What is a Genre?

By ToniLeland (ToniLeland) on March 14, 2011

All writing falls into what we call genres, the categories that describe the style and content of a piece of work. We have about 28 genres and sub-genres from which to choose, but do you know what they are? Here's a list to give you ideas.

FICTION involves characters and plots which are not real; however, they may be based on a real event or person, and occur in a real place.


Action/Adventure: plot-driven

Children: geared toward specific age, all styles of writing

  • Early Reader (ages 5–7)
  • Chapter Books (short, ages 7–9; longer, ages 9–12)
  • Young Adult (ages 13–18)


  • Dark: disturbing elements, morbid or grim humor
  • Farce: improbable plots and exaggerated characters
  • Parody: mockery of another work
  • Satire: irony, sarcasm, caustic wit used to attack
  • Screwball: whimsical or foolish
  • Slapstick: physical action that’s funny



Drama: realistic characters in realistic scenarios

Experimental: innovative style and subject matter

Fantasy: beyond human capabilities. Subgenres include

  • Contemporary: set in modern real world
  • Dark: similar to horror genre
  • Dying Earth: subgenre based on work of American author, Jack Vance
  • Heroic: high fantasy with hero/heroine on a quest, often with magical items
  • High: (also epic fantasy) larger than life struggle between good and evil
  • Historical: set in historical past but with fantasy elements
  • Medieval: subgenre of high and historical fantasy, events during medieval era
  • Mythic: inspired by mythology, folklore, etc.
  • Prehistoric: set in prehistoric times
  • Science: has elements of sci-fi, but also magical elements
  • Superhero: began in American comic books; costumed heroes with amazing skills
  • Sword & planet: tales set on other planets
  • Sword & sorcery: concerned with immediate physical threats and action
  • Urban: magical characters in a city setting
  • Wuxia: literal meaning is “martial (arts) heroes”; a subgenre of quasi-fantasy and martial arts genre in literature, television and cinema.

Folk Tales/Fairy Tales

  • Fables: stories that teach a lesson or moral; characters are usually animals
  • Legends: traditional story regarded as historical, but unauthenticated
  • Myths: created to explain some phenomenon of nature
  • Parables: simple story to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson
  • Tall Tales: folk tales with an element of exaggeration

Gothic: tales of the macabre, terrifying experiences in ancient locations

Graphic Novel: in form of long comic strip

  • Anime: Japanese animation
  • Manga: Japanese comics

Historical/Epic: detailed research with imagined characters

Horror: Subgenres include

  • Creepy Kids: children are focus of story
  • Cross Genre: horror with overriding elements of another genre
  • Cutting Edge: nontraditional aspects of supernatural
  • Dark Fantasy: includes gargoyles, witches, vampires, etc.
  • Dark Fiction: catch-all term for contemporary horror, dark fantasy, dark suspense
  • Dark Suspense: constant threat from an outside menace
  • Extreme: blood, guts, gore; aims for gross. Also called Splatterpunk.
  • Fabulist: different tone and/or setting, sometimes old-fashioned voice or location
  • Gothic: haunted houses, castles, crypts, mansions, etc.
  • Humor: horror elements made to seem funny (ex: Adams Family)
  • Lovecraftian: based on the H.P. Lovecraft mythos–world was once inhabited by race with dark powers
  • Noir: set in a dark urban world of crime and immorality
  • Psychological : plot focused on disturbed psyche
  • Quiet (Soft): subtle, moody, atmospheric
  • Supernatural and the Occult: elements such as ghosts, specters
  • Surreal: bizarre and irrational imagery

Inspirational: meant to inspire new way of thinking or acting

Literary: more sophisticated technique, character driven; sometimes philosophical



Mystery: subgenres include

  • Amateur Detective: nosy neighbors, inquisitive civilians, meddlers get involved
  • Caper: centered on the commission of a crime or scam
  • Cozy: usually set in peaceful, quiet locations with minimal violence; everything solved by conclusion
  • Detective: licensed private investigator or ex-cop
  • Hard-Boiled: tough detectives and grim details
  • Police Procedural: main character part of a crime-solving team
  • Soft-Boiled: hard-boiled with a lighter sense of optimism, sometimes humor
  • Suspense: emphasis on action and anticipation, sometimes psychological
  • Thrillers: intense excitement and anticipation; reader left in the dark until conclusion
  • Whodunit: traditional or “classic” mystery, often using early writing styles

Mainstream: appeal to more general audience, usually plot-driven

Romance: centers around romantic relationship of the main characters, should include HEA (Happily Ever After!)

  • Contemporary: set in present day, usually after the World Wars
  • Dark: nontraditional love stories
  • Dark Fantasy: vampires, demons, witches, etc
  • Fantasy: takes place in other worlds or realms, include magic or magical creatures
  • Gothic
  • Historical: takes place in specific time period with all clothing, etiquette and events; usually before World War II
  • Inspirational: inspire the reader and evoke hope for love; often contain religious tones
  • Multicultural: characters of different cultures brought together
  • Nostalgic Historical: taking place in the recent past
  • Paranormal: other world elements, ghosts, etc.
  • Regency: time period of early 1800’s, usually in England
  • Religious: story governed by religious rules and customs
  • Romantic Suspense: suspense and intrigue drive the relationship forward
  • Time Travel: spanning two or more time periods
  • Western Historical: background is American Old West

Speculative Fiction: science fiction, fantasy and horror

Science Fiction/Futuristic

  • Alternate History: written as though historical events turned out differently
  • Apocalyptic/Post-apocalyptic: the end of civilization through disaster
  • Biopunk: describe the disbelieving side of biotech society
  • Cyberpunk: near-future, dystopian settings; information age, Internet; dark
  • Military : conflict between national, international, interplanetary, or interstellar armed forces
  • Space Opera: romantic, often melodramatic adventures set in space
  • Space Western: subgenre of space opera with theme of American Western stories
  • Steampunk: mix of sci-fi and fantasy themes of 19th century society and steam-operated machines
  • Superhuman: humans who have abilities beyond normal
  • Time Travel: travel through time

Women’s Fiction: targeted toward women, told from woman’s point of view

  • Romantic: similar to Romance, though may not have a HEA
  • Chick Lit: light-hearted, sometimes caustic; characters in 20-30’s


NON-FICTION covers anything factual

Autobiographies: history of a person’s life and accomplishments, written by that person

Biographies: history of a person’s life and accomplishments, written by a second party



Creative Nonfiction: true story dramatization incorporating both fiction and journalism

Essays: short prose stating an opinion, making a point, or describing an event



Journalistic Reporting: reports news with creative slant rather than just the bare facts

Memoirs: limited autobiographies, often covering only specific events in a life


Persuasive: one-sided or directed at converting the reader to a person belief or concept



Science & Technology

Self-Help/Psychology/Sociology: usually describe how to improve life, raise self-esteem, increase health, or learn a skill


True Crime: narrative or re-telling of events surrounding the nature of a crime


POETRY/PROSE having a rhythm and meter, creating imagery; subgenres include


Elegy: mournful and melancholy

Epic: lengthy work involving heroic adventures

Lyric: melodic and personal in nature

Narrative: tells a story

Prose Poetry: includes attributes of both prose and poetry

Satirical: often political or societal theme


Condensed from a list compiled by author Adrianna Dane and shared through 

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License

Related articles:
creative, descriptive, expository, fiction, narrative, non-fiction, persuasive, poetry, writing

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Thanks, Toni... Sharon Mar 20, 2011 12:00 PM 10


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