Enough With The Genres Already

Okay, okay, three posts in a row about genres and maybe now I can lighten up about it a little.  In my defense, at least they’ve had different perspectives!  And it’s cool learning things and expanding your horizons, so there’s that.

But on top of all that, it’s good to be able to home in on just the right description of what you write, or at least what you want to write, for those of us who are a little too hesitant or slow or procrastinating…or whatever adjective makes you feel better about not writing enough.  Homing in on that description can help you focus your intent enough to get you going, or it can help you explain your project to that agent/editor/publisher you’re about to talk into a great publishing arrangement.

So here’s an article by Michael J. Vaughn, who is a novelist, poet, painter, drummer, and many things…so many things he needs two different author pages on Facebook to handle them all.  He’s also a contributor to Writer’s Digest, where I found this, and where I end up finding a lot of good stuff.  So it would be a great idea to subscribe to their newsletter if you don’t already, and you can find even more good stuff.   This particular good stuff is a very, very thorough explanation of a whole slew of genres and sub-genres, and it can at least be an interesting analysis of the business even if you are already firmly convinced of your particular position in the literary firmament.  And some decent food for thought if you wobble a little about it.  Or a lot.

114 Fiction Sub-Genre Descriptions for Writers

Here’s a breakdown of some of your favorite fiction genres, including romance, horror, thriller/suspense, science fiction/fantasy, and mystery/crime. Find more than 100 fiction sub-genre descriptions for writers.

Michael J. Vaughn
Updated:Mar 16, 2021 – Original:Mar 19, 2008

Editor’s Note: One of the most important things a writer can do when trying to pitch their novel is to identify the correct genre for their book. Knowing the correct sub-genre only improves a writer’s chances, because it shows an understanding of the market that not every writer has. 

As such, enjoy this listing of sub-genre descriptions for several popular fiction genres, including romance, horror, thriller/suspense, science fiction/fantasy, and mystery/crime.


  • “A story that, at its core, is about a couple coming together to form a family unit.”
    —Steven Axelrod, agent
  • “If you can take the love interest out and it’s still a story, it’s not a romance.”
    —Jayne Ann Krentz, author

Chick-Lit: often humorous romantic adventures geared toward single working women in their twenties and thirties.

Christian: romances in which both hero and heroine are devout Christians, typically focused on a chaste courtship, and mentioning sex only after marriage.

Contemporary: a romance using modern characters and true-to-life settings.

Erotica: also called “romantica,” a romance in which the bedroom doors have been flung open and sexual scenes are described in candid language.

Glitz/Glamor: focused on the jet-set elite and celebrity-like characters.

Historical: a romance taking place in a recognizable historical period.

Multicultural: a romance centered on non-Caucasian characters, largely African-American or Hispanic.

Paranormal: involving some sort of supernatural element, ranging widely to include science fiction/fantasy aspects such as time travel, monsters or psychic abilities.

Romantic Comedy: a romance focused on humor, ranging from screwball antics to witty interplay.

Romantic Suspense: a novel in which an admirable heroine is pitted against some evil force (but in which the romantic aspect still maintains priority).

Sensual: based on the sensual tension between hero and heroine, including sizzling sex scenes.

Spicy: a romance in which married characters work to resolve their problems.

Sweet: a romance centered on a virgin heroine, with a storyline containing little or no sex.

Young Adult: written with the teenage audience in mind, with a suitably lower level of sexual content.

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