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Fiction genres defined




The action-oriented adventure novel is best typified in terms of premise and scenario trajectory. These stories often involve the orchestration of a journey that is essentially exploratory, revelatory, and (para)military. There is a quest element—a search for a treasure in whatever guise—in addition to a sense of pursuit that crosses over into thrillerdom. From one perspective, the action-adventure tale, in story concept if not explicit content, traces its descent from epic-heroic tradition.


In modern action-adventure we are in the territory of freebooters, commandos, and mercenaries—as well as suburbanites whose yen for experience of the good life, and whose very unawareness in the outback, take them down dangerous trails. Some stories are stocked with an array of international terrorists, arms smugglers, drug dealers, and technopirates. Favorite settings include jungles, deserts, swamps, and mountains—any sort of badlands (don’t rule out an urban environment) that can echo the perils that resound through the story’s human dimension.


There can be two or more cadres with competing aims going for the supreme prize—and be sure to watch out for lots of betrayal and conflict among friends, as well as the hitherto unsuspected schemer among the amiably bonded crew.


Action-adventures were once thought of as exclusively men’s stories. No more. Writers invented new ways to do it, and the field is now open.





This genre commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary plot element, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic and magical creatures are common. Fantasy is generally distinguished from the genres of science fiction and horror and horror by the expectation that it steers clear of scientific and macabre themes, respectively, though there is a great deal of overlap between the three, all of which are subgenres of speculative fiction.


In popular culture, the fantasy genre is predominantly of the medievalist  form, especially since the worldwide success of The Lord of the Rings and related books by J. R. R. Tolkien. In its broadest sense, however, fantasy comprises works by many writers, artists, filmmakers, and musicians, from ancient myths and legends to many recent works embraced by a wide audience today.





Horror fiction is intended to or has the capacity to frighten its readers, scare or startle viewers/readers by inducing feelings of horror or terror. It creates an eerie and frightening atmosphere. Horror can be either supernatural or non-supernatural. Often the central menace of a work of horror fiction can be interpreted as a metaphor for the larger fears of a society. The genre has ancient origins which were reformulated in the 18th century as Gothic horror with publication of the Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole.


One of the defining traits of the genre of horror is that it provokes a response—emotional, psychological, or physical—within readers that causes them to react with fear.





Many people use mystery to refer to the detective story. When folks speak of traditional mysteries, they often mean a story in the British cozy mold, which can be characterized—but not strictly defined—by an amateur sleuth (often female) as protagonist, a solve-the-puzzle story line, minimal body count (with all violence performed offstage), and a restrained approach to language and tone. Sometimes, however, a reference to traditional mysteries implies not only cozies but also includes stories of the American hard-boiled school, which are typified by a private eye (or a rogue cop), up-front violence as well as sex, and vernacular diction.

On the other hand, mysteries are seen by some to include all suspense fiction categories, thereby encompassing police procedurals, crime capers, thrillers, even going so far afield as horror and some fantasy fiction.

In the interests of clarity, if not precision, here we’ll say simply that a mystery is a story in which something of utmost importance to the tale is unknown or covert at the outset and must be uncovered, solved, or revealed along the way.


 From Writer’s Guide to Book Editors, Publishers and Literary Agents by Jeff Herman



A mystery novel may be either a category mystery or a mainstream mystery. The former is the classic solve-the-puzzle story that is constructed around a crime and the search for the perpetrator of that crime. It's usually told by a first-person narrator; the hero can't be the culprit (and vice versa); the culprit should appear by name or label in the first few chapters; and a face-to-face meeting of the culprit and the investigator should occur before a third of the narrative is gone. If this story is to be a mainstream mystery, then it should also include elements designed to attract readers who don't usually read mysteries. In this case the novel has a wider appeal and a larger scope that includes a mystery as just one element of a plot in which the issues at stake are greater than identifying the murderer. This type of mystery novel may be turned into a mainstream thriller by concentrating on fast pacing and creating suspense by putting main characters in jeopardy.


Russell Galen (Scovil, Galen, Ghosh Literary Agency), Writing Mysteries





Novels in this genre place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people, and they must have an "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.” Through the late 20th and early 21st centuries, these novels are separated commercially into two main varieties: category romances, which are shorter books with a one-month shelf-life, and single-title romances, which are generally longer with a longer shelf-life However, in classical times Romances were considered very basic literature and reading a romance a plebeian activity. Separate from their type, a romance novel can exist within one of many subgenres, including contemporary, historical, science fiction and paranormal.





Sci Fi novels have imaginative content such as settings in the future,  futuristic science and technology, space travel, parallel universes, aliens, and paranormal abilities. Exploring the consequences of scientific innovations is one purpose of science fiction, making it a "literature of ideas." Science fiction has been used by authors as a device to discuss philosophical ideas such as identity, desire, morality, and social structure.

Science fiction is largely based on writing rationally about alternative possible worlds or futures. It is similar to, but differs from fantasy in that, within the context of the story, its imaginary elements are largely possible within scientifically established or scientifically postulated laws of nature (though some elements in a story might still be pure imaginative speculation). The settings for science fiction are often contrary to consensus reality, but most science fiction relies on a considerable degree of suspension of disbelief, which is facilitated in the reader's mind by potential scientific explanations or solutions to various fictional elements.





The thriller category is exemplified more by plot structure than by attributes of character, content, or story milieu. A thriller embodies what is essentially an extended game of pursuit—a hunt, a chase, a flight worked fuguelike through endless variations.


At one point in the history of narrative art, thrillers were almost invariably spy stories, with international casts and locales, often set in a theater of war (hot or cold). With shifts in political agendas and technical achievement in the real world, the thriller formula has likewise evolved. Today’s thriller may well involve espionage, which can be industrial or political, domestic or international. There are also thrillers that favor settings in the realms of medicine, the law, the natural environs, the human soul, and the laboratory. This trend has given rise to the respective genres of legal thriller, medical thriller, environmental thriller, thrillers with spiritual and mystical themes, and the technothriller. Assuredly, there are more to come.


The thriller story line can encompass elements of detection or romance and certainly should be full of suspense; but these genre-specific sequences are customarily expositional devices, or they may be one of many ambient factors employed to accentuate tension within the central thriller plot. When you see a dust jacket blurb that depicts a book as a “mystery thriller,” it likely connotes a work with a thriller plot trajectory that uses an investigatory or detective-work premise for the chase.


From Writer’s Guide to Book Editors, Publishers and Literary Agents by Jeff Herman





Sometimes called “Women’s Fiction” and sometimes “Women’s Lives and Relationships,” these are books that explore the reaches of women’s lives: the dynamics of relationships with family, friends, and lovers, which may end happily, though not always; which examine issues that confront many women at work or at home.


These books are usually written by women for a female audience. They deal with problems and real solutions, providing readers with a glimpse into how someone else may deal with situations they themselves are facing.



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