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Understanding Fiction Genres

One of the main doubts that a new author has regarding their book is the genre to which it belongs. Writing comes before genre selection; only few authors follow the vice versa way. So, when the book is finished and you sit back to contemplate, you will realize that you are confused about the genre, to say the least.

More often than not, what happens is that even though you understand the major genre of your book, you will be reluctant to use it because your book also fits into several other genres.

Do not worry. This is completely fine and natural.

Genres are a guiding light for readers. That is why they first came into picture. Genres aim to categorize books and help readers explore and find more books like the ones they already loved.

Most books do not strictly fall into a single genre. They will inevitably overlap and have elements of various genres. However, the genre that you should choose is the one that is highlighted the most. What are the most recurrent themes? Which genre do these themes fall into? What is the aim of your book? What is the basic plot? If you can answer these questions, then you will have your clear answer.

Let's look at some main genres in a broad sense.

1) Crime fiction - This includes mysteries, thrillers, suspense-laced plots, courtroom dramas, legal thrillers, murders, etc. These stories keep you at the edge of your seat and make you wonder. Who did it? Why did they do it? What's going to happen next? The classic examples of crime fiction are Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie mysteries.

2) Horror - Zombies, ghosts, all gory stuff, and generally terror inducing plots belong to the horror genre. These stories will drive away your sleep and make you check under your bed twice. Now, there is a thin line between horror and paranormal. But a few people categorize paranormal and supernatural as subcategories of horror. Although, Vampires, etc. could also come under fantasy. It is all very subjective. R.L. Stine’s goosebumps and fear street books are examples of horror.

3) Romance - You know those mushy stories with sweet words and all kinds of love trials? They are romance stories. Any story whose main element is love belongs in the romance genre. One thing to keep in mind here is that romance is different from erotica. Do not confuse the two. Nicholas Sparks writes romance.

4) Fantasy - When you lose yourself in a dystopian world, in an alternate reality universe, or a parallel society with striking differences, you know you are reading a fantasy novel. These stories might have mystical, mythical, magical and sometimes, supernatural creatures. Witches, wizards, mages, goblins and vampires are also seen. Basically, fantasy is all things imaginary. The hunger games is a fantasy trilogy.

5) Science Fiction - This genre deals with imaginary concepts of futuristic sciences, technology, time travel, space travel, innovations, extraterrestrial life, etc. The basic element is science based theory or facts. Example is Dune by Frank Herbert.

These were the major genres. Now there are a few subcategories that can come under all genres.

1) Young adult - The protagonist is a high school student and is in the late teen years.

2) New adult - The protagonist is a little older than the young adult protagonist. Usually they are of college going age.

3) Contemporary - The time period is the current time.

4) Historical - Dating back in time.

5) Urban - Based on city life. Socioeconomic factors play a role in the book.

6) Children’s fiction – The protagonist is a child and the story is written for children.

Once you become familiar with these genres, you will realize that there are many more. Each year, it seems like new genres are being added. If you do a little more research, then you will completely understand this topic, although it will take time.

This article is written by Kulsum. Kulsum is the bestselling author of The Bleeding Wounds Series on Amazon Kindle. Her debut novel Love of a Stranger is published globally.

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