There are many genres and subgenres, with lots of cross-over between genres. Many stories could fit into several different genres, although they are usually marketed in the one they have the strongest connection to. Most authors find one genre (or a close combination of a couple) more comfortable than others and tend to stick with it, or are typecast into that genre (such as Stephen King in horror). Writers don’t always write what they themselves like to read. I personally like to read horror, but I’ve never attempted to write it; it’s not my strong area.

Some of the main genres include the following:


Use real people, places, or events, but fictionalize the action, like Gone With the Wind


The protagonist goes on an epic journey to a distant place to accomplish something, like The Three Musketeers


Similar to Adventure, but the protagonist usually takes a risky turn leading to fight scenes, battles, and cliff-hanging danger, like the James Bond books

Science fiction

Involves technology, alternate or parallel universes, outer space or other planets and creatures, or the future, like the Star Wars series


Includes magic, mythology, and mythological creatures, like The Lord of the Rings


Involves the protagonist’s emotions and usually focuses on relationships rather than action, like Jackie Collins’s books


About a crime that was or is being committed, with the protagonist usually solving the mystery, like Agatha Christie’s Poirot series


With an intention to make the reader laugh, these works can cross any other genre, like Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing


Intended to scare the reader, like nearly all of Stephen King’s work


Uses a mix of fear and excitement and tends to be more realistic than Horror, possibly with a psychological aspect, like Dean Koontz’s work or James Patterson’s Alex Cross series (Kiss the Girls, Along Came a Spider)


Occurs in a time or place of little technology, like the American Wild West or the Australian colonial Outback, and is usually about horses, livestock, ranches, and the people who lived and worked there, like Louis L’Amour’s work


Geared toward entertaining and educating children and usually has elements of other genres like adventure or fantasy, like James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

Young Adult (YA)

Geared toward middle grade to teen readers and usually involves characters slightly older than the target audience, like Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series

Exercise 1

Select two or three genres that appeal to you. Create two characters (they don’t have to be very detailed) and write for 10 minutes in each genre about a confrontation between them because one found out the other was keeping a secret.

This exercise is designed to help you determine which genre is the most comfortable for you to work in. But remember, it’s always good to stretch your abilities, and occasionally you should try a genre that’s not so comfortable for you.

Exercise 2

Begin thinking about the story you’d like to write. Create a summary of the general premise of your story. Who is your protagonist? What will happen to this protagonist and why? How will it turn out in the end?

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