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What is a genre in relation to books and the publishing business? A genre is a category of literature, a way to organize and define various types of fiction. Writers are familiar with the main genres, such as romance or mystery, and readers are most familiar with them.
The term “genre fiction” refers to the most widely read commercial fiction in the world, and every reader has a favorite. But the lines of genre are blurry, and new categories and subcategories are evolving all the time. Writing that does not fall into a strict genre may be considered literary or mainstream fiction.
The following are some of the best-known categories and their subgenres, and it is by no means a comprehensive list.
ROMANCE GENRE: A romance is a love story in which the central focus is on the development of the love relationship between the lead character and a love interest. The romance itself is the key element, as is the emotional engagement of the reader. The book should have a happy or satisfying ending.
Gay and lesbian romance
SCIENCE FICTION GENRE: Science is the star of this show. Science fiction often takes place in the future and is based on technological advances, both real and imagined, and how they influence the characters and their world.
Hard science fiction
Soft science fiction
FANTASY GENRE: Often grouped together with science fiction, fantasy tales are based on heroes, myths, folklore, fairy tales, and magic. The Lord of the Rings is a good example of fantasy fiction.
Saga, myth, and legend
Sword and sorcery
WOMEN’S FICTION GENRE: These are books that focus on women’s issues and relationships and are written and read primarily by women. While there are often romantic elements, the focus is not necessarily on one partner, and the endings are more realistic than the happily ever-after endings of the strictly romance division. Think Bridget Jones’s Diary. Often called “Chick Lit” or “Chic Lit,” women’s fiction has birthed spin-offs such as “Mommy Lit” (focusing on motherhood) and “Chica Lit” (which focuses on Latinas).
HISTORICAL FICTION GENRE: This type of fiction is set against historical backdrops, where the setting is as important as the plot. While considerable research goes into these books, historical accuracy is not the immediate goal.
HORROR GENRE: This genre involves the supernatural, the monsters in the closet, and the fear of the unknown. The goal is to scare or unsettle the reader, and Stephen King has a corner on this market.
Vampires and werewolves
MYSTERIES GENRE: A mystery usually involves a crime (most often murder), the investigative process, and the resolution of the crime. The main character is often a police officer or a detective, and the reader is given clues, both real and false, to help solve the mystery.
Hard-boiled detective fiction
ADVENTURE/SUSPENSE: Also called “thrillers,” this category often combines elements from other genres. Readers of this genre can expect action, and lots of it. The main character will have to face a villain of some sort, and obstacle after obstacle will be thrown our protagonist’s way.
CHRISTIAN FICTION: This is fiction that reflects Christian views and focuses on the relationship between the main character and God. Christian can include any of the major genres, such as romance or science fiction.
TEEN FICTION: Teen fiction encompasses all genres but focuses on characters near a teenager’s own age who deal with issues that are important to their age group, like relationships, teachers, and decisions about their futures.
Writer’s Relief helps writers of all genres target the literary agents and editors who will be most likely to appreciate their writing.