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Genre Fiction

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English Literature

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.

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.

Final Genre Fiction Quiz

Question

What is an Epistolary novel?  

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An epistolary novel is a story told through letters, documents, journals, newspaper articles etc

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What does epistolary mean?    

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Epistolary comes from the word ‘epistle’, (from Old French: epistle, Latin: epistola) meaning a letter.

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What is an example of an Epistolary Novel?  

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Richardson’s Clarissa, Shelley’s Frankenstein, Stoker’s Dracula.

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Complete the following: The epistolary novel developed during the … century and remained popular for much of the … century 


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Complete the following: The epistolary novel developed during the 18th century and remained popular for much of the 19th century 

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True or false? The epistolary novel regained popularity in the 20th century.

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False: The epistolary novel has regained popularity in the 21st century.

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Complete the following: Epistolary comes from the word ‘...’, meaning a ….

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Epistolary comes from the word ‘epistle’ meaning a letter.

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Complete: An epistolary novel can be told through letters, …, ..., newspaper articles, …etc.

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An epistolary novel is a story told through letters, documents, journals, newspaper articles etc.

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 True or false? Samuel Richardson’s three novels, all of which are epistolary, helped establish the epistolary novel in England.

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True.

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Choose: Dracula uses different accounts from various character viewpoints through 

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journals

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The narratives in  House of Leaves  take the form of  

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a report

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Complete: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel describes a …’s search for the various parts of an ancient giant … hidden across the …’s surface. 

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Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel describes a physicist’s search for the various parts of an ancient giant robot hidden across the Earth’s surface. 

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The epistolary technique has risen in popularity with the arrival of the internet, and epistolary fiction can include text messages, …, blog excerpts, … transcripts.

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The epistolary technique has risen in popularity with the arrival of the internet, and epistolary fiction can include text messages, emails, blog excerpts, voicemail transcripts.


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What is Speculative Fiction?    


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Speculative fiction is a broad term to include genres like science-fiction and fantasy.

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What is the purpose of Speculative Fiction?

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Speculative fiction creates another world where future possible versions of life are explored.    

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What is an example of Speculative Fiction? 

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H. G. Wells - The Invisible Man (1897), Neil Gaiman - The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2013) etc.

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What are the different types of Speculative Fiction?

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Steampunk, magic realism, 

fractured fairy tales (parodies),

weird fiction, etc.

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True of false? Parachutes, clockwork robots, and wooden bicycles were a part of  Renaissance life.

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False: Parachutes, clockwork robots, and wooden bicycles may figure in clockpunk fiction.

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Complete: 

Neil Gaiman writes a  range of … works from fantasy through .. to surrealism and … realism. 

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Neil Gaiman writes a  range of literary works from fantasy through horror to surrealism and magical realism.

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Subgenres of steampunk include: aetherpunk (gods and myths, no technology), mythpunk (technology fuelled by magic)

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False: Subgenres of steampunk include: aetherpunk (technology fuelled by magic), mythpunk (gods and myths, no technology)

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Complete : Lovecraft’s interest lay with the … - whether outer space, or a distant tower in an unexplored … and he places emphasis on … rather than action.

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Lovecraft’s interest lay with the unknown - whether outer space, or a distant tower in an unexplored forest and he places emphasis on atmosphere rather than action.

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Choose: 

Sandalpunk is usually set in 

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Ancient times

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Choose: Lovecraft called the following masters of weird fiction:

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Edgar Allan Po

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Complete: Magic Realism evolved as a … against the …. Movement.

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Magic Realism evolved as a rebellion against the Expressionist movement.

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In James Thurber’s fractured fairy tale ‘Red Riding Hood’, the little girl

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gives the wolf some food

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What is supernatural fiction?

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Any fiction about things that cannot be explained scientifically or rationally.

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What is the purpose of supernatural fiction?


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To entertain, create atmosphere and to enliven the brain.

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What are examples of supernatural fiction?

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The Canterville Ghost, The Woman in Black, Dracula, 

I am Legend etc.

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What are genres in supernatural fiction?

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Ghost stories, vampire novels, werewolf and zombie fiction etc.

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What is the origin of supernatural fiction?

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Supernatural fiction has its roots in mythology and folklore.

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Complete: An example of a humorous ghost tale is Oscar Wilde's … (1887).

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An example of a humorous ghost tale is Oscar Wilde's The Canterville Ghost (1887).

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Choose: King’s Pet Sematary uses … as a place of resurrection.

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a pets’ graveyard

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True or false? The ghost of the Woman in Black is seen by a child.

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False: The ghost of the Woman in Black is seen by a young solicitor.

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Choose: 

Pet’s Sematary is based on

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a real life story.


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 Choose: The Vampyr was written by :

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Bram Stoker.

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True or False? The werewolf is a shapeshifter.

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True.

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 The Curse of the Werewolf film is based on which novel?

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The Werewolf of Paris (1933) by Guy Endore.

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True or false? In Plague of the Living Dead, Dr Farnham is a biologist seeking a cure to a zombie plague.

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False: Farnham is seeking the elixir of immortality.

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William Seabrook's The Magic Island (1929) is a


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ghost story.

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Abraham Lincoln, … Hunter is written as a … kept by Lincoln from childhood, when he discovers that … are real.

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Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter is written as a journal kept by Lincoln from childhood, when he discovers that vampires are real.

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What defines a mystery novel?  

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Suspense, a puzzling event or situation that needs a solution, and obstacles to overcome. 

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How to write a mystery novel? 

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The plot should have a mystery that needs to be solved, combined with atmosphere and suspense.

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How to plot a mystery novel?

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The mystery plot requires enough complexity to allow the reader a challenge in solving the puzzle, but not too complex that they have no way of solving it.

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What makes a good mystery novel? 

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The best mystery novels contain skilful description and characterization, combined with a sense of drama, atmosphere and suspense.

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What is the best mystery book of all time? 

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Jane Eyre, Rebecca, and The Woman in White continue to be in print and are included in top favourite lists.

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True or False: The modern murder mystery novel evolved in the 18th century?

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False: The modern murder mystery novel evolved in the 19th century.

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Complete the following: Many of the early gothic novels contained … explanations for the … happenings.

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Many of the early gothic novels contained rational explanations for the ghostly happenings.

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True or False?  Thriller mysteries can be a mix of adventure/action, satire and enigmas.


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Thriller mysteries can be a mix of adventure/action, spies and enigmas.

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Complete the following: Historical mystery novels are set in … periods of time such as the …, the Renaissance, the …, the Victorian period.

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Answer

Historical mystery novels are set in earlier periods of time such as the Crusades, the Renaissance, the Regency, the Victorian period.

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True or False? Mysteries may contain kidnappings, theft or even murder.

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True.

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Complete the following: Dystopian mystery is a fictional setting somewhere in a … future.

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Dystopian mystery is a fictional setting somewhere in a post-apocalyptic future.

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