Definition of Fiction Genres
Fiction genres are a way of categorizing the various literary genres related to fictional stories. These are narratives made of imaginary characters, plots, and settings. This means that the narratives that make up these stories are not based on history or facts or truth; instead, these stories are simply the product of an author’s imagination.
Here are some benefits of categorizing fiction into fiction genres:
- Authors can easily communicate what the story is about
- Readers know what to expect when picking up a book of certain genre
- Publishers know how to ensure these books reach the correct readers
Now that you’re aware of what are fiction genres and why they are important, let’s make two important distinctions.
Fiction Genres vs Genre Fiction
Fiction genres and genre fiction are actually two very distinct things.
Fiction genres refer to the different genres of fiction literature. As you’ll learn later in this article, there are hundreds upon hundreds of literary genres that belong to fiction genres—genres that categorize narratives with imaginary plots, characters, and settings.
Genre fiction is one of many of the fiction genres that literature has to offer. Indeed, genre fiction represents a group of fiction genres, namely crime fiction, fantasy literature, science fiction, horror fiction, romance novel, chick lit, among others.
Fiction Genres vs Creative Nonfiction Genres
Fiction genres are attributed to stories that are the fruit of the authors’ imaginations. These fiction stories include plots, characters, and settings that do not exist in the real world. They may resemble things that do exist, but that’s usually just a coincidence.
Creative nonfiction genres are about facts and truths. It’s called creative nonfiction simply because the authors write about the real events in a way that is engaging, like a storyteller. It’s thought that this allows people to retain what they read much better than they would otherwise.
The opposite of creative nonfiction is a news article or a textbook, where the authors simply describe things without any particular consideration about whether or not their content is engaging. In a news article or textbook, the only concern is to provide the information.
Fiction Genres and Literature Forms
However, notice that the vast majority of fiction genres offer stories in the form of novels. This is because it does take a lot of words and, therefore, pages of writings, to create a plot, characters, and settings. The writers of all fiction genres aim for their books to have enough depth so that it makes sense and the reader can become immersed in the story. This is why novels are the primary form in all fiction genres.
This is not to say that there aren’t good novellas or even short stories in every fiction genre. There is certainly at least one great example of a novella or short story for every fiction genre that still stands today as great books.
List of the Most Popular Fiction Genres
As aforementioned, fiction genres are a group of literary genres created to categorize the books of fiction.
There are a few hundreds of fiction genres. And, as the taste of readers and our culture evolves, resulting in increasingly distinct books, there are new fiction genres appearing all the time. However, this is the list of fiction genres that have stood the test of time and are the most popular ones. So, although this list is not an exhaustive one, it will include the fiction genres bound to be the most useful and helpful to you.
For each fiction genre in this list, I will provide a short definition and one of the most popular and celebrated books for that fiction genre.
Books of fiction that are specifically written for children, typically until around the eleven-years of age, belong to the fiction genre of children’s literature. These protagonists of these books are children, and they might include many images to make them more attractive for such a young audience.
Book Example of Children’s Literature
The book Charlotte’s Web by the author E. B. White tells the story of a pig, Wilburn, that is about to get killed by a farmer in a barn. Wilburns’ friend, a spider named Charlotte, tries to save the farmer by threading convincing messages to the farmer with her web.
These kind of protagonists—a pig, a spider, all personified with human fears and desires—are the ones you can expect to find in a book of this fiction genre.
The plot of animals feeling compassion for another and trying to save them is one of the most common for children’s literature.
The settings also tend to be simple enough for children to understand, like is the case of a barn.
Although the fiction genre of this book is children’s literature, it’s been loved as much by adults, including myself. If you’d like to read to a child or even to yourself, you can buy Charlotte’s Web ebook on Amazon
Young Adult Fiction
Young adult fiction, also known as YA or juvenile fiction, is a fiction genre for books written for readers between twelve- and eighteen-years-old—in other words, adolescents. It includes protagonists between of this age. This genre can be thought as the middle-step between children’s literature and all the other fiction genres of adult literature.
Book Example of Young Adult Fiction
Harry Potter: The Complete Collection by the author J. K. Rowling is a collection of books about a adolescent wizard, Harry Potter, and the adventure he goes through with his adolescent friends and colleagues at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The fact that the protagonist and most of the other characters are adolescent is a clear indicator that we’re before young adult fiction.
Also, the plot follows the typical route of the books of this fiction genre, as Harry has to go through various problems characteristic of the adolescence period.
Albeit one for wizards and witches, the setting is a school, where you can expect to find most teenagers.
I loved reading this book collection, as it’s a great example of young adult fiction. If you’d like to read it as well, you can get Harry Potter: The Complete Collection (1-7) on Amazon.
In literature, coming-of-age stories are those that are focused on the development of the protagonist from a child to an adult. These stories give special attention to the typical problems we all encounter when growing up, like puberty, development of long-lasting friendships, first significant other, and high school. For this reason, coming-of-age stories are usually targeted to teenagers.
Book Example of Coming-of-Age Story
The book The Perks of Being a Wallflower by the author Stephen Chbosky is a coming-of-age story about Charlie Kelmeckis, a teenager going through high school.
The plot of dealing with these literary themes will be present in most coming-of-age stories. The protagonist will also be one that is about to become an adult. And the setting will be something that those who will soon come of age will find themselves in, like high school.
This is an emotional and highly-relatable story that I loved to read. You can read it too, by getting your hands on a copy of The Perks of Being a Wallflower on Amazon.
Also known as popular fiction, genre fiction is a broad fiction genre encompasses the books that are written with a specific genre in mind. These books are said to be commercially-oriented, because they are targeting readers of a particular genre that have specific tastes. Genre fiction encompasses a variety of fiction genres: crime fiction, fantasy literature, science fiction, western fiction, inspirational, historical fiction, horror fiction, romance novel, chick lit, among others.
Book Example of Genre Fiction
The book The Handmaid’s Tale written by Margaret Atwood is set in a totalitarian state, Gilead.
The protagonist is Offred, a woman who is part of a group of women who are submissive to the uncontested power of men.
This undesirable setting, where our protagonist finds herself, as well as the frightening plot she goes through, is what makes the fiction genre of The Handmaid’s Tale be dystopian fiction, a subgenre of genre fiction.
If you’d like to delve into this dystopian reality, you can purchase The Handmaid’s Tale on Amazon.
Written exclusively for adults, erotic literature, also called erotic fiction, is a fiction genre dedicated to books whose main events is something sexual. These books are typically written to sexually arouse their readers.
Book example of erotic literature
The book Fifty Shades of Grey by the author E. L. James is about the protagonist Anastasia Steele, a college graduate who falls in love with Christian Grey.
A book with a plot about sexual subjects, provided it’s all fictional, belongs to the fiction genre of erotic literature.
If you like to read erotic literature or would like to give it a try, then this book is a good starting point. You can get Fifty Shades of Grey on Amazon.
Speculative fiction is a broad fiction genre that includes all the genres that deal with things that do not exist, nor have ever, existed in reality. Frequent themes of this genres include supernatural abilities and futuristic inventions. Speculative fiction includes science fiction, fantasy literature, horror fiction, superhero fiction, alternate history, utopian and dystopian fiction, supernatural fiction, among others.
Book example of speculative fiction
The book Fahrenheit 451 by the author Ray Bradbury is set in a hypothetical America of the future, where books are illegal.
Clearly, the reality depicted by these literary elements have never existed in reality. Which is what makes this book belonging to the fiction genre of speculative fiction.
Additionally, as it portrays a society that is frightening and undesirable, it’s also considered dystopian fiction.
This is a great book that reminds us about how books are magical. You can get a copy of the magical Fahrenheit 451 on Amazon.
Gothic fiction, less frequently called gothic horror, is a fiction genre about wonder, terror, death and, often, romance. Common elements in gothic fiction include vampires, blood, witches, werewolves, monsters and old castles. It’s certainly not the best fiction genre for the weak of heart.
Book example of gothic fiction
The book Interview with a Vampire: A Novel is about the protagonist Louis de Pointe du Lac, a 200-years-old vampire who desires to end his immortal life.
This novel, set in various cities of the United States and Europe, paints the plot of the interaction between Louis and other vampires, and his disgruntlement about how they feed off humans without without any compassion.
Because how the protagonist is a vampire and the plot involves death, the fiction genre of this book is gothic fiction.
If you’d like to read about this immortal being who dislikes his own kind, then get a copy of Interview with the Vampire: A Novel on Amazon.
Military fiction, also called war novel, is a fiction genre that categorizes stories that focus on war or other military activities. The plot of these books tend to mostly happen either in the battlefield. If such is not the case—if it’s in a civilian setting—then the characters are most likely preparing to war, suffering the effects of war, or recovering after a war has been fought. Readers expect a lot of violence, death and hardships, when reading military fiction.
Book example of military fiction
The protagonist is Jack Ryan, an intelligence analyst who works for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He believes that the captain of the rogue submarine is planning to defect to the United States.
The plot describes Jack Ryan’s journey of proving his belief and convincing the United States Navy to take the leap of faith and help the captain of the rogue submarine escape the grasp of the Soviet Union.
The elements of war are clear in this book: the set being the cold war; the protagonist being a intelligence analyst; and the plot being involving the US Navy. These allows us to conclude that the fiction genre of this book is military fiction.
If you would like to learn the resolution of this military conflict, get a copy of The Hunt for Red October on Amazon.
As the initials indicate, LGBT literature groups together lesbian literature, gay literature, bisexual literature and transgender literature. The books that belong to any of these fiction genres are typically authored by someone that belongs to the LGBT community, though not necessarily so. LGBT literature is certain to include homossexual characters engaging in homossexual behaviors.
Book series example of LGBT literature
The fiction genre of philosophical fiction is attributed to the books whose significant part of them is intended to raise and/or answer philosophical questions. Common themes include trying to understand human nature, the purpose of life and whether to which degree free will exists. These books may not even be written by philosophers; instead, they are often written by regular authors who are simply raising questions about their own existence.
Book series example of philosophical fiction: The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
In adventure fiction books, the protagonists typically have to face a lot of dangerous and/or exciting plots. This fiction genre is characterized by fast-paced stories and focus on unordinary happenings of the characters’ lives. Indeed, the danger is the focus in adventure fiction.
Book series example of adventure fiction: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Mystery fiction, often called detective fiction, is one of the most popular fiction genres. In these books, the protagonist is typically in charge of solving a mysterious event, typically a crime. It’s often the case that only by the end of the book the mystery is solved, leaving the readers on the edge of their seats until the very last book pages.
Book series example of mystery fiction: Robert Langdon by Dan Brown
Thriller is a fiction genre attributed to books filled with suspense, excitement, surprise and anticipation. In fact, in thriller books, the readers are constantly surprised with the developments and the protagonists have to face incredible odds to carry on with the plot, which tends to be very consequential to other characters and to the setting. The readers of thrillers never reliably know what to expect that will happen next.
Book series example of thriller: Jack Reacher by Lee Child
Epistolary novel is a fiction genre of books written as a great number of letters or diary entries. This way of writing is typically intended to add realism to the story, as it would seem that one is reading about something that actually happened.
Book example of epistolary novel: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
Action fiction is a fiction genre attributed to stories with plots full of excitement and action. Typical elements of this genre is fighting, extreme sports and car chases. It is usually the conflict between the protagonist and the villain that drives the plot forward of action fiction stories.
Book series example of action fiction: Divergent by Veronica Roth
Fable is a fiction genre of stories that involve animals, legendary creatures, plants, or even inanimate objects, with human characteristics such as verbal communication. The point of fables is to teach a moral lesson to the reader. There are both fables for children as well as for adults.
Book example of fable: Animal Farm by George Orwell
Comedy is a fiction genre dedicated to books whose purpose is to be funny and induce laughter. Often, these books filled with jokes are also called humor books. These tend to be written by comedians.
Book example of comedy: Bossypants by Tina Fey
Epic is a fiction genre attributed to stories that involve heroic deeds of the protagonist. These deeds tend to be of the utmost important for the other characters and, sometimes, even to the setting. And often the protagonist will have to make many personal sacrifices to do what needs to be done for the greater good.
Book series example of epic: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Pop culture fiction
Pop culture fiction is a fiction genre where stories mention or reference a lot of other works authored or created by other people. These works might be anything from other books, movies, or tv shows, that were very popular. Typically, the goal of the author with these references is to bring a sense of nostalgia to the readers.
Book series example of pop culture fiction: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Political fiction is a fiction genre that uses the narrative to comment on current or past political events. Indeed, these books, often called political novels, tend to involve fiction characters and plots that resemble the current state of politics very closely. It’s how these books are often used to criticize the government or a political party, while being able to claim it’s all fiction and all resemblance of reality are purely coincidental.
Book example of political fiction: 1984 by George Orwell
Final Thoughts on Fiction Genres
You should now have a more comprehensive understanding of the various fiction genres. Using any of the book examples above, you can now get yourself start on reading any fiction genre you might have not read before. Who knows, maybe you’ll fall in love with a new fiction genre that you weren’t aware of before.
If you have any questions about fiction genres, feel free to contact me on Twitter (@BillVazNeto).
[a]Reading time: describes how long it would take a reader to read the book, at a typical reading rate of 250 words per minute.
5 The Perks of Being a Wallflower eBook: Chbosky, Stephen: Kindle Store. Amazon.com. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
7 The Handmaid’s Tale – Kindle edition by Atwood, Margaret. Amazon.com. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
11 Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades, Book 1) eBook: James, E L: Kindle Store. Amazon.com. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
12 Sourcebooks Will Release New E.L. James Book on June 1. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
13 Fifty Shades Of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy – E L James. Google Books. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
15 Fahrenheit 451 eBook by Ray Bradbury | Official Publisher Page. Simon & Schuster. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
17 Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice: 9780345409645. Penguin Random House. Retrieved April 29, 2021.
19 The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy: 9781101010365. Penguin Random House. Retrieved April 29, 2021.
20 The Hunt for Red October (A Jack Ryan Novel Book 1) – Kindle edition by Clancy, Tom. Amazon.com. Retrieved April 30, 2021.