Genres: How Do I Decide?


Fantasy. Romance. Action-Adventure. Science Fiction. Mystery. Western…

The list goes on and on. And let’s not even mention sub-genres. This is easily the most confusing subject for me, in terms of figuring out the novel’s genre I’m writing. How much of an element makes a book that genre? Say my setting and characters are fantasy, but there’s romance strewn throughout? Does that make it fantasy? Romance? Both? Or is it fantasy with a sub-genre of romance–or vice versa?

Honestly, I’ve written a little bit of everything. I think everyone should try to write a different genre now and again to experiment with how story structure differentiates. But I also know that we’re all at different phases in our writing development. My earliest writings were probably what you would call Modern Fantasy–fiction regarding humans and animals coexisting, though not so fantastical as to have talking animals. Until, of course, I started my short story series around unicorns. But these weren’t your happy-go-lucky, frolic-in-the-meadow-and-eat-grass kind of unicorns. The king of the herd, Wintergreen, used his horn for status as well as protection–from another herd of black unicorns who were trying to attack them and take over. Shall we say the fight scenes were not what you’d expect from a young girl; ironically, just writing this makes me smile fondly. I had to be about 10-12 years old when I wrote these–again, most of them were saved on a 3.5″ inch floppy disk.

So that leads me to ask: What genre do you most prefer to write in? Why? And have you tried other genres? Did you find one surprisingly more easy or difficult?

For myself, I thought I preferred writing fantasy–but not the high fantasy with elves and the like. I like trying my hand at creating new creatures that haven’t been seen in literature yet. And as a Biology Major, I have many animals, plants, and organisms at my fingertips to choose from. With a wild imagination, I can go crazy with changing things up and giving a sense of “realism” or at least introduce a realistic explanation for causing something to happen.

One genre I found surprisingly easy to write, was romance. And another–mystery. When I actually take time to plot things out, I can cover a lot more ground, throw in a lot more details earlier on, than if I just start hitting keys and put words into sentences. In fact, as I write this now, I’m starting yet another novel–outlining it at least. It’s been an idea I’ve had for a few years now and it goes hand-in-trunk with my senior thesis that I wrote about African Elephants. I’m excited to see where it goes.