Writing

The Complete List of Writing Genres (+ Examples)

Posted: January 3, 2023
Word count: 1,429 (5 min)

Writing genres are categories of fiction and non-fiction writing which have risen out of their patter, content, and intent.

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Tomas Laurinavicius

Co-founder & Chief Editor, Best Writing

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Any written piece can be categorized into writing genres. These categories are not watertight, that is, one work of writing can belong to multiple genres. But what is a genre?

What are genres?

Genres are categories we put different kinds of writing into. Writing inspires genres, and genres, in turn, create rules for writing.

This can be approached from both ways: one may write their own way and let the writing fall into genres on its own, or, one can choose what genre to write in.

After similar kinds of writings have given rise to a genre, the genre takes a life of its own. It develops rules, techniques, jargon, syntax, patterns, and more.

How many literary genres are there?

Different writing has inspired different genres. Today there are several genres and sub genres under them. Not all genres are literary genres. For example, to-do list can become a sub-genre or a part of listicles.

Let us digress a bit to understand mediums. Mediums are modes in which the piece of writing is delivered. These can be emails, letters, engravings, books, and so on.

Literature has many forms of writing: poetry, novels, essay, prose fiction, non-fiction prose, letter, short story, etc.

Literary fiction genres falls under the following categories:-

Historical Fiction

Historical fiction writes about important historical events and characters. Historical fiction books go through thorough research and then a story is born out of it. All characters and events have significance, and it has its place in the past. They can be seen from larger historical and world perspectives.

There are numerous historical fiction novels today. Even minor historical events can give rise to that. Writers like Hilary Mantel, Madeline Miller, Leo Tolstoy, Philipa Gregory, Markus Zusak, Yaa Gyasi write historical novels.

Historical fiction can be divided into several subgenres. With deeper research in history writers have digged up intricate details series of works have been done on them. Historical works can come in the topics (both fiction and non-fiction) of Holocaust (Schindler's Ark, Thomas Keneally), Palestine (Palestine, Joe Sacco), Jalianwaha Bagh (Jalianwaha Bagh, V N Dutta), Colonialism (An Era of Darkness, Shashi Tharoor), World Wars (A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway), etc.

These works have historical settings and create an awareness of the world around us.

Romance Novels

Romance novels focus mainly on romantic relationship and love between two characters. In older times romance novel relied on man-woman relationships but romance genre has become more inclusive.

Romance meant something different in Medieval English literary. Courtly love, tales of chivalrous knights meant romance. Arthurian Romances, Perceforest, Lancelot - Grail are some famous medieval romances.

Some modern novels on romance are The Fault in Our Stars, Gone With The Wind, Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman, Heartstopper, Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, The Return by Nicholas Sparks, etc.

Romance books generally takes two or more characters, make them fall in love, creates obstacles and the quest is to solve them to reach their romantic resolution.

Science Fiction Novels

Science fiction novels deal with advanced scientific facts and worlds, and how these futuristic societies will function in such an environment. It is kind of a probable speculative fiction with plausible scientific backup and data.

Science fiction is a favourite among science enthusiasts. Today, we have science fiction romances as well, and inter-species love stories. Some popular science fiction novels are Dune by Frank Herbert, The Martian by Andy Weir, The War of The Worlds by H G Wells, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'engle, Jurrasic Park by Michael Crichton, Solaris by Stanislaw Lem, and so on.

Mystery Fiction

This deals with mysteries simply as the name suggests. This can be a mysterious event like a puzzling death, a missing artifact or finding the cure of a weird disease. Detective novels are also referred to as mystery fiction.

The characters in the story solve the mystery using clues, and every chapter either contain a small resolution or a cliffhanger. A cliffhanger is an important part of mystery novels as it helps keep the readers hooked.

Thriller novels are also a part of mystery novels. Thrillers have high suspense, complex plots and further subgenres like psychological thrillers, crime thrillers and so on.

Well known detective novelists are Agatha Christie (And Then There Were None, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd), Dan Brown (Angels and Demons, The Da Vinci Code), and Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes). Gillian Flyn (Gone Girl), Stephen King (Pet Sematary, The Shining), Ken Follet (The Evening and the Morning, Eye of the Needle), James Patterson (The Ninth Month, Murder in Paradise), Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James (Turn of the Screw), Ruth Rendell (have written mystery fiction.

Horror Novels

Horror novels tell horror stories that includes imaginative material, supernatural elements, ghosts, monsters, psychopaths and the fear of unknown. They are written to entertain a set of readers who enjoy macabre things and mysterious phenomenons.

Popular horror books include It by Stephen King, The Haunting of a Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Psycho by Robert Bloch, etc.

Fantasy Novels

Fantasy is a booming literary genre. It employs fantastical elements, supernatural plots, characters with superpowers, magical settings and phenomena. We have all heard of J K Rowling in this case.

J K Rowling was the author to bring Harry Potter and the world of magic into the popular literary scene. Since then, many fantasy books have been highlighted: Game of Thrones by George R R Martin, Lord of the Rings by J R Tolkein, Six of Crows trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carol and so on.

Magical realism is a serious part of historical and fantasy fiction where supernatural elements are woven into the reality for specific literary purposes.

Crime Fiction

Crime fiction deals with crime stories of various sorts. Whether its murder, or theft, or other illegal activities, crime fiction covers all. Crime fiction involves the police, the government and organizations under it. The characters are either on the side of the law, or the rule breakers.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, The Snowman by Jo Nesbo, The Postman Always Rings Twice by James Cain, The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, The 6:20 Man by David Baldacci are some well-known crime novels.

Crime fiction can have imagined elements or be based on true story.

Biography/Autobiography

This type of books are non-fictional in nature. They deal with the life of important figures who have contributed to various fields of lifeor society in general.

While biographies are written by others, autobiographies are written by oneself.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, Frida: A Biography by Hayden Herrera, A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar, The Autobiography of Malcom X by Alex Hayley, are popular biographies.

The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank, Becoming by Michelle Obama, Wings of Fire by A P J Abdul Kalam, I Know Why A Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, The Story of My Life by Helen Keller are some of the greatest autobiographies.

What are the major genres of literature?

Literature today, with the advent of the internet, has given birth to numerous writing genres. Creative writing has taken a turn for the good. Literarature began with religious writings, magical elements, magical creatures, moving on to dramas of Shakespeare and other playwrights, then to travelogues, utopian fiction like Utopia by Thomas More, poetry of various sorts, literary prose, nonfiction genres of essays and business letters, war writing, academic writing. Poetry, essay and novels were the traditional narrative.

Novels were popular in Victorian times and branched into several major genres later. Novels began with travel writing, and moved into incorporating emotions, reflecting deeper psychological insight into characters like in stream of consciousness, comedic elements like in comedy of manners, dystopian novels of George Orwell (1984), Aldous Huxley (Brave New World) and so on.

What are the 21st-century genres?

21st century has thousands of micro genres under its wing. From sci fi novels to social media posts which contain short literary compositions, this era has seen it all. We have seen the rise of digital literature, writings on important social issues like refugees, minorities, ethnic studies, speculative fiction stories, magic realism like of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude), Haruki Murakami (Kafka on the Shore) are some popular writing genres.

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