Genre Confusion pt. 2

Here is a list of popular genres and their definitions. If you’re a writer and having trouble deciding which genre your book falls into, follow the steps below.

Step 1 – Pick your category. What age group is your book written for?

Middle Grade (MG) – Age 8-12

Young Adult (YA) – Age 12-18 or higher.

New Adult (NA) – Characters are 18-25 with a focus on growing into adulthood, phases of life.

Adult – Intended for adults. Main characters can be any age. It’s the content that determines the category.

Step 2 – Pick a genre. This is where people get frustrated. There are so many different genres and sub-genres out there. I’ve chosen to focus on the ones I see most commonly referenced on twitter and on shelves in book stores.

If you are querying your novel pick your category and 1-2 genres i.e. YA Contemporary, YA Historical Fantasy, Adult Paranormal Romance, Romantic Thriller etc…

If you are self-publishing pick up to 2, but you can tag your book with as many genres as you like on websites like Amazon and Goodreads. So don’t stress!

The Genres

Speculative Fiction known as Specfic or SF (sometimes confused with Science Fiction) is a broad term that encompasses the following genres.

Science Fiction

A genre that uses science and technology (usually imaginative or futuristic) as the main part of the plot.

Popular subcategories for scifi include:

Steam-punk – Takes place in the Victorian/industrial revolution era and features steam-powered machinery.

Time Travel – Character travels forward or backward in time.

Alternate History – Taking real historical events and altering them with a science/technology element. (This can also fall into a non-science fiction category).

Parallel Universe – A universe that exists alongside our own

Super-human – Superhuman characteristics or abilities induced/aided by science/technology.

Space opera – An adventure novel set in outer space. Usually has romantic, melodramatic elements (John Carter).

Space Frontier – Themes of innovative space travel/exploration.


Uses magic, supernatural, mythological elements/creatures in a world that is somehow different from our own.

High Fantasy/Epic Fantasy – Takes place in an imaginary world (Game of Thrones).

Low Fantasy – Usually set in the real world or has real world elements. There can be fictional/magical places within the real world (Harry Potter).


Usually set in our world with characters such as Vampires, Witches, Werewolves, Shape-Shifters, Angels, Demons, Fairies, Elves, or the Undead.


Stories intended to frighten, horrify, startle, and disturb. Gothic fiction can fall into this category and combines romance with horror.

Superhero fiction

Incorporates characters like those found in comic books.


Explores social and political issues in a futuristic/alternate real world setting. Utopian is an ideal setting. Dystopian is an unhappy, degraded society, usually with a tyrannous government/world order or no political structure at all.


Something threatens the existence of humanity. Apocalyptic takes place as the threat is happening. Post-apocalyptic takes place after and focuses on the survivors.

Magical Realism There is some debate as to whether or not this falls within the Speculative Fiction umbrella, being that the main characteristic is a real world setting.

The plot/setting is completely recognizable and realistic with very minor magical elements. The presence of the fantastical element is usually neither directly addressed nor explained. It blends the everyday with the miraculous (The Green Mile). This is often a characteristic of Latin American literature (One Hundred Years of Solitude). While Life of Pi is listed as a fantasy adventure, it can also be considered Magical Realism because the events were merely a creation of the character’s imagination.

Commercial/Mainstream Fiction appeals to a wide audience and has many subgenres.


Any form of crime fiction. A characteristic of mystery usually includes a detective-like main character that must solve a mystery.


 These novels are fast paced, action packed, and usually include a powerful antagonist that the main character must defeat.


Suspense novels create a feeling of anxiety and uncertainty for the reader. The plot uses tension as a device to lead up to the final big event.


Takes place during the American Old West.


The primary focus of the plot is on romantic relationships.

Erotic Fiction – Focuses on sexual relationships intended to arouse the reader.


Addresses issues that interest women, and modern womanhood. Main characters are women dealing with jobs, family, relationships, and phases of life.

Contemporary Fiction

Takes place in present day and deals with present day issues.

Historical Fiction (Can fall under commercial fiction or literary fiction).

The story takes place in a specific historical time period.

Literary Fiction Is introspective fiction examining the thoughts and feelings of the character/characters. This is a character driven novel as opposed to a fast paced, plot driven novel. Sometimes considered the “snob” of fiction, this genre is said to cover serious subject matter, have literary merit, and stand the test of time. (The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Kite Runner).


If you’re still having trouble deciding how to label you book, pick a book that is comparable to yours and google the genre.

Here is a link to Genre Confusion Pt 1. It began as a twitter conversation.

Hope that helps!

Follow me on twitter…NOW! @tamzwrite

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