What the heck is a genre? For a word we use so often to describe our taste in music, books, or art, do we know what it means? A genre is a category that we assign depending on focus and style. By organizing tastes into specific genres, we create rules that define whether or not a book, band, or piece of art belongs to that group. If we want to be complicated, these rules also dictate the length of a book, the query letter approach, and, depending on the focus of the book, whether it falls under the traditional genre or a cross-sub genre. In short, genres are labels we apply to distinguish one work of art from another. Today, I am going to define ten commonly known genres for you.
Fiction versus Nonfiction. This is what we call a no-brainer. Fiction is a work of literature that is entirely made-up. Nonfiction is a work of literature partially or entirely based on actual events. It’s important to understand the differences between these two main genres because the subgenres of each will be defined by them.
Under Fiction, we have a long list of subgenres ranging from Literary Fiction to High Fantasy. Today, we are defining Science Fiction (SF), Fantasy (F), Young Adult (YA), and New Adult (NA).
Science Fiction is usually defined as a story centered around technology and science being at the center of the conflict. SF can be broke into hard or soft, with hard being entirely focused on science/technology being the focus and soft SF focusing on the psychology. Examples of SF novels include Ender’s Game, Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World, and Frankenstein.
Unlike SF, Fantasy normally does not revolve around science or technology. Instead, the Fantasy genre focuses on the mythological, magical, and spiritual elements that result in conflict. Two popular examples of Fantasy novels are JRR. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Neither have much by way of science or advanced technology but both capture the mythical and magic elements of Fantasy.
Young Adult is a genre of Fiction, which can encompass any subgenre, that is written specifically for those between the ages of thirteen and eighteen years old. Typically, this genre addresses a wide range of issues teens during this age range are experiencing but generally does not have excessive sexual content, swearing, or violence. Examples of YA novels include Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, Fangirl, and the Percy Jackson series. Notice that YA can be Fiction or Nonfiction, as well as a cross-subgenre.
New Adult is relatively new to the genre world and was created to meet the needs of readers who enjoyed YA books and wanted to transition to more adult themes. The protagonists in NA books are between the ages 18-30.
Under Nonfiction, we have a variety of subgenres such as Memoir, Autobiography, Essays, and Narrative Nonfiction.
Autobiographies are written accounts of a person’s life centered around events and details that have been fact checked.
Autobiographies are not the same as Memoirs, where the story is centered around the perspective or “witness” of the person telling the story. Memoirs, although filled with factual information, are more personal in the way they include subjective experience.
Those of us who are students should be familiar with Essays. Essays are short pieces of work usually centered around a specific topic or thesis. Essays can be argumentative in nature, persuasive, or academically focused. Though you can have a fiction-focused essay, nonfiction essays focus on actual people, places, concepts, and ideas that can be presented to a specific audience.
Finally, we have Narrative Nonfiction. NNF is also known as Creative Nonfiction or Literary Nonfiction. NNF/CNF/LNF are based on true stories, supported by facts, and told through a reliable narrative. NNF combines character-driven plots with well-done research to creative a compelling yet factual story.