Critique Group

Finding Your Genre

In Dawn Allen, Genres on January 23, 2013 at 9:38 am

wordartReaders and writers alike know that fiction is broken down into categories known as genres. These allow us to identify a book’s unique characteristics. As readers, it helps direct us to books we will enjoy reading. As writers, it helps us to identify the market for the stories we write. Over the years, the genre chart has become longer and more detailed. It is almost overwhelming. For the sake of sanity, I’m whittling this list to the basic genres. There are a lot of sub-genres within these base genres which can be identified and researched on your own. I’m even including links for your convenience at the end.

Mystery: a tightly plotted story in which the reader plays a part by collecting the clues along with the detective character and tries to determine ‘whodunnit’ by the end of the tale.

  • Mystery Writers: Les Edgerton, Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, Robert B. Parker’s Spenser, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie’s Hercule’ Poirot, Modern: John Sanford, Lee Child, Dennis Lehane, Karin Slaughter, Tess Gerritsen, Nancy Pickard, and Janet Evanovich

Suspense/Thriller: unlike the mystery, in the suspense/thriller, the main character and the reader may know who the bad guy is early in the story and may be cheering for the protagonist to get away from the evil doer before he can take another innocent life or cheering on the protagonist in catching the evildoer before more lives are lost.

  • Thriller Writers: Harlan Coben, Lee Child, Lisa Jackson, Joseph Finder,  Linda Castillo, Lisa Scottoline, Jeffrey Deaver, and Kyle Mills

Historical: these stories blend easily with other genres, especially romance. These stories take place during a particular period in history and as such, the setting and time are as important as the characters in telling the tale.

  • Historical fiction Writers: Isabel Allende, Margaret Atwood, Diana Gabaldon, Margaret George, and Phillipa Gregory

Romance: geared to the romantic in us, these tales focus on romantic love. The positive aspects of love are played up while the negative aspects are buried beneath the tropes of love. The strong male lead, the beautiful and fiery maiden, and a host of missteps that cause their paths to cross.

  • Romance Writers: Jane Austen, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Edith Wharton, LaVyrle Spencer, Danielle Steel, Linda Howard, Jude Devereaux, Julie Garwood, Judith McNaught, Nora Roberts, Karen Robards, and Sandra Brown

Sci-Fi: based on technology or space, these tales also rely on imaginary times and places outside of the realm we currently reside in. Imagination plays large in this genre in its world building and character development. If it follows the space theme, imagination allows the writer to roam free. If it is technology based, research gives you a foundation on which to base your imaginary future.

  • Sci-Fi Writers: Ray Bradbury, Ursula K LeGuin, Isaac Assimov, Orson Scott Card, Michael Crichton, Cory Doctorow, and Joe Haldeman

Fantasy: Often tied to science fiction, the two share common threads. The accepted difference is that fantasy  is set in a universe that doesn’t follow the same rules as the world we live in. In the world of high fantasy, fire-breathing dragons and mermaids exist.

  • Fantasy Writers: George R.R. Martin, J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Prachett, Stephen King, Ursula K. Le Guin, Terry Goodkind, Rick Riordan, and Eion Colfer

Paranormal: Also tightly linked to Sci-Fi/Fantasy, this genre involves creatures and beings with powers that are not known to exist in our world: angels, werewolves, demons, vampires, zombies, etc.

  • Paranormal Writers: Kresley Cole, Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton,  J K Rowling, and Gena Showalter

Horror: This genre relies heavily on atmosphere. The intent is to build a tone and mood that will manipulate the readers worst fears so that in spite of their knowledge of what’s real and what isn’t, they may actually accept the threat present in the tale no matter how improbable.

  • Horror Writers: Ambrose Bierce, Edgar Allan Poe,  Dean Koontz, Stephen King, H. P. Lovecraft, V.C. Andrews, L. A. Banks, Shirley Jackson, Mary Shelley, and Bram Stoker

Contemporary: realistic fiction set in our world as recognized by the reader. The fashion, the culture should all resonate with the reader as being a part of what they experience in their own daily lives. Any theme can be pursued in this genre.

  • Contemporary Writers: Jodi Piccoult, Sherman Alexie, Raymond Carver,  Michael Chabon, John Grisham, John Irving, Barbara Kingsolver, Sue Monk Kidd, Joyce Carol Oates, Amy Tan, David Foster Wallace, John Steinbeck, and Mark Twain

Be sure to visit the Novel Clique member’s blogs for more in depth information on the tropes of specific genres we write:

Thursday, January 24
Natasha Hanova will post about her genres, paranormal and paranormal romance on
Writes by Moonlight

Tuesday, January 29
L.L. McKinney will post about her genres, sci-fi and fantasy on her blog
Info Dump a la El

Thursday, January 31
Dawn Allen will post about her genres, horror and mystery on her blog
Write On

Other Resources:

Have a great writing week!


  1. […] Yesterday, one of my critique partners, Dawn Allen, wrote a post on our group blog titled Finding Your Genre. She touched on the basic genres: paranormal, sci-fi, mystery, suspense-thriller, romance, fantasy, historical, and contemporary. To read her post, click here. […]

  2. […] mystery, suspense-thriller, romance, fantasy, historical, and contemporary. You can find her post here. Well, this week, it is my charge to take two of those genres and dig a bit deeper. Can you guys […]

  3. […] week, Dawn wrote a post on Finding Your Genre. This week, we we’d like to involve you. Please take a moment to answer the polls below and […]

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