Book Genres: A Guide to Writing Fiction & Non-fiction Genres

Every music lover, movie-buff, and an art enthusiast, has a type. They enjoy listening to a particular type of song, or are keen on watching films that belong to one particular category. A few might love listening to rock music, and whereas, a few might prefer watching action films. The same holds true for books as well.

If you are an avid reader, you probably are familiar with the word genre. You might be a reader who prefers thrillers over romance, or you might love fantasy novels over sci-fi novels. Each reader has a specific taste or genre preference in books.

What is Book Genre?

The world of books can be categorized into different genres. According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary, the word genre is defined as “a particular type or style of literature, art, film, or music that you can recognize because of its special features.”

A book genre is defined by particular features or functions that make it different from the rest. For instance, the features that make the genre of fantasy are entirely different from the features of historical fiction. The features or functions define that particular genre. It is important to identify which genre a book belongs to in order to understand the message it conveys.

Why is Book Genres Important?

A book genre becomes significant for both readers and writers. When you enter a bookstore, at first you browse through the genres, and then the books placed under it. The genre decides which place the book stays in a store. A reader more often picks up a title if they prefer that genre.

As far as writing a book is concerned, it is crucial to know which genre your book belongs to. The genre decides the style, themes, message, and the length of your book. Even before you begin writing, choosing a genre becomes significant in a lot of ways.

When you are a writer, it is beneficial if you understand the features of the genre you are writing. It makes the process of writing easier since you also become familiar with the rules of writing it. The knowledge about book genres also helps you write the book better.

The choice of genre also decides your future segment of readers and fans. The genre helps you decide who are going to read your book, and who it should be promoted to. Make sure you are well-informed and well-read in the genre you are choosing to write as it is of utmost significance.

When we talk about publishing a book, genre also decides the formatting of a book. There are certain specification for each genre, and the design of the book changes according to the genre of the book. So, understanding various book genres is crucial for aspiring authors who are looking to publish.

Classification

When we talk about the classification of genres, it goes back to the period of Greeks. It is the Greek philosophers, Aristotle and Plato, who came up the then classification and definition of genres. They classified literature into three prominent genres, namely, Poetry, Prose, and Drama. Over time, this classification has changed.

Now, the book genres have been broadly classified into two genres, namely, Fiction and Non-fiction. All the books fall under the sub-genres of these two categories. In general, Fiction is defined as the genre that has plot, settings, and characters that are from imagination or fiction, and Non-fiction is the genre that has is based on actual events and people.

Fiction

It is the most popular genre among readers. Fiction is the story that is entirely out of the writer’s imagination, it is fictional. The story is derived from the creative imagination of the writer, and is not based on facts.

The reason for Fiction being the popular genre among readers is because it is seen as an escape from reality. These books transport the reader into an imaginary space which is far away from their own world.

Fiction is the genre that allows extensive creative freedom and expression, so there are many sub-genres under it. A few sub-genres seem to overlap with the other, since defining each sub-genre is tough.

The major sub-genres under Fiction are:

Fantasy

It is one of the major sub-genres, and the most popular. Across, all age-groups, Fantasy is a genre that has found its audience. Fantasy books narrate stories of an entirely different world that is not real. It depicts a world that is often filled with magic, magical creatures, and supernatural elements. 

Popular examples include:

  • Lord of the Rings by Tolkien.
  • Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.
  • Game of Thrones by George. R. R. Martin.

Fantasy has sub-categories that include genres like, epic fantasy, young adult fantasy, and adult fantasy. Often the above mentioned genres overlap since the style, narrative, features, and readers almost remain the same.

Tips to Write:

Fantasy, as mentioned before, is the most popular genre among readers. Many fantasy fiction books have been best-sellers over the years. If you are a writer, hugely invested in this genre, there are a few simple tips to help you get started with:

  • Have an in-depth understanding about the setting of the story.
  • Invest more time on word-building. As we all know, fantasy books are filled with new words, and word formations which makes the book more engaging and exciting.
  • Avoid using over-used magical creatures and beings. Be innovative and creative.
  • Create the rules for the fictional or magical world you are creating.
  • The average word count: 75,000 words to 200,000+.

Crime/ Mystery

It is another popular genre as the plot in these books is focused on solving a mystery or crime. The genre lends itself to exciting settings, unexpected plot twists, and thrilling moments. The mystery behind a crime or murder itself becomes the setting of the books.

There are a hundred books that fall under this category. To name a few popular books:

  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  • The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.
  • The Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

Tips to Write:

  • Invest more time developing the characters.
  • Have an outline of the story ready before to start writing the book.
  • Think and fins ways to be creative with plot twists. Plot twists are crucial to this genre, and it makes the book highly engaging for the readers.
  • The average word count: 65,000- 90,000+ words.

Romance

It is probably one of the genres that is popular, in terms of book sales. It is one of the best-selling genres. Romance books are sold not in bookstores alone, but also in many places, including store checkout lines.

The central theme or plot in this genre is romance. The writer’s aim is to narrate a story of romance, and make the readers fall in love with the characters, and the setting.  The famous examples for this genre would be:

  • A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks.
  • S. I Love You by Cecilia Ahern.
  • Me Before You by JojoMoyes.

Tips to Write:

  • Avoid usual romantic clichés.
  • Make your main characters likeable for the readers.
  • Include conflicts and obstacles for the characters.
  • The average word count: 60,000- 85,000+ words.

Science Fiction/Dystopia

Both these genres have stark similarities and differences. Sci-fi and Dystopian genre narrates the story of a future world or parallel universe.

In general, sci-fi genre has extensive use of science and technology, futuristic technologies, aliens, and more. In the case of dystopian fiction, it narrates the story of a society that is oppressed by the power structure. For instance, George Orwell’s 1984 seen as a dystopian novel, whereas, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy by Douglas Adams is a sci-fi.

Other popular examples include:

  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
  • Dune by Frank Herbert.
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

Tips to write:

  • Invest time in researching and creating the futuristic world.
  • Highlight the internal struggle of the characters as much as the external struggle.
  • Address contemporary issues in the narrative.
  • Invest more time embellishing the language used is the future world or the world created in your book.
  • The average word count: 60,000-85,000+ words.

Horror/Thriller

Horror and thriller genre is has the main plot line or setting is revolving around something dangerous, and scary. The genre is filled with terrifying events, and high suspense drama. The main aim of this genre is inherently to create a world that is scary and horrifying, and transport the readers there.

The popular books in this genre include:

  • The Shining by Stephen King
  • The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty.
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo byStieg Larsson

Tips to Write:

  • Invest time in creating both protagonists and antagonist characters.
  • Have multiple high tension scenes.
  • Create dark scenarios and settings.
  • The average word count: 50,000- 85,000+ words.

Historical Fiction

Historical fiction is characterized by the narrative setting, which is in the past. The time period is crucial in this genre, and it has characters that are drawn from fictional world and also from real life. The factor of fiction separates this genre from history books.

The popular books from this genre include:

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.
  • The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

Tips to write:

  • Read a lot of historical fiction before you start writing. It will help you understand the genre, and the expectations attached to it.
  • Do extensive research about the time period you’ve chosen. It will help you avoid factual and historical errors.
  • Add internal conflicts for the characters to keep the narrative engaging.
  • The average word count: 65,000-90,000+ words.

Young Adult

Young adult fiction is no longer a sub-category; it has evolved as one of the prominent genres. In recent times, it is the genre that has produced many best-sellers. Young adult books are predominantly written for readers that belong to the age group from twelve to nineteen.

The books under this genre are mostly coming of age tales, and narrate the conflicts, aspirations, difficulties, and dreams of a young adult life. The main characters of these books are of the same age group as the reader. The genre has gained more popularity, which has resulted in many sub-genres for young adult fiction.

The popular books are:

  • The Fault in our Stars by John Green.
  • The Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

Tips to Write:

  • Ensure your characters are of the same age as your audience.
  • Be careful of the language you use, and don’t be too preachy.
  • Have hopeful endings.
  • Get feedback from real teenagers.
  • The average word count: 50,000- 80,000+ words.

Non-fiction

Non-fiction is the genre that encompasses stories that are factual. The narrative in these books is around real events, and personalities. Unlike fiction, non-fiction genre deals with facts and information that is true, and can be verified.

Among avid readers, non-fiction has always been a favorite. Unlike fiction, this genre calls for a more serious reading and audience. The books in the genre are varied; it ranges from autobiographies, travel books to self-help books.

Non-fiction genre is increasing in popularity. The target audience is expanding, and more sub-genres are getting added to the list. It is also interesting to note that, non-fiction books don’t stick to text alone. It includes photographs, graphs, charts, and more.

The major sub-genres are:

Biography

Biography can be defined as the detailed third person narrative of another person’s life story. It encompasses the person’s whole life, and includes details about place of origin, education, influences, interests, and more.

It chronicles a person’s life, their accomplishments, failures, and various life events. It is often seen as books for inspiration, and this makes the genre popular among reading world.

The popular biographies include:

  • Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson.
  • Presepolis by MarjaneSatrapi.
  • The Story of My Life by Helen Keller.

Tips to Write:

  • Do extensive research about the personality, the events, the people in their life, before you start writing.
  • Conduct multiple interviews.
  • Create a thesis for the biography.
  • The average word count: 80,000- 150,000+words.

Autobiography

Autobiography narrates the life story of the author. It is a detailed first person narrative. Unlike, biography, here, the writer narrates their life in their own words. It is highly subjective as the writer talks about their struggles, conflicts, family, career, and relationships.

There are also autobiographies written in the form of a fictional tale. The tales in the book closely mirror the real events that happened in the writer’s life. For instance, J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is often seen as an autobiographical.

The major books in this genre are:

  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.
  • Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi.

Tips to Write:

  • Focus not just on major events and milestones, but also on significant experiences of your life.
  • Ensure to include your opinion or thoughts on the moments you are narrating.
  • Create an outline for the narrative before you start writing.
  • The average word count: 60,000-150,000+ words.

Memoir

Memoir is defined as a historical written from personal knowledge ad experiences. It encompasses the experiences of a lifetime or a particular period of time in one’s life, and usually has a higher purpose or meaning.

A memoir is more like a creative non-fiction book. It is less formal and is focused on bringing the emotional truth behind the narrated experiences.

The popular memoirs are:

  • Becoming by Michelle Obama.
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.
  • 90 Minutes in Heavenby Don Piper.

Tips to Write:

  • Create a list of memories and choose the ones to be included in the narrative.
  • Be honest and descriptive when you narrate the events.
  • Ensure that your book has a sneak peek into your life right now. Only then readers can track how you have evolved.
  • The average word count: 60,000-100,000+ words.

Travelogues

It is an innovative and creative genre of non-fiction. Travelogue can be defined as a travel diary or a book that narrates the travel experiences, and the places visited by the traveler. It is nothing but travel writing.

The book includes the travel experiences of the author, the history and culture of the places visited, and also includes illustrations and photographs. It is gaining more popular these days since traveling has become a hobby for many more people. There are also travel bloggers which also has increased the genre’s popularity and target audience.

The major travelogues include:

  • In Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson.
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac.
  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.

Tips to Write:

  • Ensure you use simple language and write in first person narrative.
  • Give the cultural background about the place you are describing, and not just the visual detailing of it.
  • While narrating the experience, also ensure you include information about the place as well. For instance, the places to visit, the food to try, etc.
  • The average word count: 20,000- 50,000+ words.

Self-help/Motivational

It is a genre that gained significance and audience in the recent times. Self-help or Motivational books are focused on the problems or obstacles that hinder a person’s success or accomplishments in life, and how to overcome them.

Self-help books are more like guide for self-improvement. These books help the readers to improve emotionally, morally, or intellectually without anyone intruding in the process. The genre has evolved from simple how to books to issues dealing with spirituality.

The popular books in this genre are:

  • The Chicken Soup for the Soul Series
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.

Tips to Write:

  • Choose your topics wisely and also do research on the expectations of your target market.
  • Do ample research on the chosen topic.
  • Include real life anecdotes in your book so that it becomes both relatable and enjoyable for the reader.
  • The average word count: 70,000-90,000+ words.
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