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Genre Fiction

Are you a moody reader? Do you sometimes crave a cosy armchair mystery or a swoon-worthy historical romance? If you do, you are looking to satisfy your craving for specific genre fiction. But how do you define genre fiction? Read on to find out!

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Genre Fiction

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Are you a moody reader? Do you sometimes crave a cosy armchair mystery or a swoon-worthy historical romance? If you do, you are looking to satisfy your craving for specific genre fiction. But how do you define genre fiction? Read on to find out!

Genre fiction meaning

With a book categorised into a particular type of genre fiction, the reader knows what to expect from it. Let's say you were in the mood to read about aliens, perhaps even an alien invasion or an adventure with a friendly alien. Where would you look? You would likely head to the science fiction section of a book store. This is because there are certain recurring tropes and character types that make it a work of science fiction, including aliens. Thus, science fiction is a type of genre fiction.

Also known as category fiction or popular fiction, genre fiction is a label used in the book trade to categorise fiction narratives. These categories were established because of their wide appeal to readers.

It is important to note that genre fiction categories are usually generic. This is because the reader is already familiar with the genre and what type of books belong to it. The more specific a genre fiction category gets, the more it veers into the direction of literary fiction, which we will explore further.

Genre fiction origins

Characteristics of genre fiction

  1. Genre fiction includes generic categories of fictional narratives that appeal to a wide readership.

  2. With genre fiction, the reader knows precisely what to expect from a book belonging to a particular genre.

  3. Genre fiction is also known as popular fiction because of its widespread appeal.

  4. Genre fiction categories include science fiction, romance, horror, fantasy, and crime among others.

Examples of genre fiction

Below are some categories of genre fiction with respective examples:

Science fiction

Science fiction refers to the genre wherein science or technology plays a crucial role in driving the plot forward. This may include encounters with aliens, journeys to outer space, extraordinary abilities such as time travel or invisibility etc.

Examples of science fiction include H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895) and Foundation (1942) by Isaac Asimov.

Romance

Romance as a category of genre fiction includes fictional narratives where love, infatuation and flirtation form the basis of interaction among its main characters. Interestingly, the definition of romance in literary fiction is different from that of romance in genre fiction, which we will discuss later.

An example of romance genre fiction is the novel Confessions of a Shopaholic (2000) by Sophie Kinsella.

Horror

In genre fiction, horror fiction includes narratives that inspire a feeling of horror in the reader. This may or may not be due to paranormal occurrences.

An example of horror genre fiction is Stephen King’s It (1986).

Fantasy

Fantasy narratives in genre fiction are set in worlds similar or vastly different from our own, which have their own laws, cultures and systems. These may or may not include systems of magic and/or otherworldly creatures and beasts.

Examples of fantasy genre fiction include the Harry Potter series (1997-2007) by J. K. Rowling and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954-1955) by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Crime

In crime genre fiction, the narrative is centred on a crime that is committed, which the protagonist then attempts to solve. In most cases, the crime is murder, and the protagonist may be a professional or amateur detective.

An example of crime genre fiction is the Silence of the Lambs (1981) by Thomas Harris.

Genre fiction vs literary fiction

Literary fiction, also known as non-genre fiction has largely come to mean two things.

Literary fiction includes fictional narratives that may not be categorised into genres by default. This may occur when a narrative overlaps more than one genre or when it defies genre conventions.

For example, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby (1925) is an example of literary fiction. It is not quite a romance, although the central character is largely motivated by love, and neither is it crime fiction, although a crime is committed and later solved in the novel.

Literary fiction is also associated with 'high culture' in the sense that it invited scholarly debate and criticism as it defies genre and sometimes also engages in critical commentary. The Great Gatsby is also a good example in this instance, as it criticises the hypocrisy and lifestyle of the rich, while the poor toiled to chase the American Dream.

It is important to note, however, that genre fiction and literary fiction are not always mutually exclusive. There may be narratives that hold scholarly significance and invite scholarly inquiry, but which also belong to a category of genre fiction and appeal to a large audience.

An example of a novel that is a work of genre fiction and literary fiction is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818).

Also, as previously mentioned, some categories of genre fiction may stand for something completely different in literary fiction. Romance in literary fiction, for example, refers to tales of knights and heroes who conduct themselves with a code of honour and embark on quests and journeys to prove their mettle.

An example includes Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe (1820).

Genre fiction today

Genre fiction as a term to classify narratives continues to be relevant as it aids publishers to market books to their target audiences and also enables authors to write narratives that cater to the demands and tastes of a wide readership.

Genre fiction - Key takeaways

  • Genre fiction is a means to classify fictional narratives into genre categories that were established because of their widespread popularity among readers.
  • Genre fiction is also known as popular fiction or category fiction.
  • Some important genre fiction categories include science fiction, romance, horror, fantasy and crime.
  • Genre fiction and literary fiction are not mutually exclusive.
  • Genre fiction continues to be used today to label fictional narratives for the masses in the book trade.

Frequently Asked Questions about Genre Fiction

First, you should decide which genre category you want to write for and then tailor the narrative to fit the tropes of that genre.

Also known as category fiction or popular fiction, genre fiction is a label used in the book trade to categorise fiction narratives. These categories were established because of their wide appeal to readers.

Literary fiction includes fictional narratives that may not be categorised into genres by default. Literary fiction is also associated with “high culture” in the sense that it invited scholarly debate and criticism as it defies genre and sometimes also engages in critical commentary.

Fictional narratives are largely imagined but may be inspired by real events or persons. Literature may or may not be fictional.

Examples of genre fiction include science fiction, romance, horror, crime and fantasy.

Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

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