Friday, April 14, 2006

Genre Discussion, Linda-mod

Linda-mod: Tonight’s chat is designed to be an interactive classroom-type experience. We haven’t done this type chat in awhile. I will provide information and you are welcome to add comments, ask questions, and provide author names and links for each type of genre. DEBATE WILL BE LIMITED DUE TO TIME CONSTRAINTS.

From : …"if you’ve written a mystery, congratulations! You will experience no genre angst. But if you’ve written a novel that is both literary fiction and historical fiction with a suspenseful murder plot and some gothic, paranormal characters—then we feel your pain."

Today, more than ever, writers must identify with their target readers—build an author’s "platform". Knowing the specifics of genre differences will help in that regard.

From recent TWC guest, Sophfronia Scott’s blog When Does Genre Matter: "FYI, think of "commercial" as mass market and a possible money maker. Think of "literary" as a possible book award winner."

Also from Sophfronia’s blog, "many writers have made their names by specializing in a particular genre: Octavia Butler (science fiction), Danielle Steele (romance), John Sandford (mystery), Larry McMurtry (Westerns) or John Grisham (thrillers)."

"When you haven’t been clear on what your book is, you run the risk of sending it to the wrong agents and publishers who will reject it simply because they don’t handle that type of material. That’s a waste of your time and money." (From Sophfronia’s blog.)

If you don’t define your novel’s genre, someone else will.

Tonight, we’ll be "borrowing" heavily from information available at Besides being one of the largest databases of agents, they have provided an in-depth look at the differences in genres.

Commercial fiction: Commercial fiction is not the same as "mainstream" fiction.

Mainstream fiction is an umbrella term that refers to genre fiction like science fiction, fantasy, romance, mystery, and some thrillers.

In commercial fiction, plot and story are first and foremost. "Character" choices and actions create heightened drama that propels the reader forward. Commercial fiction enjoys a wide (mainstream) appeal through the use of "hooks" and compelling plots.

Like literary fiction, the writing style in commercial fiction is elevated beyond generic (mainstream) fiction.

Unlike literary fiction, commercial fiction maintains a strong narrative storyline as its central goal, rather than the development of $100 words/prose or internal character conflicts.

Literary Fiction: If you marvel at the quality of prose in your novel ABOVE ALL ELSE, then you’ve probably written a work of literary fiction.

Literary fiction explores inherent conflicts of the human condition. Pacing, plot, and commercial appeal are secondary to the development of story through first-class prose.

It’s more about what is going on inside/within the character than what the character is doing to advance the plot, or anything happening externally.

Literary fiction often experiments with traditional structure, narrative voice, and storylines to achieve an elevated sense of artistry.

Literary fiction often merges with other fiction types to create hybrid genres such as literary thrillers, mysteries, historicals, epics, and family sagas.

You’ll find literary fiction in most university or college "Reviews".

The next one is a little easier to fathom.

Chick Lit:

Chick lit describes its intended readership as much as its story’s content.

Chick lit typically deals with dating woes, career foibles, antics and challenges facing the average female in the 20 to 30 age group. Fun, down-to-earth, quirky, entertaining. Very targeted.

Shirley Jump, who has been a guest here and is a friend of TWC, writes chick lit. Some of her titles: The Devil Served Tortellini, The Angel Craved Lobster, The Dating Game, The Bachelor Preferred Pastry (new).

Don't confuse chick lit with women’s fiction! That’s another category! (And one we may not have time to get to tonight if we get off-track.)

Crime Fiction:

Crime fiction centers its plot on the perpetration of a crime. Sounds simple, right?

Subgenres of crime fiction: detective fiction and true crime.

True crime focuses on the crime scene and the criminal mind: Lurid crime scenes, graphic violence ie "slice and dice", con games, organized crime, the criminal underworld.

Anne Rule writes true crime—among other things. Others that come to mind?

Audrey: Richard Montanari is crime fiction.

Patty: So Crime Fiction is different than Murder Mystery?

Linda-mod: Yes.

Detective fiction focuses its narrative on the professional or amateur sleuth and involves "detection" of a crime.

Audrey: Anne Rule, I think you mean Linda, for true crime stories.

Linda-mod: Sub-genres of detective fiction include hard-boiled, noir, and police procedurals.

FMAM, (Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine)

Martin Cruz Smith "Gorky Park", "Wolves Eat Dogs"

Illona Haus writes thrillers that are also police procedurals, which are considered to be crime/detective fiction.

Elements of both types of crime fiction have been found in the writings of Joseph Wambaugh.

John D. McDonald is good enough to be listed on Stephen King’s website. Crime Scene Writer Ask the experts about crime, police procedures, forensics, weapons, and anything else to make your crime drama true-to-life..

Audrey: John Connolly is one of my favorites for detective fiction. He pushes toward horror too, but it is basically detective fic. A bit of supernatural thriller in his books too.

Fantasy: Imaginary worlds and mystical creatures; mythology such as royalty, dragons, giants, faeries, goblins, gnomes, trolls, ogres, wizards, and witches. Magic, spells, swords and sorcery, supernatural powers, talking animals, and fanciful kingdoms are welcomed stereotypes.

"…fantasy is rooted in make-believe rather than science; its only limitations are the expectations and preconceived notions of its dedicated readership." (From the agentquery website.)

Fantasy subgenres include dark fantasy modern, historical, alternate and parallel worlds, graphic novels, mythological, epic. Fantasy is also included in the general grouping of "genre fiction," "category fiction," and "mainstream" fiction.

Former chat guest Sylvia Day writes historicals, as well as, fantasy/futuristic.

Audrey, can you name some of the other guests we’ve had here who write in this genre?

Audrey: Terry Goodkind is my favorite. He writes the Sword of Truth series. Linda-mod: Other writers of this genre? Anyone?

Renee-mod: Robert Jordan, Stephen R. Donaldson, Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman

Diana: Romance Linda Windstead Jones.. The Fynne Trilogy

maruxa: OH, CS Lewis

Krichards: Douglas Clegg, Juliet Marillier, Jacqueline Cary.

Audrey: Honestly, we haven't had a lot of fantasy writers as guests. I'd better get to work on that one.

Krichards: RA Salvatore, Timothy Zahn. Adam Niswander.

Audrey: Clegg is more horror than fantasy.

Gothic Fiction: Dark suspense, bold heroines, evil villains. Brooding heroes, dangerous settings, in either traditional or urban time frames.

Audrey: I love fantasy. I don't like sci-fi. I want to know which one a book is before I spend my money on it.

Linda-mod: And if we want to sell our work, we need to know where our work fits.

Audrey: And that's why publishers keep narrowing down genres. They want to draw in as many customers as possible, just by the genre.

Linda-mod: I’m not a big fan of this genre so I didn’t do much digging. Perhaps you can add some authors and links for this one?

Historical Fiction:

Historical Fiction: Can be of literary fiction or commercial fiction in which the plot and story transpire during a distinct era in the past. True historical fiction portrays conflicts and characters that depended on a particular time period for their existence, and are usually historically correct if a major historical event is depicted.

Historical fiction is a careful balance between fact and fiction. I recently reviewed Ladies: A Conjecture of Personalities, by Feather Schwartz Foster, a book that hangs its hat in this balance. (You’ll need the whole URL to get there.)

From the agentquery website: "Although literary or commercial fiction often incorporates historical elements into their stories for atmospheric effect, this is not the same as historical fiction, which uses historical settings and time periods to establish its core conflicts."

I thought this category would be easy to understand until I read that last paragraph! LOL
Former TWC guest April Kihlstrom writes historicals. Come to think of it, the last time I won the drawing, the prize was a copy of "Miss Tibbles Interferes", by April.


Horror: The goal: to scare, terrify, titillate its readers.

Audrey: Doug Clegg, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Peter Feist.

Linda-mod: "From extreme blood and guts, graphic violence, murder and mayhem to psychological suspense, criminal underworlds, supernatural folklore, erotica, and surrealism, horror often portrays the base, subversive side of its fictional world." (from the agentquery site.)

Subgenres include dark fiction, dark fantasy, cutting edge, erotic, extreme, occult, vampire, gothic, psychological, supernatural, paranormal, pulp—

"Unlike traditional thrillers and suspense, which are based in reality, horror often uses folklore and fantasy to create manifestations of evil, death, and destruction." (from the agentquery site.)

Stephen King
ScottSnyder Douglas Clegg

Feel free to add names to this list!

Krichards: Sephera Giron. Edward Lee, Nick Kaufmann, Poppy Z Brite

Renee-mod: William Johnstone

Audrey: Dean Koontz Raymond Feist. I think I had the wrong first name for him earlier.


Multi-Cultural: Code word for books that possess racial and ethnic diversity within the depiction of its characters, cultures, and conflicts.

Multi-cultural often falls under the broader genre umbrella of commercial fiction, romance, chick lit or literary fiction. Examples: The Kitchen God’s Wife, Waiting to Exhale, House on Mango Street, Joy Luck Club

A tricky genre to pin down because it can mean different things to different agents and publishers.

Diana: The color purple.

Renee-mod: The Madea stories....humor but would still fall into this genre

amaryllis: A Complicated Kindness

Linda-mod: A sub-genre of this one is Street Fiction. I've reviewed one book in this category and hated it.

Audrey: lol Me too. But it was selling great.

Linda-mod: It's much abuse and rough talk and violence.

Renee-mod: lots of gritty street language...can be hard to take

Diana: Inner city?

Linda-mod: Without much plot.

Audrey: Street fiction is aimed at urban youths. Set in their world, using their language. Lots of sex, drugs, and rough language.

Linda-mod: Ahhh, the Mystery (my personal favorite):

"Mysteries typically focus on the process of solving a crime, rather than the details of the crime itself. The puzzle behind the crime is central to the plot." (from agentquery site)

Mystery focuses on the investigators/detectives—amateurs or professionals—determined to solve the case and exact justice.

"A member of the general grouping of "genre fiction," "mainstream fiction," and "category fiction." Mysteries include cozies, historicals, culinary, detective, supernatural, caper, women in peril, noir, detective fiction, and classic whodunits." (from agentquery site.)

Audrey: My WIP is a cozie. :)

Linda-mod: Audrey, would you like to define "cozie"?

Audrey: A mystery, but it has underlying humor and non-threatning MC. Not a lot of violence. Quite often children or animals involved. :)

Linda-mod: The mystery category is often blended with other genres ie; mystery/suspense, romantic/mystery, etc. Mystery Writers of America (This site is currently for sale for $1300.00 (?) but they are offering grants to booksellers for promotion and advertising at book signing events.)


Paranormal: Can be a sub-genre of many. Shape-shifters, vampires, werewolves.
Rae Monet writes sensual romance, futuristic and paranormal.

Your favorite authors? Links?



Audrey: Kim Harrison. I've just started reading her, but she's great!

maruxa: First novel by Elizabeth Kostova "The Historian"--vampires

Romance: The central conflict revolves around the love story between a man and a woman—
unless it’s a GBLT romantic novel. Since the popularity of the movie Brokeback Mountain, expect to see more alternatives to the classic romance novel.

(Gay, bi-sexual, lesbian, trans-sexual/trans-gender.) I had to ask, too.

Diana: 54% of sales are romance based

Linda-mod: I think there are probably more romance books sold...but

Diana: That's by trad published stats.

Linda-mod: so many of them are shorter works and only on the shelves for a month or so at a time.

Diana: The shelf life for a romance sucks.

Linda-mod: Think Audrey Hepburn, Deborah Kerr, Cary Grant. Like the movies: An Officer and a Gentleman, Love Story, The Way We Were. The settings for romance novels are usually more exotic. The story is dramatic/melodramatic. The passion of the story catapults the reader through a gratifying romantic fantasy. (Or, at least it’s supposed to.)

There is contemporary romance, historical romance, paranormal romance, etc. Besides being a genre unto its own, romance is often a sub-genre ie; romantic/suspense and paranormal/romance.

Sub-genres include contemporary, suspense, time-travel, futuristic, paranormal, Western, historical, regency, and gothic romance. Romance is also a member of the general grouping of "genre fiction," "mainstream fiction," "mass market fiction," and "category fiction."

There are specific publishing houses dedicated to this genre, as well as agents who specialize in the sale of these novels. You may wish to check out Romance Writers of America (RWA) (e-books listed as "Women’s fiction" downloadable romance)

AC_Croom: good westerns sell too don't they? Oh please say yes... :devil

Diana: Westerns is a tight market, AC

Linda-mod: Very specific. Very targeted.

Audrey: Westerns nearly died out for a while there, but they made a slight come-back in recent years.

AC_Croom: lots of old timers...they are called baby boomers, grew up on 50's westerns

Linda-mod: There are specialty pubs for Westerns.

Diana: It flows, ups and down. 5 years ago para took a nose dive, but it's clawing its way back.

Science Fiction: We’ve had some wonderful chat guests who write in this genre! How many can you name?

Diana: Daniel-Gary Holderman

Audrey: Julie Czernada. And I still remember how to spell her name. lol

Linda-mod: Hint: If you can’t think of any, you haven’t visited our "Previous Guest" page often enough. :)

Linda-mod: Science and fiction… Scientific details, facts, and rules contribute to the contextual storyline as well as the world created within the novel. Science becomes a character.
Science fiction is also included in the general grouping of "genre fiction," "category fiction," "mainstream" fiction," or "mass market fiction."

Audrey: Steve Barnes, Darlene Hartman writing as Simon Lang.

Renee-mod: Stephen Barnes

Linda-mod: Julie Czerneda has been a chat guest. So has C L Russo. (But I couldn’t get the link to work earlier. I’m sure it’s operator error!)

Thriller/Suspense: PERIL! Life-threatening danger, death and destruction to lives, the downfall of an entire nation, an ecological disaster.

Thrillers can also portray captivating psychological tension between two opposing characters.

"Thrillers and suspense fiction are paired together because thrillers often utilize suspense elements in the development of the story—evil lurking just around the corner that motivates the protagonist to hunt down and capture the villain-at-large." (from agentquery site.)

Women’s Fiction:

Women’s Fiction: Written about women for a female readership. Women’s fiction shouldn’t be confused with Chick Lit or Romance.

Women’s fiction is very commercial in its appeal and often deals with abuse, poverty, divorce, breakdown of the family, and a host of social struggles. "…the mature depth and tone of their development within women’s fiction set them apart from other genre classifications." (from agentquery site)

From Sophfronia Scott’s blog: "Genre is a Choice, Not an Accident. Better None Than the Wrong One. Does Genre Matter?"

"The answer is "yes", but the good news is you get to choose how much and in what ways it will matter to your book. So think about it up front and don’t let someone else make the choices for you."

(For those of you who’ve expressed an interest in tracking your word count/writing time, even though some of the content of tonight’s chat was cut and pasted, it took me about 6 hours to do the research and write it. Word count: 3480)

AC_Croom: Chic Lit and Womens the difference older woman and older audience?

Linda-mod: Women's fiction is geared and targeted to a more mature audience.

Audrey: chick lit is usually more upbeat and frothy. Women's fiction is more serious and mature.

Diana: Usually it isn't geared toward romance first, either, it's family "issues" strong, personal issues. Chick lit is younger, geared toward the 20-35 age group, as was said.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home