Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Differences Between Genres

Song of the Day: So Good by Destiny’s Child

    Does anyone else out there also get confused about genres sometimes? I know there’s a lot of cross genre writing happening but sometimes I feel like I don’t truly know the definition of some genres. The October 2010 issue of Writer’s Digest focuses on publishing. In an article revealing agents who are looking for new writers I came across a section defining the genres of the writing world. I thought it was very helpful, and I figured I’d pass it along.

The following definitions were provided by the October 2010 issue of Writer’s Digest:

Defining Genres:

High Fantasy: Fantasy set in other worlds involving some—or all—non-human characters and creatures, such as dwarves and dragons.

Literary Fiction: Fiction that doesn’t fall into any of the popular, or commercial, fiction genres (such as thriller, romance, horror, etc.). Literary Fiction is often driven by character and voice rather than plot.

Middle Grade: Fiction for readers 8-11 years old, with themes that tend to avoid hot-button topics such as sex and drugs.

Narrative Nonfiction: A true story told using the tools of fiction, including character arcs, three-act structures and cliff hangers.

Steampunk: A form of alternate-history storytelling in which a historical setting, usually Victorian England, features advanced technology powered by steam.

Up-market Fiction: A term traditionally used to describe women’s or literary fiction that has the power to cross over to book clubs with mainstream appeal.

Urban Fantasy: A story with unnatural (usually paranormal) elements that is set in an Earth-based reality rather than a far-off world. Most vampire fiction falls into this category.

Women’s Fiction: In the words of Scott Eagan: “These are not simply stories with female characters, but stories that tell us the female journey. Women’s fiction is a way for women to learn and grow and to relate to others what it is to be a woman.”

Young Adult (YA): Fiction for readers 12-15 years old, usually featuring high-school aged protagonists.

     This clears things up a bit, at least for me. I write mostly literary fiction, and it makes sense. My work tends to focus more on the character, rather than the plot. Until I read this article, I had never heard of steampunk, and it's the only genre I'm still not sure about! Hope this gave some of you some insight.


  1. Really cool post :) I think I am a cross genre writer. I write mainly YA lately, but I also write some literary fiction every now and then. Thanks again for clearing it all up! Especially Steampunk. I keep seeing that and thinking what the...

  2. I love writing Women's Fiction:) It's therapy for my spirit and direction for my steps!

  3. Thanks for the info! I have that issue, too, but I don't necessarily agree with the YA definition. There's also "upper YA," which focuses on 14 and up. The kind of YA I write I wouldn't want a 12-year-old to read. :)

  4. Thank you so much for the comments! :)

  5. Oh and Pam, I didn't understand the definition for YA also because I remember you explaining the age group to me. The ages they provided seemed a little young lol