What are the 9 Biggest Fiction Genres?

This section shows you varying genres of fiction and other mediums. When writing my guide, I started with a few literary genres examples. I thought they could inspire stories ideas. I wanted people starting ‘write’ away.

As the guide grew, I began developing the character section, delving into the human psyche. I realised how useful giving characters favoured literary music, comedic and artistic genres could be. It gives your characters unique personalities, much as you find in any cross-section of life.

You may have favoured genres before beginning writing your own stories. If you do not, then fear not, as I have compiled a guide to the main genres, and sub-genres, as I see them. This is by no means a complete set, but they will give you ideas.

You cannot define some genres as stand-alone, true genres, as they do not have enough rules, tropes, history or market. They feature as part of the main genres.

Each genre has its own rules, but you can break them. Your story could also be a mixture. It is useful having love interests for characters, and others providing comic relief.

Try adding mystery and suspense to stories. Mysteries involve events happening in the past, that characters must discover, which adds tension. Suspense filled stories include characters worrying about futures, like their impending doom.

1.   CRIME
Within the crime genre, I include the following sub-genres: -
•         Courtroom, Lawyers, Hardboiled, Private Eye, Detective, Gangsters, Serial Killers, Cops & Robbers, Capers, Police Procedure, Mysteries

Throughout history, crime novels typically had yellow book jackets. This originated in Italy, where they call them giallo, Italian for yellow.

As the name suggests, crime fiction focuses on criminal activity. Generally, a murder will be committed, but it needn’t be.

Stories normally begin with discovering a body, or the murder itself, before the mystery unfolds. It is the author’s choice whether to focus on the criminals, the law-enforcers or both.

If the main characters are the police force or part of a protection racket, such as vigilantes, or private eyes, stories will be whodunits, involving investigative processes. If law enforcement members are not the main protagonists, they will be clumsy and bumbling, but can save the day at the end.

Thrillers are all encompassing of the following sub-genres: -
•         Adventure, Action, Suspense, Psychological, Spy, Techno, Conspiracy, Terrorist, Naval

Thriller and adventure novels are synonymous to me, as is their movie cousin, action. Suspense always features in thrillers. It keeps readers gripped; hooked on every word, eager to find what happens next.

Thrillers feature chases and hunts, to find or stop foes. Characters must perform escapes, complete missions, and solve mysteries. It will seem impossible. A common trope is kidnap and ransoms, with revenge heist story goals.

Common characters are mentally unstable, volatile individuals without jobs, or an exciting job. One force will be career criminals, serial killers or terrorists, and their victims. The opposing side will be agents, spies or scientists but can be as unstable.

The protagonists will be unprepared for adventure and therefore reluctant. They will also be a genius, but unassuming. In the beginning, villains are stronger than heroes are, but the hero defeats them after a long, hard struggle.

A character will be facing near certain death, so the hero must save them by going on quests. This may be the heroes or another’s death. The key point is having time limits to create suspense.

Thrillers are violence heavy, as they typically follow rogues. Characters are under constant threat, which brings fear, but always believe or hope they will succeed, even when all looks lost.

Settings are locations with heightened danger. Extremes opposites could be inner-city life and gang warfare, to mountaineering on Everest, saving a lost hiker.

Westerns would be included, if they did not all come from one particular time in American history. Because of this, I include westerns in the literary genre.

Thrillers follow many of the same rules as crime novels. Fans of one are likely to enjoy the other. They both feature elements of mysterious intrigue, leaving readers clues.

Major themes are morality, justice, realism, corruption of innocence, and danger over safety. This is the eternal struggle of dark versus light, good versus evil.

3.   SCI-FI
The sci-fi genre includes the following sub-genres: -
•         Alternate History, Dystopian, Utopian, Apocalyptic, Biopunk, Steampunk, Dieselpunk

Science fiction novels typically are set in futuristic settings, though they can encompass historical elements. They are generally set on alien planets or an alternate version of earth.

Alternate timelines are a common trope, as are aliens, robots, androids, mutants, artificial intelligence and post-apocalyptic worlds. Other tropes are fast travel systems, bending the rules of space, time and light. This is a forgivable break from the world of physics, though hard science fiction writers stay true to scientific reasoning, within their own knowledge fields. 

They may also feature parallel universes. These parallel universes often have portals between them. The portals are wormholes. This is another way to travel long-distance fast. Characters can always teleport though.

When removing features from our world, authors can use these historic elements to mirror current cultures, creating futuristic worlds. Shadowing modern day themes in fiction is an interesting way to explore otherwise unmentionable topics.

The fantasy genre can include any of following sub-genres: -
•         Traditional - Epics, Legends, Myths, Magic, Sword & Sorcery
•         Modern - Horror, Supernatural, Monsters, Ghosts, Zombies

Fantasy fiction has a long history. It backdates to the ancient world, with mythical legends. Modern fantasy still features myths as focal points for stories, setting and characters.

Fantasy stories have self-contained rules. The author decides these rules and every character follows them creating a cohesive world. Magic may crop up, but this needs rules too.

Stories often feature symbolism to describe current worldviews within fantasy settings. This is useful for discussing otherwise difficult topics in a comfortable manner.

Horror is a huge genre in the film industry, but not so much in novels. It is harder to scare people with just words, but thrilling people is achievable. This is why the thriller genre is bigger. I see horror as being thriller fantasy, but it has more fantasy traits.

Children’s stories are easy to understand, and are likely to be short, especially for young readers. The younger the reader, the less drama stories contain and the likelihood of talking animals increases.

They will also feature themes relevant to younger generations. They need to have some educational value, even if that value is simple, like the importance of friendship.

The primary function of the comedy genre is to amuse. As a genre, it does not stand up to much alone. It needs to work as a crossover with other genres, with humour as the overriding factor; otherwise, you may end up with a joke book.

7.   DRAMA
Within the drama genre, I include any of following sub-genres: -
•         Romance, Women’s, Chick-Lit, Feminist, Adult

You may notice that my sub-types lean towards female audiences. I define drama novels as those the archetypal mother, or my mum, would like. Though dramatic books may not strictly be for women, they feature romantic threads women enjoy.

8.   WAR
The war genre can include any of following sub-genres: -

•         Biographies, Political, Religious, Travel, Ages, Civilisations, Pirates, Westerns, Medieval, Renaissance, Historical

The story of humanity is the story of war. These novels will be fact heavy, focusing on detail, giving a sense of time and place to readers.

War novels typically give readers chances to appreciate particular cultures views on war. They don’t necessarily need to focus on soldiers. War affects everyone.

The other sub-genres mentioned crossover with historical works. I include these in the literary genre, within the countries respective literary canon.

Literary fiction means many things to people. For me literary is one of two things. Either authors use distinctive styles, which makes them unable to fit within a single genre. Alternatively, they encapsulate a countries culture, or through popularity, have become part of culture. In both cases, originality is paramount.

When defining the literary genre, I noticed differences between each countries canon. Every country has its own strong literary identity.

Happy Creations!