Home

Mastering English


Literary Fiction Genres


This list of fiction genres is drawn from numerous sources, including author's pages, book vendors, public libraries, magazines, academics, and writers group sites; plus the main Wikipedia article on Literary Genres. The subgenre lists have been expanded with data from the good folks on Analog magazine's old discussion board, and our own W2P guest speaker presentations. (These are just a few popular links, out of a great many.)

The prose subgenres we've listed are in red, and sub-subgenres in (parentheses). Clarifications are in {braces}, and major categories in larger print. Genres that spring from non-English publications, which have become popular in translation, are in italics. Subgenres that haven't seen wide use in decades are marked by an asterisk*.

Some of the 'broader' genres listed here might be thought of as 'descriptive categories' instead, and there is no real agreement on which is which. There is plenty of overlap between subgenres (as with American West Romances and Romantic Westerns), and we've chosen to be a thorough as possible. Astute researchers will encounter several different classification systems.
In practice, a novel's (or short story's) genre is often 'fixed' by its cover and marketing, while the work itself could fairly belong to two or more genres.

This page is focused upon literary and genre fiction only. It's a fun exercise to list several examples from each category, by fame or personal favorites.



Writing to Publish itself remains small, and has openings for several new members. Our all-volunteer critique group meets on line every Monday evening, USA time. (Please see our 'Dear Visitor' and 'Schedule' web pages for details. )


Here are some basic definitions.

Fiction Genre Definitions

Here's a list of keywords particular to each genre.

Indicative Words

Here's a list of all written genres, fiction and nonfiction, prose and poem and practical, as seen in a variety of lengths and formats. (In the case of broadcasts, movie scripts, sermons, etc., they are normally written down before being spoken aloud.)

Full Genre List



Major Fiction Genre Categories:

Children's

Fantasy

Horror

Mystery

Romance

Science Fiction

Short Fiction

Thriller/Suspense

Westerns

Young Adult





Absurdist
Adventure
(Milesian*, Robinsonade)
African-American
Airport novels
Allegorical
Alternative History
Americana
(road trip)
Asian-American
Autobiographical Fiction
Bizarro
Campus
(varsity)
Canadiana
Chick Lit
(hen or matron lit, ethnic)

Children's Literature

Children's subgenre definitions and examples

By Children
Early Readers
Middle or Junior Readers (chapter books)
Picture Books
Pop-Up Picture Books
Second Person POV
Traditional Stories


Classic Inspirational
Coming of Age
(bildungsroman)
Commercial Fiction {a high-concept 'catchall' designation}
Constrained
Coterie or Cult Novel
Crime
(Newgate novels*, mafia, prison literature, renegade cops, etc.)
Decadent
Detective
Dickensian*
Drama or Realistic
(over-the-top) {a modern-setting 'catchall' designation}
Economic or Financial
Ecotopian
Erotica
(Chinese, contemporary, early works, faux memoirs, fetish and BDSM)
Epistolary
Existentialist
Experimental
(anti-novel*)
Fable (apologue, legend, parable)
Fairy Tales {traditional}
False Autobiography {if exposed}
FanFic

Fantasy

Fantasy subgenre definitions and examples

Alternate worlds
Arthurian
Bangsian
Celtic
Christian
Comedic
Contemporary
Court Intrigue
Dark
Dying Earth
Erotic
Fairy Tale
Fantasy of Manners or Mannerpunk
Feghoot
Heroic
High or Epic Fantasy
Historical
Historical High Fantasy
Juvenile
Low Fantasy
Media tie-in (Buffy novels, etc.)
Medieval
Mythic (mythopoeia, mythpunk)
Prehistoric
Quest
Romantic
Science Fantasy
Series
Superhero
Sword & Sorcery
Urban Fantasy (nerd outfoxes supernatural)
Vampire (Dracula, Nosferatu, sexy youth)
Wuxia


Folklore (contemporary, international, old European)
Frame story
Frat Lit
Gothic Fiction
Historical
Historiographical Metafiction
Holiday
Hollywood

Horror

Horror subgenre definitions and examples

Aliens
Creepy Kids
Cross Genre
Cutting Edge
Dark Fantasy
Dark Fiction
Erotic
Extreme (splatterpunk, grindhouse or visceral)
Fabulist
Gothic (English gothic, southern gothic)
Hauntings
Holocaust
Humorous
Lovecraftian (Cthulhu mythos, etc.)
Media tie-in (Dark Shadows novels, etc.)
Mind Control
Noir
Supernatural (demons, zombies, etc.)
Paranormal
{investigators}
Psychological (surreal)
Quiet or Soft
Rampant Animals
Rampant Technology
Satanic Bargains
Suspense or Dark Suspense (thriller)
Weird


Humor or Comedy (black or dark comedy, comedy of humours*, comedy of manners, romp, screwball, sentimental, slapstick)
Hysterical Realism
Inspirational
Interactive
(hypertext)
Invasion Literature
Lab Lit {realistic scientists}
Lad or Guy Lit
Latino or Hispanic
(transborder)
Literary Fiction {a quality-writing 'catchall' designation}
Luciferian
Magical Realism
Mainstream or Blockbuster {a mass market 'catchall' designation}
Maritime or Nautical
(journey, marooned)
Melodrama
Military Action
(fictional settings, real settings; near future)
Musical


Mystery

Mystery subgenre definitions and examples

Amateur Investigator
Bumbling Detective
Caper (heist)
Child in Peril (woman in peril)
Cozy
Culinary
Doctor Detective
Furry Sleuth
Handicapped
{previously called "defective detectives"*}
Hard-boiled (noir, tart noir)
Historical (Chinese, Elizabethan)
Inverted or Howdunit
{reader already knows}
Legal (courtroom)
Locked Room or Puzzle
Police Procedural (forensic, futuristic, serial killer, stalker, etc)
Private Detectives (female PI)
Romantic
Serials or Series
Supernatural
Third World
Whodunit


Mythology
Neuronovel
Non-narrative
Nouveau roman
Novela del dictador
Novel of manners*
Pastiche
Philosophical
Picaresque
Postcolonial
(postcolonial gothic)
Prehistoric
Proletarian*
Prompt Stories
(designated first line, precise theme, three-six-nine, etc.)
Proto-Novel
Psychological
Pulp {in magazines, etc.}
Regional
Roman à clef

Romance

Romance subgenre definitions and examples

Action
Americana
American West (precolumbian)
Baby Love
Bodice Ripper
Christian (Amish, contemporary, historical)
Civil War
Colonial America
Contemporary
Exotic Locales
Family Saga
Futuristic (other planets)
Glitz or Glamor
Gothic
Historical (Elizabethan, Georgian, Medieval, Tudor, Viking, etc.)
Indigenous or Primitive
Inspirational or Spiritual (New Age)
Lesbian
Medical
Men's
Multicultural
Paranormal
Regency
Romantic Suspense
Romentics
Ruritanian*
Sensual, Spicy, or Romantica
Sweet or Gentle
Time Travel


Roman a These
Romantic*
Saga or Epic
(family, gaweda, mock, roman fleuve)
Satire or Lampoon (burlesque or travesty, farce, Horatian, Juvenalian, parody, etc.)

Science Fiction


SF subgenres A-F definitions and examples

Age Regression
Alien Invasion
Alternate Histories
Apocalyptic (asteroid hit, gonzo apocalypse, nuclear war, pandemic, etc.)
Artificial Intelligence
Astrobiology
Astrosociobiology
Bigger Than Worlds
Biopunk
Biorobotics
Christian
Clerical
{religious orders}
Communalness
Cosy Catastrophe
Cybernetic Revolt
Cyberpunk
{numerous subtypes and spinoffs}
Cyberspace
Cyborg
Detective (robotic police, telepathic investigation, etc.)
Dying Astronuat
Dying Earth
Dystopian (crowded world, gilded cage, jaded society, theocracy, etc.)
Edisonade*
Environmental
Erotica
Exotic Ecosystems
{unusual life forms}
Extraterrestrial Life
Firm Science
First Encounters
First Landings (Mars, other planets; return to Moon)
Frontier (asteroid miners, rough colony, theme park)

SF subgenres G-P definitions and examples

Gay
Generation Ship
Gothic
Hard
Hollow Earth
Horrific
Hyperspace
Immortality
Invisibility
Kaiju or Tokusatsu
Lesbian
Light or Humorous
Lost Worlds (mysterious islands)
Math
Media tie-in (game-based, Star Trek novels, etc.)
Microbiological
Military
Mind Transfer
Multiverse
Mundane
Mythological
{advanced technology reduxes}
New Wave
Nanopunk
Occupational (accountants, drivers, plumbers, sales reps, etc.)
Parallel Universe
Pastoral or Small Town
Planes of Existence (altered consciousness)
Planetary Romance
Post-apocalyptic
Postcyberpunk
Posthumanism
Progenitive
Pulp

SF subgenres R-X definitions and examples


Recursive
{self-referential}
Religious (alien faiths, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, etc.)
Restored Eden
Retro-futurism
Robot
Science Fantasy
Science Tales
Scientific Romance*
Shapeshifting
Shrinking/Enlarging Humans (endless, episodic, giantess)
Social
Soft
Space Opera (noir)
Sports
Spunky Heroine
SpyFi
Steampunk (clockpunk, gaslamp or gaslight, weird west, etc.)
Sword and Planet
Synthetic Biology
Terraforming
Time Travel (timepunk)
Transhumanism
Undersea
Utopian (19th century visions*, ideological, New Age, etc.)
Voyages Extraordinaires*
Wetware Computer
World-building
{unusual solar systems}
World Government
Xenofiction



Sensation novel*
Sentimental*

Short Fiction

Short Fiction subgenre definitions and examples

55 Fiction
Drabble
Flash
Microfiction
Pinhead
Six Word
Twitterfic
{Under 140 characters}


Slave Narrative
Slipstream
Speculative Fiction {encompasses SF, Fantasy, and Horror}
Sports
Spy
(contemporary, historical)
Stream of Consciousness
Tall Tale

Thriller or Suspense
{Formerly Action}

Thriller subgenre definitions and examples

Aviation
Comedic
Conspiracy
Disaster
Ecothriller
Espionage
Exploration
Legal
Medical
Mercenary
Paranormal or Supernatural
Political
Psychological
Religious
Romantic
Survivalist
Technothriller
Treasure Hunter


Tragedy
(revenge, romance, tragicomedy)
Transrealism
Travelogue {fictional account}
True Crime {criminal's viewpoint}
Urban or Hip-hop Lit
Upmarket {'literary' to 'blockbuster' crossover}
Verse Novels
War Stories {set within actual wars}

Westerns

Western subgenre definitions and examples

Australian
Black Cowboy (buffalo soldier)
Bounty Hunter
Cattle Drive
Civil War
Cowpunk
{outrageous cross-genre}
Doctor and Preacher
Eurowestern
Gunfighter
Humorous or Parody
Indian wars
Land Rush
Lawmen (Texas Rangers)
Mexican wars (Texan independence)
Modern Indians
Mormon
Outlaw
Prairie Settlement
Prospecting (gold rushes)
Quest
Railroad
Range wars (sheepmen)
Revenge
Romance
Town-tamer
Trapper or Mountain Man
Wagon Train
Women



Young Adult

YA subgenre definitions and examples

Amateur Sleuth
Christian (Jewish)
Fantasy (comedic, scary)
Gay Teen (lesbian)
Historical
Other
Realistic Life
Science Fiction


Know of any more? Suggestions are welcome. Email Writing to Publish via Paul Carlson at, ewriters \at\ aol /dot/ com, and please make your subject line relevant and distinct.


eXTReMe Tracker



Top of Page

Mastering English

Home