Depending on where you look for the information, genre is defined as “a literary species or form,” “a distinctive type or category, especially of literary composition,” and “a style of literary, musical or artistic work.”
“All of the arts consist of genres. To name some of the outstanding types: in painting, there are the landscape, the still life, the portrait; in music there are the sonata, the symphony, the song; in film we have the domestic comedy, the horror/thriller, the Western.”* Did you notice this excerpt doesn’t attempt to break down literary genre? It isn’t easy. I have several lists detailing the components of various genres, no two of them identical. Even if we could create a comprehensive list, many of us would probably be hard pressed to figure out exactly where our novels fit, anyway.
For purposes of entering their Genesis Contest the American Christian Fiction Writers website breaks fiction down to these categories:
- Contemporary Fiction
- Contemporary Romance (includes romantic comedy)
- Historical Fiction (not romance)
- Historical Romance
- Romantic Suspense
- Speculative Fiction
- Women’s Fiction
- Young Adult
A description of each category is on the ACFW website FAQ page, item #19.
Lucienne Diver is an agent at The Knight Agency. Over on her Authorial, Agently and Personal Ramblings blog way back in January 2009 she blogged about “Genres and Subgenres and Memes, Oh My!” The post doesn’t include non-fiction but is a detailed look at the breakdown of most major adult fiction genres (excluding YA).
These are just two places offering information to demystify genres. I know there are many others. My point is, we need to know where our writing fits in, if for no other reason than to correctly identify the right agent to represent it, the right place to market it, and in which bookstore section it will be located once buyers begin to look for it.
Have you identified your book’s appropriate genre? What will you do if it crosses two or more genres?
*A Guide to the Study of Literature: A Companion Text for Core Studies 6, Landmarks of Literature, English Department, Brooklyn College.
** Word Cloud designed at Wordle.net