Friday, April 15, 2011

What’s In A Name?

This past weekend, I attended a writer’s conference. It was a lot of fun and I had a great time, but I noticed something about everyone I talked to. Most of them couldn’t give me a definitive answer on what they wrote.

I know today, the lines between genres are blurring and there are new genres coming out, but it is important to know where your book belongs. Not only will it help readers know what they are reading, but it will also help you write better. You will know what to focus on in your plot. Is your book a mix of action and romance? Well, which is the strongest voice or plot strand?

Not to mention, if you can’t classify your book, how is anyone else going to? An agent won’t and a publisher won’t. It’s on you.

So to that end, I’ve compiled a short list of genres (and subgenres) with equally short definitions to get you started.

Main Genres:

Romance: a love story

Mystery: a whodunit

Fantasy: a mythical world that bends the laws of nature

Sci-Fi: a made up place with advanced technology

Thriller: a suspense filled story

Horror: some grotesque elements and fear for the main characters

Literary Fiction: “serious fiction”-highbrow writing and concepts


Sub-genres:

Historical: set in the past

Contemporary: present time

Paranormal: include characters or elements of make-believe

Western: set in mid-west

Gothic: dark elements

Profession: a certain type of profession (legal, medicine, politics) prevalent in the story

Inspirational: relying on faith (usually Christian based)

Erotica: focus on sexual relationships instead of emotional ones

Chick-lit: humorous tales of the main female character

Steampunk: a new sub-genre involving steam technology

The list could go on and on. Spend time researching genres and really thinking about what your story is. Also, don’t be afraid to let go of what you want the book to be and what it actually is. One author I met said he always wanted to be Stephen King and tried to write books like him, but when he sat down and finished his book, he found out he was a YA Paranormal Romance writer instead.

Remember find a home for your book!

-Ellen

5 comments:

Kaleen said...

Thank you for this list. Sometimes clarifying exactly where a MS fits is tricky, especially when you try to compare them to books already published. For ex, I thought my book belonged on the shelf next to an author I like in the paranormal romance section. Then I went to another bookstore and found the exact same author's books in the horror section. I can see why each store put those books in each section, but it makes it more difficult for me to pinpoint my own genre, since my MS has the same elements of paranormal, romance, and thriller/horror.

Loree Huebner said...

Thanks for your list! Sometimes it's difficult to to decide where the writing fits in.

Rebecca T. Little said...

Ok, so I've got a romance-mystery-fantasy-paranormal-gothic mss with some historical references if I follow the definitions to the letter! LOL Think I'll just call it Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance.

Glynis said...

I started out writing an Historical Romance. Now I have killed off several characters and introduced violent acts, it is more of an Historical Romance Suspense. Or is it an Historical Romance Thriller? Or is it an Historical Romance with a twist?

Oh, gosh it gets confusing. Your list is useful, thank you.

Looking4Words said...

What a coincidence I should find this post today. I'm currently researching what genre my ms falls into. While writing it, I thought it was contemporary women's fiction. But when I presented the synopsis to a new member of my writer's group, she said it was a romance. The romances I've read have steamy love scenes. Tomorrow I'm off to the library to check out other types of romances.