What's My Genre

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Written by MVWG Member, Heidi Blanke

Submitting fiction to anywhere can be an exhaustive process, made even more so if you’re unsure of your genre. On top of that, some genres have sub-genres. Consider the definitions below when trying to pinpoint yours.  It’s not an exhaustive list, but it covers the main types.

The general genres for fiction are romance, western, thriller, young adult, women’s fiction, literary fiction, science fiction, and fantasy.  However, there is overlap and even debate as to what qualifies for each of these. For example, some say speculative fiction is a subset of fantasy and science fiction, while others classify the two as a subset of speculative. Be sure to read submission requirements carefully so that you don’t misidentify your hard work.

Romance has more sub-genres than could be listed here. All of the categories in the above paragraph, with the exception of literary fiction, have a romance classification. If you’re writing a romance, you’ll be asked to identify the sub-genre (historical, paranormal, western, etc.).

Westerns take place in the old American west in generally, but not exclusive to, the 1700s and 1800s.

Science Fiction can be set in the past, present, or future, but involves the building of a world typically more advanced than Earth. Sci-fi also has many sub-genres including steampunk, dystopian, cyberpunk, and romance.

Fantasy differs from science fiction in that it involves kingdoms, rather than worlds. It has sub-genres as well: comic, horror, urban, historical, and more.

Thrillers involve pursuit and escape and the setting plays a large role. As with other genres, there are multiple sub-genres such as legal, medical, historical, psychological, and political.

Mystery and Crime provide clues that build the tension until the mystery or crime is solved. Nearly all the above genres could be a sub-genre of mystery and crime, or vice-versa.

Then there are the more minor genres.

Action Adventures put the protagonist in physical danger.

Young Adult can be any genre but is geared toward ages 12-18.

New Adult features characters ages 18-22.

Horror and Paranormal involve pursuit and escape from supernatural or demonic beings.

Historical is fiction but based on historical fact.

Women’s Fiction features female protagonists and is aimed towards women.

You may be familiar with a genre not listed here and other genres or sub-genres may be created or named. For example, Steampunk as a literary genre is less than thirty years old. Who knows? Perhaps you’ll be the author whose work will inspire an entirely new genre.


Heidi Blanke is the author of several books and the treasurer of the Mississippi Valley Writers Guild. When she is not writing, she is volunteering her time with several local organizations who strive to make this world a better place.