NaNoWriMo Chronicles: Genre

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Genre. It seems like such a simple thing. We all know there are those common categories that you can find in libraries, bookstores, and now on Netflix and Hulu. We can all rattle off the ones we like, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, action, adventure. We know the ones we connect with best and tend to gravitate towards them. It’s similar in writing. You will have the plot ideas, characters, and worlds that fit into those genres you like to write, which are usually the same as the ones you like to read. However, you might find that there are genres you enjoy and excel at writing in that you never would have guessed.

For example, one of my writing friends and I talk about our personal writing niche quite often. We both tend to lean towards romance (her more so than I) but we both have very different approaches to romance. I have found that in my works at least, that romance is what’s called a sub-genre. Which means it takes a backseat to whatever the primary genre is for that work. While for her, romance is the primary genre most of the time. Our approaches to the romance genre vary in other ways as well, but this is one of the more obvious ways.

So, let’s take a look at the most commonly known genres. We’ll start with fiction.

  • Action

  • Adventure

  • Classics

  • Comics

  • Crime/Detective

  • Fantasy

  • Historical Fiction

  • Horror

  • Mystery

  • Realistic Fiction

  • Romance

  • Science Fiction

  • Short Story

  • Suspense/Thriller

  • Western.

Most of these genres are ones that everyone recognizes and understands already, and they tend to be the ones that writers choose as their primary genre for a work as they will be easily understood by literary agents, publishers, and readers alike. Often times a work will fall into two or more of these categories and an author will have to make sure that both genres are accurately represented.

Now, let’s look at some of the less well-known genres for fiction.

  • Fable - a supernatural tale that has a truth found within.

  • Fairy Tale - works about fairies or other such magical beings.

  • Fan Fiction - a work that pulls fully, or in part, from an already existing work.

  • Folklore - songs, stories, and other works that are handed down by a group of people by mouth.

  • Humor - a tale that is often filled with fun and fancifulness, meant to induce laughter.

  • Legend - a local tale that has a basis in truth, but has been exaggerated.

  • Magical Realism - a work where magical or unrealistic elements are worked into an otherwise realistic space.

  • Meta Fiction - a work that uses the act of drawing attention to itself within itself as a work of art.

  • Mythology - legend or traditional stories that often have their roots in explaining the natural world, usually pertaining to the stories of deities.

  • Mythopoeia - works in which characters from other forms of mythology, be it religious, traditional, or even folklore are pulled from their tradition and placed in a new, reimagined world.

  • Tall Tale - stories that have exaggerated parts and are often humorous, they tend to feature heros performing amazing feats.

These genres are less well known and tend to be chosen as sub-genres for works as they are a bit more complicated in definition than the more well-known works. Often times you will find that your work has multiple sub-genres without your meaning to incorporate them.

There are genres that naturally pair well together. I will give some examples along with known works that are good examples of those pairings.

  • Science Fiction x Mythology - Stargate (TV show)

  • Historical Fiction x Romance - The Lady and The Poet (book)

  • Fantasy x Adventure - The Black Cauldron (book and movie)

  • Action x Mythopoeia - The Percy Jackson Series (books and movies)

There was a lot of pressure to find a genre and stick to it. People would tell me all the time, ‘You can’t be all things to everyone.’ I would say, ‘I’m not trying to be! I’m being what I want to be for myself.’
— Tyler Joseph

However, a good author can combine two genres that aren’t traditionally paired with one another, and can do so seamlessly. So, if you are planning to write something that combines two genres that are somewhat abnormal together, make sure you ensure that they are both well represented and it doesn’t feel like two half-written stories mashed together.

Now, since NaNoWriMo isn’t limited to fiction, let’s take a quick look at non-fiction genres.

  • Biography - including autobiographies

  • Essay

  • Owner’s Manual

  • Journalism

  • Lap Report

  • Memoir

  • Narrative Non-Fiction

  • Reference Book

  • Self-Help Book

  • Speech

  • Textbook

Most of these genres speak for themselves, but just as before you can find yourself fitting a few genres together in a single work. For example, an autobiography may have elements of Narrative Fiction, Memoir, or even Journalism.

All of this talk of genres to say this: it’s good to choose a primary genre or two for the sake of targeting your audience, however, don’t limit yourself to traditionally paired or understandings. Don’t let your work be dictated by genre. It’s important, but not the end all be all. As always, everyone’s creative process and result are different. Make sure that yours represents you.

Keep creating!

**Disclaimer: Originally the two topics ‘genre’ and ‘premise’ were going to be together in a single post but I decided for ease of reader consumption that I would split them into two separate posts.