A Basic Genre Index (Part Two)

So part one of the genre index was a success! And I promised you guys part two, so here it is. I know this doesn’t cover every genre ever (there are wayyyyyyy too many, especially if you go into subgenres and subgenres of subgenres!) but I do think these two posts cover the major ones. I hope.


Photo credit: practicalowl on Flickr

Oftentimes (though not always), these involve a body and figuring out who is behind it. Sometimes it’s many bodies. Often it features the detective (whether an actual detective or someone just taking on the role of detective) trying to solve the case. These tend to be spooky and exciting and usually end with a confrontation between the killer and the protag and sometimes blend with Thrillers. Even when it doesn’t involve a killer though, there is some kind of mysterious circumstance that the protagonist is trying to puzzle out. And the stakes are often high.

Examples: The Good Girl by Mary Kubica, The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver, The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley, All the Little Pieces by Jilliane Hoffman, Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel. (Others)

Historical Fiction
Credit: Sweet Carolina Photography (Flickr)

As the title would suggest, this is fiction that takes place in the past—the real past, that is. (Otherwise you’re talking Historical Fantasy, which is related, but not quite the same.) The past can be anything from BC times to medieval times, to Tudor-era or Regency or something else. Generally, it’s a time period that’s considered historical though, and of course the story that takes place isn’t true.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson, Atonement by Ian McEwan, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory, The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan, The Notorious Pagan Jones by Nina Berry, Tangled Webs by Lee Bross. (Others)

Contemporary Romance
Photo credit: Stephen Burch on Flickr

This is romance that takes place today! In our world. With no supernatural creatures or superpowers. Romance is at its heart (as opposed to non-romance Contemporary), and these are stories that could actually happen.

Examples: Trust the Focus and Make It Count by Megan Erickson, Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler, Days Like This by Danielle Ellison, Second Position by Katherine Locke, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, When We Collided by Emery Lord, The Sound of Us by Ashley Poston, The Night We Said Yes by Lauren Gibaldi, Last Year’s Mistake by Gina Ciocca, Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout, The Revenge Playbook by Rachael Allen, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. (Others)

For more info on writing (NA) contemporary romances, check out this post.

Photo credit: Bert Werk on Flickr

This is romance that is super steamy and explicit. The focus, here, is the sex. Without the sex, there isn’t a story (unlike most Romances where sex emphasizes the story, but the story wouldn’t fall apart without it, necessarily). If you’re looking for a sexy read that doesn’t spare any details, this is where you want to go.

Examples: Changing His Game by Megan Erickson, Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren, Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, Rush by Maya Banks, Up in Smoke by Tessa Bailey, The Best Laid Plans by Tamara Mataya, Strings by Kendall Grey, Crash into You by Roni Loren, The Siren by Tiffany Reisz, Fast, Fresh, and Hot by Eliza Madison. (Others)

Photo credit: Laura4Smith on Flickr

Like Contemporary Romance, these books in our world and could actually happen—the difference is that the romance (if there is one) isn’t necessarily the glue that holds everything together. These books cover other issues that are the point and may or may not have a romantic subplot (versus a romantic main plot). They also tend to be really voice-heavy and memorable for the writing itself.

Examples: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio, Made You Up by Francesca Zappia, Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton, Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, Between the Notes by Sharon Huss Roat, Love May Fail by Matthew Quick. (Others)

Magical Realism
Photo credit: martinak15 on Flickr

So this is probably the hardest one to define. The way I understand it, Magical Realism is similar to Contemporary in that it usually takes place in a world very much like our own, but there’s an extra something that couldn’t be real. Maybe the something is a curse, or a chance to re-do your day, or a magical substance in an otherwise normal town. Think of it as Contemporary with a twist—but the twist can’t be so huge that it becomes Paranormal or Fantasy. It’s a fine line.

Examples: Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King, The Status of All Things by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende, Landline by Rainbow Rowell, Every Day by David Levithan, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. (Others)

Twitter-sized bites:
Do you find genres confusing? @Ava_Jae breaks down more common genres in part two of her genre index. (Click to tweet)  
Mystery, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism and more—how well do you know your genres? (Click to tweet)


Kat said...

Hi Ava,
Thanks for this great post. I have a question -- can something be "magical realism" but set far in the future as opposed to contemporary?

Thanks very much!

Ava Jae said...

Hi Kat,

While I'm not an expert in magical realism, that sounds like it'd be more sci-fi. Futuristic books usually are.

Then again, it depends on your MS. I'd see what you CPs think. :)

Kat said...

Thanks, Ava. Yeah, it's tough. We are not able to come to any sort of consensus because it's in the future but there's no tech, and there's one element of "magic" but it's not pervasive.

Sometimes genres are hard! Since my CPs and I can't agree, I've just been using the broader "speculative fiction" label.

Thanks again for all of your great posts!

MK said...

Yay love this. Question about all the books in the examples--are these all books you'd recommend? Or just a list?

Ava Jae said...

They're examples! I've definitely NOT read all of them. I did, however, include ones that I've enjoyed if I happened to know some in that genre. :)

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