About Me

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A writer by predilection, an aunt by blessing and a friend by choice, Shelley has spent many years journaling before sitting down to draft her first novel. She has a B.A. in English discourse and is currently working on her third romantic-suspense, the title of which will be announced soon pending publication. Shelley is a member of the Romance Writers of America as well as her RWA state chapter of the Maryland Romance Writers.
"I love story-telling. It's a way to live an experience through the eyes of a character." - Shelley N. Greene

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for GENRE

The plan is to make this another short but sweet one.   G is for Genre.

In one of my earlier blog entries, Square Pegs and Round Holes, I talked a little bit about the sub-genre categorization system in fiction.  Today I wanted to touch on the larger, more main header of Genre itself, all observations made here being my personal interpretation, of course. Because with the technology of online tagging and the other more formal filing systems out there, categories can be broken down to pretty diminutive levels, so in reality it is much more complex. We're keeping it simple in order to see how it works. 

 And my basic take on the system is this.  Like a funnel, a story is labeled through a series of categories, genre being the second largest classification under fiction.

 A few main genre divisions include:

            ·         Action/Adventure                        
·         Chick Lit
·         Children’s
·         Commercial Fiction
·         Contemporary
·         Crime
·         Fantasy
·         Graphic Novels
·         Historical Fiction
·         Horror
·         Literary Fiction
·         Mystery
·         Thriller Suspense
·         Romance
·         Science Fiction
·         Spiritual/Religious
·         Young Adult

From what I understand, genre is determined by the book's primary story line, and one of the most distinctive features of a best-selling novel is an unconventional, yet convincing plot.  Never before seen concepts that push the envelope in fiction make a book stand out (i.e. JURASSIC PARK by Michael Crichton, THE DA VINCI CODE by Dan Brown, THE GODFATHER by Mario Puzo).  But while this fiction really pops, it also bridges categories of genre.  From the example list alone, a reader can ask the questions: Is THE DA VINCI CODE considered Historical Fiction?  Thriller/Suspense?  Spiritual?  What's THE GODFATHER's official category - Drama or Crime Fiction?

As a writer you may get caught up in where your story belongs.  I’ve heard many editors and publishers say the same thing, don’t worry what shelf your work is going end up on until after you’ve finished your manuscript.

And while I write for the genre of Romance, I do also read a lot of Young Adult, traditional literature, Thriller and Fantasy.  And through my reading I've observed that no single label for genre is ever exact.  In the last few years I've come across a multitude of books that are a variance of more than one genre. 

 I’ve read YA with plots involving the adult themes of Gladiator-esque death competition and others that condone teen pregnancy with a vampire.  And yet they passed the test to be deemed suitable for readers aged 12 and older.  There are Paranormal Romances out there that can easily be Thriller or even Horror in some areas, Fantasy whose subtext alone could effectively rework national governments (LORD OF THE RINGS), but regardless of the cross-implication, their stamps of genre don’t change.

So genre serves an important purpose, but as a writer there’s no need to get too tangled up in the rungs of its classification.  It’s okay to walk the fence. Don't be afraid.  Just write your story and the right category will find you.

Leaving off, what books have you read that stratify two or more genres?  Any dynamic, less blockbuster titles out there that stand out in bridging genre? 

Let’s book club about it.  :0)

And please come back on Monday.  H is for HEA.

 - SNG


  1. Great examples of genre-straddling! Hmm... Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton would definitely be historical fiction and action/adventure. He does a great job with mushing them all together.

  2. A very good description of a complicated term. It is interesting how "young adult" it its own genre, though other genres can fall under it (romance, crime, fantasy, etc.).

    Good luck with the rest of the challenge!

    Dianna Fielding

  3. The genre classification makes me ponder in my own books. In the end, I settled for paranormal. But the stories would fall into many other catagories just as well--as all good books should do. The first of two series I've written are due to be published next month, accepted under the paranormal heading. Still Rock Water features a woman who helps people in visions generated by her ring while she struggles to help herself. Wind over Troubled Waters, co-written with Edith Parzefall explores the future after a world catastrophy. The main character links up with a wonderful band of adventurers to find the ring.

    The stories contain love, distrust, a charming rogue and a belief in the positive. You can find my blog here: