At the Genre Buffet
Hey there! Welcome to this week's post all about genre - what it is, what a sub-genre is, how many there are and what they are. You might know many of them or perhaps just a few. This could just be a refresher for you or maybe you'd like to learn about more. Whatever you gain from reading this post I hope you enjoy it :)
First of all to answer the question, what is genre?
'A genre is a category of literature idetified by form, content, and style. Genres allow critics [... and readers] to classify compositions within the larger canon of literature'
Below is a list of the most common genres in fiction:
Action - a genre in which the primary feature is the constant slam-bang of fights, chases, explosions, and clever one-liners [...] typically do not explore complex relationships between human beings or the subtleties of pyschology and philosophy
Adventure - a remarkable or unexpected journey, experience, or event that a person participates in as a result of chance [...] usually involve a character who is brought to the adventure by chance, and chance usually plays a large role in the episodes of the story [...] usually includes dangerous situations, narrow escapes, problems to be solved through intelligence and skill, exotic people and places, and brave deeds
Adult - fiction written for, and with, an adult audience in mind. This usually refers to an audience aged 30 or above
Apocalyptic - a genre that focuses on the end of the world and the causes that bring it. This can range from supernatural phenomenon, biblical motives, natural disasters, or even man-made reasons
Children's Literature - a body of written works and accompanying illustrations produced in order to entertain or instruct young people [...] including acknowledged classics of world literature, picture books and easy-to-read stories written exclusively for children
Comedy - [a genre] in which the goal is to make an audience laugh [...] and has always been an extremely popular genre of storytelling
Crime - a genre that fictionalises crimes [true or fictional], their detection, criminals and their motives
Drama - a genre that deals with serious, often negative, emotions
Dystopian - [a genre that] portrays a world in which everything is imperfect, and everything goes wrong [...] shows us a nightmarish image about what might happen to the world in the near future [...] Usually the main themes of dystopian works are rebellion, oppression, revolutions, wars, overpopulation, and disasters
Epistolary - [a genre] pertaining to letters, in which writers use letters, journals, and diary entries in their works, or they tell their stories or deliver messages through a series of letters [...] writers sometimes use other forms of document such as newspaper clippings [... as well as] electronic documents like emails, blogs, radio broadcast, and recordings
Fantasy - a genre that concentrates on imaginary elements (the fantastic). This can mean magic, the supernatural, alternate worlds, superheroes, monsters, fairies, magical creatures, mythological heroes - essentially, anything that an author can imagine outside of reality
Historical - a genre [...] comprising narratives that take place in the past and are characterised chiefly by an imaginative reconstruction of historical events and personage [can include a mixture of real and fictional - for example, real event but fictional character]
Horror - a genre whose purpose is to create feelings of fear, dread, repulsion, and terror in the [reader] - in other words, it develops an atmosphere of horror
Magical Realism - [a genre that] subverts readers' expectations and places them in a state of tension or hesitation with respect to interpretation [...] it casts the reader in the role of 'other' or uninitiated. The reader becomes the person who fails to understand a world with which the protagonists are familiar [... used] by writers looking to explore marginalised voices
Mystery - a genre whose stories focus on a mysterious crime, situation or circumstance that needs to be solved
New Adult - fiction written with an audience aged 18 to 30 in mind
Post-Apocalyptic - where apocalyptic fiction focuses on the end of the world and the causes that bring it, Post-Apocalyptic fiction centres on the aftermath of the apocalypse and how humankind copes and survives, or not, in their new environment
Quest - [a genre that concerns] a journey that someone takes in order to achieve a goal or complete an important task
Romance - [a genre that, originally] involves a mysterious, adventurous, or spiritual story line where the focus is on a quest that involves bravery and strong values, not a love interest [though there might be a character who could evolve into a love interest]. However, modern definitions of romance also includes stories that have relationship issues as the main focus
Saga - [a genre] in which the members or generations of a family or social group are chronicled in a long and leisurely narrative
Science Fiction - [a genre] sometimes described as the literature of what has not happened - yet. Its stories will usually take place in the future or alternative versions of the past or present
Speculative - a broad literary genre encompassing any fiction with supernatural, fantastical, or futuristic elements [also known as 'what-if' fiction, it focuses on stories that answer the question of 'what if ... ?', for example: 'what if Hitler/Germany had won WWII?'; 'what if aliens and humans lived together in harmony?', 'what if trees were purple and could talk?' etc.]
Thriller - [a genre] whose primary feature is that it induces strong feelings of excitement, anxiety, tension, suspense, fear, and other similar emotions in its readers or viewers [...] thrills the audience
Tragedy - [a genre] that presents a serious subject matter about human suffering and corresponding terrible events in a dignified manner
Utopian - [a genre that] denotes an illusionary place that projects the notion of a perfect society to an reader [...] the citizens presiding in such utopias are bearers of a perfect moral code, or at the least, every violator of the moral code is harshly punished. A utopian society is one where all social evils have been cured
Western - [a genre that is] set in the American West, usually in the period from 1850s to the end of the 19th century
Young Adult - fiction written with an audience aged 12 to 18 in mind
Within most of these genres is a number of sub-genres. These are usually made up of two or more different genres to form a new way of writing with a mixture of features and characteristics that define them. Below are just some examples of these sub-genres.
Action - The most well known sub-genre of this is Action-Adventure which, unsurprisingly, contains elements of both the action and adventure genres to create an adventure storyline with dramatic, exciting, risk-taking narrative points
Adventure - All subgenres of this genre are pretty self explanatory and simply put the additional element at the front of its name, for example; Survival/Outdoor Adventure, Fantasy Adventure, Sea Adventure, Historical Adventure etc.
Apocalyptic - Subgenres for this genre are named after the causes blamed for the apocalypse in the fictional piece. For example; Zombies/Pandemic, Return to Low Tech (war destroys technology, nuclear disaster etc.), Robot Uprising, Human vs. Nature (natural disasters), Dying Earth (gradual reduction of the Earth to a barren wasteland), Magic/Supernatural, Alien Invasion etc.
Comedy - The most well know sub-genres of this are Black Comedy (dark humour), Horror Comedy, Action Comedy, and Romantic Comedy
Crime - This genre is one with a larger collection of subgenres. These include; Cosy Mystery/Crime, Private Eye/Investigator, Legal, Detective, Whodunit, Courtroom, Forensic, Hard-boiled (more graphic and gruesome than how-do-you-like-your-eggs), Heists and Capers, and Noir
Fantasy - As one of the largest genres this has one of the biggest lists of subgenres available. Such as; High/Epic, Low, Urban, Fantasy Romance, Sword and Sorcery, Heroic, Medieval, Arthurian, Historical Fantasy, Grimdark Fantasy, Science Fantasy, Gothic, Dark, etc.gore)
Historical - As with other genres, the subgenres for this are almost all self-explanatory with the extra element in the name, for example; Historical Romance, Historical Thriller/Mystery, Historical Adventure, Alternative Historical Fiction [historical fiction but with a 'what if?' twist; e.g. 'what if Mary, Queen of Scots, ruled instead of Elizabeth I?', or 'what if Richard III's nephews had never disappeared?' etc.], Historical Fantasy, Historical Crime
Horror - The subgenres for this genre mimic the world of film with subgenres like; Slasher, Supernatural Horror, Survivial, Science Fiction Horror, Psychological Horror, Gothic, Lovecraftian, Post-Apocalyptic Horror, Splatterpunk (extreme gore)
Post-apocalyptic - Subgenres for this usually mirror those for the Apocalyptic genre plus a few extra such as Post-Apocalyptic Horror
Romance - This is another genre with a big list of subgenres which are, once again, pretty self-explanatory. These include: Historical Romance, Romance Comedy, Religious/Spiritual, Supernatural Romance, Paranormal Romance, Fantasy Romance, Time Travel Romance, Gothic, Chick Lit, and even Romantic Horror
Science Fiction - This genre probably has as many, if not more, subgenres as the Fantasy genre. Sub-genres for Science Fiction include: Alternate/Parallel Universe, Artificial Intelligence (A.I), Steampunk, Cyberpunk, First Contact (with non-human entities), Galactic Empire, Hard Science Fiction, Space Travel, Light/Humourous Science Fiction, Military, Near-Future, Time Travel etc.
Speculative - To list the subgenres within this genre would take too long since it contains all Fantasy, Science Fiction, Apocalyptic, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian and Utopian sub-genres as well as the Supernatural and Paranormal
Thriller - This is another genre with self explanatory subgenres. Such as: Psychological, Action Thriller, Crime, Political, Spy Thriller, etc.
Tragedy - [This is an old genre and therefore has more 'traditional' sub-genres; Greek, Roman, Elizabethan, Jacobean, Revenge, Tragic Comedy, Tragic Romance, etc.
*All definitions taken from Key Concepts in Creative Writing by Matt Morrison (2010 edition), or on the websites: https://literaryterms.net/glossary-of-literary-terms/, https://www.britannica.com, https://www.definitions.net/definition/crime+fiction, https://literarydevices.net/, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/, http://www.traciloudin.com/2015/08/subgenres-and-themes-of-the-apocalypse.html, unless stated otherwise*
As you can probably see, the topic of sub-genres could have filled its own blog post! Hopefully this post has helped to teach you, guide you, or refresh your memory of fictional genres and their sub-genres within literature. Which was your favourite?
I hope it truly whet your appetite for genre fiction!
Join me next week when I wil be discussing the letter D in all its literary glory, see you then!