the course of.

It is not necessary to stick to one sub-genre; as an author you can write a mix of two or three (maximum) genres that fit the description of your book. Therefore, you need to understand the concept of your novel. To be more meticulous in your process, try testing the waters with several genres to see which aptly fits your plot. Here is a list of a few sub-genres under fiction with a detailed guide to their nature to help you hasten the process.

  • Romance

Ah, the one category even a person who doesn't read daily would be deeply interested in. Right from Romeo and Juliet to even the dystopian fiction series, The Hunger Games, romance is a must-have in almost any book you come across. This sub-genre keeps it simple by creating characters who are/have love interests. The plot would be centred around their connection and the relationship that they form.

Classic tales that have romance as a subgenre can include others like mystery, historical and more to expand the existing wide range of readers. The difference in opinions in this genre is common, as long as it does not overshadow the main objective; the main leads achieve the happy ending they deserve despite what they have been through.

  • Paranormal and Supernatural

Referring to the sub-genre that deals with creatures that cannot be explained with the help of science and often they possess powers making them stand out from ordinary humans. The word paranormal originally means beyond or abnormal. Creatures like witches, warlocks, wolves, vampires etc. fit into the category of paranormal fiction. Stories with a legacy or a prophecy can usually be an indication to classify the literary genre as paranormal fiction.

A similar genre to this would be supernatural which, as the name implies is a category that deals with aspects that are out of the ordinary exceptionally. Books about fallen angels, necromancy and dealing with ghosts that need help crossing over, are a few examples about what consists of supernatural fiction.

It is easy to get confused between paranormal and supernatural, some even get these confused with horror or fantasy. Even though they are closely related, easy giveaways can show the distinction between the two. Paranormal events can create an explanation for their mysterious happenings but supernatural ones can have next to no clarification about why these certain things keep happening.

  • Mystery

Solving cases while cracking your knuckles in the meanwhile, pushing your brain to its limits trying to find out the reason behind a kidnapping, murder or an invaluable heirloom that holds secrets one never would have thought it contains even in their wildest dreams. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is the epitome of this genre.

The mysterious element has to be defined or at the most mentioned at the beginning of the novel to reel in the reader from the start. The element of surprise can be kept throughout the book by leaving easter eggs or clues of sorts to allow the reader to crack the mystery along with the writer.

  • Horror

The best books written in this genre give you an eerie or creepy feeling throughout the book that makes your hair stand up and push you to the edge of your seat. Evil, demonic spirits chase a not-so-innocent protagonist through the woods, hunting down everything that would dare to obstruct their path. Subtle shocks and moments that make you shiver with dread specify the book’s genre as horror.

  • Magical Realism

J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series is included in the literary fiction genre of magical realism. Presenting our world in a fictional plot to have a magical or a completely different world inside of it that functions on magic like a realm of fantasy. Just like how Harry was living an ordinary life before Hagrid came along to whisk him away to a school for the magic arts, precisely that is how an author looking to base her book in this genre should work towards.

Keep the characters and the world as normal as possible so your readers can relate to it, even while introducing magical aspects do so in a way that keeps the fish-out-of-water element intact. Since the genre makes use of realist fiction, it is possible to create parallels of several corrupt societies in the book.

  • Adventure

Stories which put their characters in danger, on a journey to discover new situations which might put their lives at stake. A plot which includes some sort of a search for a secret or even one that has superheroes can be counted in the adventure sub-genre.

Create scenes wherein your main character has to face do-or-die situations and make difficult choices that could define the rest of their personality as the book progresses.

  • Thriller

What this genre lacks in humorous aspects, it makes up in making the readers curious about the ending. Having a novel that has a plot dependent on the time provides the readers to be anxious about whether or not the character would complete the given task on time. This also in turn raises the stakes and conflict.

You should have the basic hero and maybe even a damsel in distress, though we are not in the 19th century anymore so keeping it relevant is a must. An antagonist has to be present in every novel however they can play a bigger role in thrillers. Using plot devices will also enhance the level of your thriller.

  • Science Fiction

Taking scientific theories and weaving an intricate plot around them even if they may not be entirely factual or feasible, is what makes it science fiction. Space journeys, going back in time or going to the future, aliens and beings from other planets or even alternate universes. No matter what concept you choose, in this genre everything has to appear advanced and technologically forward.

You can make your characters have special abilities like clairvoyance, being able to read minds or even having the power to become invisible. The art of world-building has to be precise in this genre. Jules Verne is an extremely popular science fiction author, with his books A Journey to the Center of the Earth and From the Earth to the Moon.

And there you have it! One of the best parts about the fiction genre is that under the umbrella of sub-genres it is always possible to mix genres to suit your style of writing. Specification of the genre is only important so that the audience it caters to can have a clear cut understanding of what the book would entail. The more one writes, the easier it gets to come up with stories right out of your head. Just because it came from your head, does not mean that it cannot be real.

Having faith in one’s piece of work is also extremely important. It is your responsibility to take the stories you created out of thin air and make them make sense to people other than you. It should be able to help them relate to it. Experimenting with different styles can also help to improve one’s writing style and open up their horizons to try something new.

It is daunting to try anything new but one should remember that just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, writing a book takes time, effort, energy and practice, when done right, it can truly be phenomenal.

#genres #writing #fiction #creativewriting #literarygenres

bottom of page